Louise Ellman, Jewish Labour MP, facing no confidence vote on Yom Kippur

‘This is racially motivated targeting and bullying of a Jewish MP,’ says the Jewish Labour Movement.

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October 4, 2019 04:54
Jewish Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside Louise Ellman

Jewish Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside Louise Ellman. (photo credit: CHRIS MCANDREW/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Jewish UK Labour MP Louise Ellman is set to face a no-confidence vote on the night of Yom Kippur.

A fierce critic of party leader Jeremy Corbyn and his handling of antisemitism within the party, Ellman is an MP for the Liverpool Riverside constituency. The St. Michael’s Labour branch of the Liverpool Riverside Constituency scheduled the debate and vote on Yom Kippur night.

According to The Jewish Chronicle, the motion put forward by member Ritchie Hunter said that “We have no confidence that our MP Louise Ellman will carry out the wishes of our CLP [Constituency Labour Party] and our Riverside constituency, or that she will follow Labour Party policy,” the motion stated. “This branch therefore call on our Riverside MP, Louise Ellman, to resign.”

Ellman is an active leader in both the Jewish Labour Movement and the Labour Friends of Israel. She is currently the Jewish Leadership Council’s vice president.

The MP was also cited as one of the world's most influential Jews in The Jerusalem Post’s special Rosh Hashanah publication.

On Thursday morning, several groups and Jewish activists came out in protest of the decision.

The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) slammed the Labour branch’s actions in a statement on Twitter.“Scheduling a vote of no-confidence in Louise Ellman on Kol Nidre, the most sacred night of the Jewish calendar, is truly despicable,” the group wrote. “This is racially motivated targeting and bullying of a Jewish MP – a perfect example of how the Party is institutionally racist toward Jews.”

The JLM said this wasn’t the first time that “Liverpool Riverside has sought to silence, sideline or sack Dame Louise for speaking truth to power and calling out racism. The General Secretary must step in now and put this rotten CLP into special measures. We will be asking the EHRC [Equality and Human Rights Commission] to consider this example of institutional antisemitism and the leadership’s reaction to it as part of its inquiry.”

Labour Against Antisemitism also hit back at the decision in an online statement.

“Once again, a Jewish woman MP in the Labour Party – this time Dame Louise Ellman – faces bullying and intimidation from her local members,” said spokeswoman Fiona Sharpe. “And nothing seems to highlight the complete disdain and disrespect that the Labour Party apparently feels is acceptable to demonstrate toward the Jewish community more than their decision to schedule the vote of no confidence in Dame Louise Ellman MP on Kol Nidre, our holiest day.”

Sharpe added that “The decision to table the motion on this date is, in our opinion, insensitive, outrageous and provocative, and only underlines the depth of institutional racism that now appears prevalent across the Labour movement.”

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, lambasted the party branch’s decision, calling it a “deep shame for the Labour Party. That a Jewish MP should be threatened with a vote of no confidence [scheduled] for Yom Kippur – the holiest day in the Jewish calendar when she has no opportunity even to respond – ought to be a source of deep shame for the Labour Party,” she said in a statement. “That Labour shelters antisemites while attacking anti-racism campaigners is why the EHRC is investigating a political party for the first time since it looked into the activities of the BNP [British National Party].”

The BNP was ordered by the EHRC in 2010 to rewrite its constitution to comply with race relations laws because the party had banned black and minority ethnic Britons from becoming members.

Van der Zyl said that Ellman “has fought bravely against antisemitism in her own party, and she should be applauded, not vilified.”

Chief executive of the UK Holocaust Educational Trust Karen Pollock also took to Twitter to criticize the branch’s move.

“It is not only a disgrace but deeply upsetting,” she wrote. “A strong and fearless Jewish woman has never shied away from speaking out over many years. An unsung hero in my view. Those that speak for [Labour] – what will you do (not what will you tweet)?”

The controversy comes hot on the heels of another UK Labour debacle in which Jewish Labour MP Margaret Hodge, also a fierce critic of Corbyn and fighter against the party’s antisemitism, will face reelection after members of her Labour constituency in Barking voted in favor of a contest to select a possible new candidate. This means that Hodge will be up against other possible candidates in the vote.

“I am obviously disappointed,” she said in a statement to HuffPost. “My priority remains serving the people of Barking as I have done for the last 25 years. At a vital time for the country, with a general election looming, we should be focusing our efforts on holding Boris Johnson and the Tories to account.”

She made it clear that she “will work to secure the full backing of the Barking Labour Party, so I can continue to play my part as their MP in doing that.”

The JLM’s national chairman Mike Katz was dismayed by the decision.

“Margaret Hodge has been a steadfast campaigner against racism, fascism and intolerance throughout her political life,” he said in a statement on Saturday evening. “Over the last few years, [she has] been determined in her opposition to antisemitism within the Labour Party. This is a shameful moment for a party that claims to embody the values of equality and diversity. She has been the target of vicious smears, derision and antisemitism, because she has been resolute in her opposition to anti-Jewish racism.”

He added that “this could not have happened without the toxic atmosphere and culture of denialism that has gripped the party,” referring to the continued antisemitism crisis plaguing UK Labour.


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