Scottish Jewish leader blasts Labour as racist party

The leader of the Scottish Jewish community has branded the Labour Party institutionally racist and revealed he has not been contacted by the party’s leader in Scotland despite two high profile cases of alleged antisemitism.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard with party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: John Devlin
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard with party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: John Devlin

Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, said that the Labour Party’s failure to deal with antisemitism met the definition of “institutional racism” laid out in the ground-breaking Macpherson Report, published 20 years ago this month.

Mr Borowski spoke out as the Labour Party’s antisemitism row deepened yesterday when it suspended Derby MP Chris Williamson after he was filmed claiming that the party had been “too apologetic” and “given too much ground” over the issue.

“Williamson’s suspension is welcome but there are nearly 700 other cases they still need to deal with,” said Mr Borowski.

“Labour could mark the anniversary of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry by looking at the definition of institutional racism, and seeing for themselves the ‘prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and stereotyping’ of Jewish people that is alive and well in the party. If Labour wants to be taken seriously as the party of equality, then the time for antisemitism denial must be over.”

Macpherson defined institutional racism as “the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin”.

Mr Borowski said a “pattern of antisemitism” had emerged in the Labour Party.

He said: “Once can be a mis-speak, twice can even be a coincidence but repetition over and again is a pattern from which you can draw inferences. It is very saddening to see that, but it’s a fact.”

He also raised the cases of two Scottish Labour councillors, Jim Sheridan and Mary Bain Lockhart, who were both suspended and investigated for alleged anti-semitic remarks.

Mr Sheridan, a former MP and now a Renfewshire councillor, had posted online about his loss of “respect and empathy” for the Jewish community because of Labour’s antisemitism issues. While he later apologised he said that his accusers had “over-reacted”.

Ms Lockhart, a Fife councillor, was suspended after claiming there was a Mossad campaign to prevent the election of pro-Palestinian Labour government. She was also later reinstated.

Mr Borowski said: “We’re getting these conspiracy theories again and again from Labour people. We saw that when MP Ruth George claimed that Luciana Berger and the Independent Group were financed by Israel. We saw that in the words by Councillor Lockhart about Mossad. Sheridan and Lockhart might have had their knuckles rapped, but nothing ever really happens. The Jewish community is looking for real action.”

Asked if he had met Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, Mr Borowski said: “I haven’t met with Richard for nearly a year but we need to sit down again and talk about this. The ball is in his court.

“Last year they said they wanted advice and assistance on how to handle antisemitism in Scotland but despite Sheridan and Lockhart no-one has been in touch and nothing has happened.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Labour said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints of antisemitism extremely seriously. Richard Leonard is committed to working with Jewish organisations to root antisemitism out of our party and wider society.”