Tom Harris resigns from Labour Party after 34 years

Tom Harris has quit the party after 34 years.
Tom Harris has quit the party after 34 years.
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Former Glasgow MP and transport minister Tom Harris has quit Labour after 34 years in the midst of the anti-Semitism row engulfing the party.

The former transport minister, has quit Labour after 34 years in the midst of the anti-Semitism row engulfing the party.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has called for “further discussion and dialogue” with the Jewish community as the row over anti-Semitism continues.

Mr Leonard said the party needed to win the confidence of Jewish supporters, however he stopped short of backing the adoption of the international definition of anti-Semitism in full.

Several Labour MSPs have expressed their support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition to be accepted by Labour in its entirety, including a list of examples.

Pressed on his views during an interview with BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland, Mr Leonard said: “I am willing to recommend we have further discussion and dialogue with the Jewish community, including the Jewish community in Scotland, which I intend to lead on, because we need to win the confidence of the Jewish community.

“We need to get to a position where not only have we got a very robust code on anti-Semitism within the Labour Party - which we are striving to achieve - but also which allows for freedom of speech, a discourse around Palestine and Israel.”

He added: “I want to make sure that the Labour Party is not only a party that the Jewish community supports, but is prepared to join and be active in.”

“There has got to be a way through this, and the way through this may be that we do, in the end, adopt in full all of the working examples in the IHRA code, but I am also determined to make sure that freedom of speech is maintained inside the Labour Party too.”

Mr Leonard’s comments come as Jeremy Corbyn’s efforts to build bridges with the Jewish community were rebuffed by critics.

The Labour leader has 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 Mr Corbyn’s failure to apologise for his own conduct.

Tory MP Paul Masterton said: “Richard Leonard appears as lacklustre as Jeremy Corbyn when it comes to tackling anti-Semitism in Labour.

“Many within his own party will find it hard to understand why he was unable to endorse the IHRA code under questioning this morning.

“With former Glasgow MP Tom Harris resigning from the party this weekend after 34 years, Labour is once again in chaos.”

Mr Harris has been a vocal critic of Mr Corbyn and told The Herald newspaper on his resignation from Labour: “It’s just not the place for me any more”.

Mr Harris represented Glasgow Cathcart then Glasgow South from 2001 to 2015, and was transport minister from 2006 to 2008.

He did not confirm if his decision was linked to Mr Corbyn or anti-Semitism.