Ruth Smeeth: Labour leadership “out of its depth” – but I’ll stay and fight

Ruth Smeeth has described the “collective leadership” of the Labour Party as “completely out of its depth” in its reaction to the recent MP resignations.

Instead of making efforts to “understand”, “reach out” and “rebuild the foundations of our broad church”, the Labour leadership offered a “tin-earned response” with calls for by-elections, according to the backbench MP who has been outspoken on antisemitism within Labour.

“I am truly heartbroken by what the leadership of the Labour Party have enabled,” Smeeth wrote in a message to supporters of Corbynsceptic group Labour First today. “A small but hard-core racist element has infiltrated our party.”

But the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North pledged to stay and fight: “I’m not leaving. I won’t hand over our once great party to a small number of hard-core racists who seem intent on destroying us.”

She added: “We cannot let the racists win and after decades of loudly campaigning against racism wherever I found it, I refuse to be silenced when it is in my own party.”

Below is the full message sent from Ruth Smeeth to Labour First supporters.

Well, last week was completely and utterly miserable, both for many of us individually and, for our movement as a whole. We lost friends and allies as they tore up their membership cards. We yet again saw our party fail to deal with the antisemitism and racism in our ranks.

And we saw the collective leadership of our party, once again, completely out of its depth. It failed to understand why eight of our colleagues walked away from our party and rather than reach out and try to rebuild the foundations of our broad church, their tin-earned response was to talk about changing processes to trigger by-elections.

So the question is why are we staying? Everyone has their own answer to that question and I know how many people are struggling with it. But let me be clear. I’m not leaving. I won’t hand over our once great party to a small number of hard-core racists who seem intent on destroying us.

Ours is a movement 120 years old and we cannot allow that history – and all the life changing successes that came from it – to be handed over to the handful of new recruits who hold everything we stand for in disdain. So I am staying, but I’m staying to fight for the heart and soul of our party.

I was born into a proud Jewish, Labour, family. My great grandfather fled the pogroms. He was a founder member of his trade union branch and arrived from Poland in the late 19th century. His daughter, my grandmother, campaigned and supported our party in every election from the 1923 Whitechapel by-election onwards.

She delivered food and clothes to the Jarrow Marchers when they arrived in London, she worked with anti-fascists (including my great Uncle Hymie) on the preparations for the battle of Cable Street and she collected food for the striking miners in the 1980s.

My paternal grandfather was a blacklisted steel worker who became a miner (and was on strike in the 1980s). My father was a blacklisted trade unionist who led the first strike in the insurance sector in Edinburgh in the 1970s whilst my mum (who later became a trade union official) was on the picket for the same dispute in London, her first of many.

I was born into our movement. And my family’s politics were driven by the reality of industrial and community need. Not political dogma. My community desperately needs a Labour government and they need a Labour Party that deserves their vote.

I am truly heartbroken by what the leadership of the Labour Party have enabled. A small but hard-core racist element has infiltrated our party. I am devastated that my friend, Luciana Berger, has been hounded out of our party for nothing more than being a Jewish woman; for standing up against antisemitism within the Labour Party, and for being brave enough to speak out.

But I will not walk away and allow my once great party – the party of Attlee and Gaitskell, of Barbara Castle and Jacqui Smith – and allow it to become a natural home for antisemites. I refuse to abandon the thousands of decent and hard-working members of the Labour Party who campaign each and every week for a better country or give up on the 120 year history of a movement which has been the greatest force for social change in our country.

We cannot let the racists win and after decades of loudly campaigning against racism wherever I found it, I refuse to be silenced when it is in my own party. So to you, my Labour family, I want to say that I have never walked away from a fight and I have no intention of doing so now. It is time to be counted in the battle to remove antisemitism from the Labour Party, as it is a battle for the heart and soul of the labour movement.

And I will not allow the Labour Party, the party that is as much of my identity as my faith, to shirk its duty to fight that battle with me. So I am staying, but I am staying to fight and I’ll need your help to win.

Yours sincerely,

Ruth Smeeth MP

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