Anti-semitism is more widespread within Labour than was thought, Jeremy Corbyn’s leading supporters have admitted, as one of his key allies in Scotland said she was “frustrated” at the party’s response to cases of anti-Jewish hatred.
Rhea Wolfson, a former Labour candidate in West Lothian who sits on the Labour national executive, said the incoming party general secretary had been told to make tackling anti-semitism the “number one priority”.
Her comments came as the National Coordinating Group of Momentum – the campaign that helped win Mr Corbyn the Labour leadership – released a statement acknowledging the anger at the “numerous” cases of anti-semitism within the party, and its failure to deal with them “in a sufficiently decisive, swift and transparent manner”.
Last night Mr Corbyn vowed he would not tolerate any anti-semitism in the party, telling Channel 4 News: “If [a] person has committed an anti-semitic act, in any way, then they are suspended and usually expelled from the party as a result of that.”
The first task of new general secretary Jennie Formby when she takes up her role today will be to appoint an in-house lawyer to make sure procedures for dealing with allegations of anti-semitism are “absolutely strong and watertight”, Mr Corbyn confirmed.
The Labour leader deleted a personal Facebook account at the weekend, but party officials would not say whether it was connected to reports Mr Corbyn’s profile had been added to groups sharing anti-semitic material.
Ms Wolfson, who is Jewish, told the BBC’s Today programme: “There is very clearly a real issue, a huge piece of work that needs to be done in the Labour Party, around modern anti-semitism and giving people the tools to recognise when legitimate criticism of Israel crosses the line into anti-semitism.”
She added: “Action has been taken. I am frustrated by the pace of action, as I know a lot of people are. There is a heck of a lot more that needs to be done, but things have happened.”
The Labour Party is facing demands to speed up the investigations into a backlog of around 70 complaints of anti-semitism, including one against Ken Livingstone. Ms Wolfson said she expected the process to enter a “new stage” as new general secretary Ms Formby takes the reins of the Labour executive.
“Jeremy has specifically asked her to make this her number one priority,” she said. “She starts [today], so I think we will see a speeding up of these changes.”