Grassroots rebellion in Scottish Labour over lack of anti-semitism debate at conference

Grassroots members of Scottish Labour are rebelling against party chiefs after they were told they could not debate anti-semitism at this year’s conference.

Constituency members in Eastwood, Paisley and Renfrewshire South hit out at a decision to throw out their conference motions demanding new processes to tackle anti-semitism in the party and asking for diversity training for candidates.

Despite being blocked, they said they would now bring forward emergency resolutions to ensure the subject was aired at the party’s conference in Dundee this weekend.

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Party bosses had said that the anti-semitism motions from the three constituencies were without “policy objective or direction”, and suggested that the Scottish party had no power to introduce training without UK Labour’s permission.

Ben Procter.

But members believe that rule changes won by former leader Kezia Dugdale do allow Scottish Labour to act unilaterally allowing it to deal with anti-semitism and train its own candidates, elected members and members of the executive committee.

Ben Procter, chair of Eastwood constituency, said: “The Scottish Jewish community is understandably concerned about what is seen as a lack of concern and lack of action coming out of the party.

“This isn’t an attack on party leadership. We all want Richard Leonard and his shadow cabinet to take this seriously. He needs to understand that sitting on our hands and saying it’s someone else’s issue to deal with isn’t good enough. We are determined to have this issue aired at conference.”

Paisley constituency party’s emergency resolution expressed concern that “the party is not taking the issue of anti-semitism seriously enough and believes this needs urgent and immediate action”. It calls for “every necessary measure” to be taken to “drive anti-semitism out of our party” and calls for training.

The Scotsman understands that the Jewish Labour Movement is already providing free training on a voluntary basis to Labour constituency parties but has not been asked by Scottish Labour to do so officially.

A Paisley Labour source said: “We had hoped to debate our motion at conference in order to have an open conversation about what the party does to move forward. We have taken into consideration the comments from the party’s general secretary about why it was ruled out and have passed an emergency motion.

“We don’t see how they can now not let this be heard – unless they do not consider ridding the party of anti-semitism a clear objective. We hope this will now be debated on Saturday afternoon.”

The row over debating the party’s handling of anti-semitism in its ranks has engulfed it in recent months – and was one trigger for seven MPs to quit and sit in the House of Commons as the Independent Group. And just last week the party was branded “institutionally racist” by the leader of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities.

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “Labour is committed to rooting out all forms of intolerance and bigotry from our party and wider Scottish society, that is why conference will hear a progress update from the equalities and diversity committee of the Scottish executive. It is this group which will develop a truly comprehensive anti-discrimination and harassment framework to ensure it is the Labour Party that leads the way on tackling these issues inside the Party and beyond.”