Labour bows to months of pressure by adopting alliance’s anti-semitism code

Tom Watson leaving a meeting of the Labour National Executive Committee ahead of its decision to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Tom Watson leaving a meeting of the Labour National Executive Committee ahead of its decision to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
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Jeremy Corbyn’s allies on the Labour executive bowed to months of pressure in a row over the party’s stance on anti-semitism by adopting an international standard definition of anti-Jewish hatred as part of its code of conduct.

Following a tense closed-door meeting that started with rival groups of protestors picketing the Labour headquarters, the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) today adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-semitism in full.

They added only a brief statement supporting freedom of speech on Israel and the rights of Palestinians.

Party chiefs had resisted calls to adopt the definition in full, claiming that suggested examples of anti-semitism would prevent criticism of Israeli government policy.

However, in a sign the move is unlikely to dispel the anger that has dogged the Labour leadership over its handling of the issue, critics accused Mr Corbyn of fighting the change until the last moment by suggesting a much longer qualifying statement.

The row also spilled over into Scottish Labour after it emerged Richard Leonard, who contributed to the NEC meeting in London via telephone, did not support a call from Labour MSPs for the IHRA’s definition of anti-semitism to be adopted in full.

At a party group meeting at Holyrood on Tuesday morning, Labour MSPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion calling on the NEC and the Scottish Labour Executive to take action to reassure Jewish party members “with immediate effect”. Just four MSPs opposed the demand, with Mr Leonard not casting a vote. It is understood he called for a similar qualification regarding free speech, which was not put to the group.

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “Richard Leonard has been clear that there is no place for anti-semitism in the Labour party and now hopes all members of the party can work together to rebuild trust and faith between the party and the Jewish community.”

Labour has been roiled by claims the party’s leadership has failed to act against anti-semitism among its membership, particularly by supporters of Mr Corbyn.

The leader’s own past comments about Israel and Zionism have led one of his own MPs and the former chief rabbi of the UK to accuse him of being an anti-semite.

Labour frontbencher Rebecca Long-Bailey said the party executive “sought to reassure our own members that freedom of speech was not going to be limited”.