Labour’s antisemitism row discussed by left-leaning panel at Liberal shul

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Labour’s antisemitism row discussed by left-leaning panel at Liberal shul

Five leading speakers with deep knowledge of the opposition party agree that Labour's problems are of its own making

The panel at the Montagu Centre in central London, hosted by Liberal Judaism
The panel at the Montagu Centre in central London, hosted by Liberal Judaism

Five left-leaning panellists at a Liberal Judaism event on Thursday night were in agreement that the Labour Party’s antisemitism woes were of its own making.

The Hot Potatoes discussion, led by Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich, included former Labour member and councillor Adam Langleben, Young Labour chair Miriam Mirwitch, human rights barrister Adam Wagner, former Jewish Labour Movement director Ella Rose and journalist Michael Segalov.

Among the most strident was former West Hendon councillor Langleben, who had resigned his membership from the party days earlier. He said it was now “led by antisemites” and accused Jeremy Corbyn’s staff of being “absolute bullies”. He added: “A culture has developed where people can’t recognise it.”

Rose accused the party leadership of not having the political will to try to stop the problem because “it’s too dangerous for them”. Though she had not yet left Labour, she said: “I think we’ve got a sickly toxic culture… Antisemitism isn’t just alive, it’s flourishing, it’s growing.”

Segalov saw the answer in Corbyn’s “blind spot” to some of the issues and said the leader had not put enough effort into dealing with the problem. “There’s been a lack of efficiency and a lack of transparency,” he said.

However, he also warned that Labour’s difficulties should be seen as part of the rise in antisemitism in society more broadly, across Europe and in America. “To see it in isolation is wrong.”

Adam Langleben (standing) alongside Calum May

Antisemitic abuse he had received online was “coming from an egg account on Twitter with a couple of random followers who are spewing out abuse,” he said.

Mirwitch, who has also faced abuse, said she wanted non-Jews to stay in the Labour Party rather than resign and leave Jews to fight alone, and regretted that the battle against antisemitism had been “politicised,” saying: “People don’t understand that fighting prejudice crosses all party boundaries.”

Wagner said Corbyn had a “very significant case to answer” and compared the party’s position to that of the Metropolitan Police after the Stephen Lawrence murder enquiry 20 year ago, when it was deemed “institutionally racist”.

As for suggestions that Labour was “going on a journey of understanding,” Wagner said of Corbyn: “He’s 69, three and a half years as head of the Labour Party. Is he really going to go on a journey?”

Ella Rose speaking at the event

Richard Cooper, a founding member of Jewish Voice for Labour, stood up from the audience to say he did not recognise the experience of Labour he had heard from most of the panel, before offering JVL leaflets to audience members as they left.

Rich, himself a Labour councillor, wrapped up by saying he was “delighted” that the movement had facilitated a “civilised” debate about such a troubling topic.

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