TOM Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, has warned the party will “disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment” unless Jeremy Corbyn deals with the anti-Semitism crisis in the party.
Watson, 51, also urged his boss to drop inquiries into two Labour MPs – Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin – who both lost family members in the Holocaust and face suspension after furious protests over the party’s stance.
Getty – Contributor Tom Watson has warned the party faces ‘eternal shame’ over its anti-Semitism crisis
He also urged the party to change its definition of anti-Semitism, fully embracing the one used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, a move which had already angered a number of Jewish groups.
In a stark message, Watson said Labour had to take a “long, hard look at ourselves” and demanded immediate action to end tensions.
His comments come after Corbyn was branded “grotesque” and accused of bring the party into disrepute by ex-minister Joan Ryan and other Labour MPs.
Watson’s intervention follows an attempt by Corbyn to build bridges with the Jewish community which was met with a hostile response from the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Jewish Labour Movement.
David Dyson – The Sun Corbyn faces a growing backlash from MPs in his own party over the question of anti-Semitism
Watson told the Observer: “This is one of those moments when we have to take a long, hard look at ourselves, stand up for what is right and present the party as fit to lead the nation – or disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment.”
He called for disciplinary action against MPs Ian Austin and Dame Margaret Hodge – who confronted Corbyn in Parliament over his response to the row – to be dropped.
“I think it is very important that we all work to de-escalate this disagreement, and I think it starts with dropping the investigations into Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin,” he said.
“I have frequently had very difficult conversations with both Margaret and Ian but what I understand is that your critics are not your enemies. On an issue that is so dear to them, I think people are very, very concerned that these investigations should be dropped quickly.”
refer to caption. Margaret Hodge faces an inquiry from the Labour party
And he said Labour should fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism in its code of conduct.
Corbyn has stopped short of that, insisting that Labour had fully adopted the wording of the definition and had captured “the essence” of its illustrative examples, with seven of the 11 incorporated entirely.
He acknowledged that the Jewish community “should have been consulted more extensively” in drawing up the code, and its development had been re-opened to allow the input of Jewish organisations.
He insisted the differences were “very small” and amount to “half of one example out of 11” in relation to criticism of Israel.
Refer to Source – Free Ex-minister Joan Ryan has accused Corbyn of bringing the party into disrepute in a letter to Labour’s General Secretary Jennie Formby
But Watson told the paper: “We should deal with this swiftly and move on. We can’t have this dragging on throughout the summer.
“I have made no secret of the fact that … we should adopt the full IHRA definition and should do it without delay.”
Meanwhile, shadow chancellor John McDonnell was forced to distance himself from the anti-Semitism row over his links with the Labour Representation Committee campaign group.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that the group, of which McDonnell is president, said it was “factually true” to describe Jewish critics as “Trump fanatics making up duff information without any evidence at all”, highlighting comments made by former Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush in support of the US President.
John McDonnell admits anti-Semitism row has ‘shaken Labour to its core’
Getty Images – Getty Corbyn visiting the Bombardier train manufacturing site last month
A Labour spokesman said: “John has no day to day involvement in the operation of the LRC and is not responsible for its website or for posts on social media by its supporters.”
In a Guardian article, Mr Corbyn insisted he will root out anti-Semites from Labour and acknowledged mistakes in the way the party had handled the crisis.
But the Jewish Labour Movement said trust had broken down with the party leadership, while the Campaign Against Antisemitism lashed out at Corbyn’s failure to apologise for his own conduct.
Corbyn said: “No one can, or should, try to dismiss or belittle the concerns expressed by so many Jewish people and organisations about what has been happening in the party I am proud to lead.”
Press Association Images Watson warned the party could ‘disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment’
But after three leading Jewish newspapers jointly published a scathing leader column about Corbyn’s party, the Labour leader rejected their “overheated rhetoric”.
However, he acknowledged there was a “real problem that Labour is working to overcome” and stressed that if he became prime minister he would “take whatever measures necessary” to guarantee the security of the Jewish community.
Campaign Against Antisemitism chairman Gideon Falter said: “There is no acknowledgement of his own role in this crisis. There is no apology for his anti-Semitic activity in the past, but he has hypocritically condemned as anti-Semitic behaviour that he himself has been guilty of.
“He has again preached to Jews that he is right to have rewritten the international definition of anti-Semitism.”
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn questioned Israel’s very foundation in a bombshell TV interview four years ago