Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has called on members to “get real” about antisemitism within the party and warned that “thousands and thousands” could be suspended if they fail to do so.
Addressing the Jewish Labour Movement one-day conference this morning, Rayner talked about a local Nottingham East Labour meeting on Friday that led to a Jewish member saying he felt forced to leave.
The local party considered and passed a motion calling for the Labour whip to be restored to Jeremy Corbyn – after general secretary David Evans had said such motions would be “ruled out of order”.
Local Labour MP Nadia Whittome issued a statement to “put on record my stated objection to the motion this evening”. She described the “atmosphere and tone” of the meeting as “wholly unacceptable”.
Commenting on the events, Rayner said: “We’re on it, by the way. I want people to know that there as been suspensions and we’re on it and we are supporting Nadia, the MP there who spoke out and I completely commend her for doing that.
“Our members need to get real about this, our Labour members. If they don’t think antisemitism is within the Labour Party and that there’s problems now, then there’s really no place for them in the Labour Party.
“If they think making people feel unsafe or unwelcome in our meetings is a response to the EHRC report, then they need to be out of our party immediately. People need to understand what our Jewish community have been through.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission report on Labour antisemitism released in October found that there were “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination for which the Labour Party is responsible”.
The deputy leader added: “We should have a bit of humility… We should be listening and aware of how hurt and upset people are. I feel really, really angry actually that there’s been scenes like that in our CLP meetings.
“If I have to suspend thousands and thousands of members, we will do that. Because we cannot and we will not accept an injury to one, because an injury to one is an injury to all. That’s what we say in our movement.
“It’s about education as well. It’s about having this approach where we don’t accept that people – you know, we have debates but there’s no debating what the EHRC said.
“There’s no debating whether antisemitism exists in the Labour Party. It does, and we’ve got to do everything we can to stamp it out.”
Turning to Corbyn’s comments, Rayner said: “What Jeremy said in response to the EHRC report was totally unacceptable. Any attempts to minimise or downplay the extent of antisemitism are part of the problem. This is the issue.
“I knew this would happen. It is a matter of public record now that I contacted Jeremy to try and get him not to say what he said, and to apologise and withdraw it afterwards. Because I don’t think Jeremy really quite gets how upsetting it is.
“How really upsetting it is when he made those comments. And I just want to say that I really do hope that Jeremy really does reflect now on what he said on the day that report was published and his response to that.
“I truly hope he reflects. I understand that he thinks he’s always tackled issues of antisemitism. I understand he thinks he’s always tackled issues of racism. But on this, he’s wrong. He has to accept as a leader that we failed.
“We all have to accept that. I’ve accepted my failure in that. Then we’ve got to go and make sure that we do everything we possibly can to regain that trust and respect.
“I don’t think Jeremy has done enough for that now, no, so at the very least I think he should apologise, absolutely.”
Corbyn was suspended in October after commenting that “one antisemite is one too many” but also claiming that “the scale of the problem was… dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents”.
A panel of Labour national executive committee (NEC) members decided to readmit Corbyn to the party less than three weeks later, but Starmer the following day announced that the whip would continue to be withheld.
The former leader has been told by chief whip Nick Brown that the suspension of the whip is set to last for three months and this will be kept “under review”. He has been asked to apologise and edit or delete his EHRC response post.