“I’m not going to give up until Jeremy Corbyn ceases to be leader of the Labour Party,” backbench MP Margaret Hodge told the Jewish Labour Movement conference rally tonight.
As one of the speakers at the JLM event, the MP for Barking reflected on the time spent in the party since 2018, saying: “This last year has been a really horribly difficult and traumatic year for most of us.”
The departure of Luciana Berger, who cited antisemitism as a reason for her quitting the party and is now a Lib Dem MP, and the launch of an investigation into the Labour Party by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, were cited as reasons for this trauma.
Hodge had no warm words for the leadership, describing the top of the party as “dishonest” in their claims of having a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism. She went on to say that antisemitism has gripped the party, but that “it is just one element that reflects the culture of the politics of the hard left approach to the world”. She added: “It’s a culture that’s characterised by a complete intolerance of anyone that doesn’t share their view.”
Nathan Yeowill, the new director of Progress, spoke at the event about the extent of antisemitism in the Labour Party, quoting a poll to say: “66% of Labour Party members do not think we have a problem with antisemitism.”
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, also spoke to the packed synagogue and set out his concerns with the Labour Party’s approach to antisemitism: “To me, racism is racism – there are no shades. Antisemitism is racism, and my concern about our party is that there appears to a hierarchy when it comes to racism.”
Khan went on to say: “It’s not acceptable that it takes two, three, four years to investigate a slam-dunk example of racism.” He added that, for him, “the golden thread that runs through all the great religions is treat others how you wish to be treated”.
All of the speakers expressed deep concern for the way in which Labour had dealt with antisemitism, with Rosie Duffield commenting that she thought it “disgusting” that there were not more non-Jewish labour MPs present at the rally to show solidarity with the Jewish community.
Stella Creasy questioned the timing of the conference discussion on changes to the complaints procedure, saying: “Labour is supposed to be the party of equality, so why – yet again – was it discussing watering-down rules against antisemitism, on a day when Jewish members could not participate?”
This follows anger late last week with the decision to schedule the discussion of changes to the complaints procedure on Saturday, with JLM describing it as “the latest example of institutional failing”.
Ruth Smeeth struck a defiant tone with her speech: “I have a message. This is our Labour party, we helped create it. We’ve been here for over a hundred years, and the Jewish Labour Movement is going nowhere.”