Three UK Labour members quit party due to antisemitism controversy

"I always said it was worth hanging on to fight so long as there was a prospect of winning. I now don't believe with this leadership there is," wrote Triesman.

By
July 9, 2019 18:28
 Britain's opposition Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. (photo credit: PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS)

Member of the British Parliament and former general secretary of the Labour party Lord David Triesman resigned from the party on Tuesday due to "institutional antisemitism," according to BBC Newsnight.

Soon after, former Labour Health Minister Lord Ara Darzi and Former President of the Royal College of Physicians and Labour Peer Lord Leslie Arnold Turnberg confirmed that they too were resigning from the party, BBC Newsnight reported.

"As an Armenian survivor of the Armenian genocide, I have zero tolerance to antisemitism, Islamophobic or any other discrimination against religion or race," said Darzi, explaining his decision. He will now sit as an independent in the British parliament. Darzisaid that his decision had "not been taken lightly."

"We may one day be the party of anti-racism once again but it certainly isn't today," wrote Triesman in his resignation letter.

Triesman described the resignation as "a painful decision arrived at with great sadness...But the decision has become inevitable."

"My sad conclusion is that the Labour Party is very plainly institutionally antisemitic, and its leader and his circle are antisemitic having never once made the right judgement call about an issue reflecting deep prejudice," wrote Triesman. "The number of examples is shocking."

"Day by day, the extent and depth of antisemitism become clearer in the top leadership and the National Executive Committee," continued Triesman in his resignation letter. "Antisemites are shielded and solid and serious Party members are thrown out unceremoniously. Each new manifestation is followed by a grim parade of social media messages directed at Jewish Party members. The experience of life in the Party has become sickening."

Triesman added that he hasn't switched political ideologies and still supports many Labour policies, "however, we have slipped into the familiar gutter of so many of the hard left and the old tropes about the secret wiring connecting Jewish entrepreneurs and the use of wealth to exercise secretive control can be heard on an almost daily basis."

The former Labour general secretary added that the issue was not about Israel or anti-Zionism. "For me, this has not been about Israel where I always set myself the benchmarks of compliance with international law. As a Foreign Minister, I always criticized breaches of international law whatever the side, the Israeli government or those firing rockets at Israel and denying its right to exist."

"My decision is straightforwardly about the Party leadership's use of any excuse to allow their allies to attack Jews or to engage with antisemites," wrote Triesman.

"It is no longer a safe political environment for Jewish people or other opponents of antisemitism," explained Triesman. "It is time to recognise the reality."

Triesman explained that he had tried to fix matters from within the party, but finally decided that he had no chance to succeed. "I always said it was worth hanging on to fight so long as there was a prospect of winning. I now don't believe with this leadership there is. It is also impossible to take seriously a number of our policy positions," he wrote.

On Monday, Labour chairman John Cryer claimed that the party has "failed to address antisemitism," Sky News reported.

Cryer explained that antisemites were not being removed from the party.

"The bottom line is, are we kicking people out of the party who are antisemitic? In some cases yes we are, but in some cases no," said Cryer. "If you're a racist, you shouldn't be in the Labour Party."

Some members "get a suspension," explained Cryer, "but then the case just drags on and on, and it's those cases where we need to act much more quickly."

The party chairman called for "tolerance at the top of the party," but said that he thinks that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn "personally is [tolerant], but perhaps there are people around who take a less tolerant point of view."

Cryer stressed that "across the party, whether you're elected or not elected, you've got to have a tolerance for people with different views," adding "If it is the case that people are going to be driven out on the basis of differences of opinion then it's not going to be the Labour Party that I've always known."

Meanwhile, Labour member Darren Williams, who serves on the party's National Executive Committee, said that only "a tiny proportion of the membership" are antisemitic and claimed that General Secretary Jenni Formby had made the disciplinary process "more robust," according to Sky News.

"We have made a lot of concessions, including on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition [of antisemitism], some of which I wasn't entirely happy with," Williams explained.

"But we are where we are, and I think the party has done enough to demonstrate to any fair-minded person that we do take the issue seriously," Williams added. "That is clearly not going to stop the same people bringing the issue up whenever it is convenient to do so."

Williams attacked Labour deputy leader Tom Watson and claimed that Watson was undermining the party's efforts in order to "promote his own position."

"What is particularly frustrating, I think, is the way that certain key figures in the party - including obviously Tom Watson - have undermined, in my view, the way the party has tried to deal with the issue in a serious and consistent fashion."

Williams questioned a request by Watson in March for Party members to forward any complaints about antisemitism to him for logging and monitoring, Sky News reported. "Tom Watson's suggestion that MPs with knowledge of antisemitism cases could come to him and that he would take them up and act as some kind of advocate was obviously undermining the work that the party itself was doing and was designed more to, I think, promote his own position and to attack the leadership than to actually resolve the issues in any sensible way," said Williams, according to Sky News.

In turn, Euan Phillips, spokesperson for Labour Against Antisemitism, questioned Williams' attack on Watson, saying "Darren Williams' comments fail to acknowledge the scale and depth of the Labour Party's antisemitism crisis. Tom Watson was right to attempt to intervene because the situation has been getting worse by the day."

"It is bizarre that Mr Williams, who himself opposed the suspension of [Labour MP] Chris Williamson and the adoption of the IHRA definition, should attack Mr Watson for doing so," said Phillips.


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