It’s not often that Labour can surprise me any more in Liverpool but I was nearly taken by surprise at a meeting last night.
I turned up at a hustings meeting and, as always, tried to be polite to my opponents. However, the Labour agent for Wavertree surrounded by a coterie of ageing activists told me that he didn’t want to talk to me because I had said in a leaflet that Labour is an anti-Semitic Party and that I had therefore libelled the Labour Party
This was on the day that the evidence that the Jewish Labour final submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission was leaked to the press. What a litany of shame and disgrace that document is. Case after case involving Labour members smearing Jewish Labour members on the basis of their supposed religious faults.
Many of the examples given were in Liverpool and were conducted against two fine, outstanding Labour women Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger. These are people that I have respected for many years in the case of Louise Ellman more than 40 years as our paths crossed in local government before she came to Liverpool as an MP. Even in another Party they were people I could work with and I was delighted when Luciana joined us and attended a number of events with us.
The vast majority of Labour members are not anti-Semitic. Unfortunately for them an increasing number of people both locally and nationally have risen to take over the Party and they clearly are.
The submission to the EHRC included so many of the old tropes; hook noses, banking conspiracy, master race, Hitler was right, the Holocaust is a Jewish invention. Jewish people inside and outside the Labour Party have been subject to a torrent of abusive filth.
In the past few days my fellow Lib Dem candidates in Liverpool and I have been on the receiving end of this with anonymous messages posted to our HQ protesting against our support for ‘Jewish Scum’. They were terrible but as nothing compared to what Louise and Luciana have had to put up with over the past few years.
They have both spoken to media about the anti-Semitism they faced within their own Party. Luciana Berger told me that this was the worst part of it. I understand that. All politicians get ‘knocked about’ to some extent. When things are tough, we go back into our Party for solace and support. Luciana and Louise did not get the help and support they should have expected.
So who do I believe? Louise and Luciana or the people who had a go at me last night at least one of whom was mention in the Jewish Labour submission. Well I can go further that and reproduce here what the Jewish Labour Movement said on 30th October:
The Jewish Labour Movement’s General Election Statement
Since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in 2015, a culture of antisemitism has been allowed to emerge and fester in the Party at all levels. From murals and wreaths, to Livingstone and Walker and Williamson, there are too many shameful examples to list – itself damning evidence of the Party’s moral slide.
Our Honorary President, Dame Louise Ellman MP, along with our former Parliamentary Chair, Luciana Berger MP were hounded out of Labour after years of relentless abuse, particularly in their local parties. Despite being well aware of this bullying, Jeremy Corbyn did nothing to address their concerns. When two accomplished and dedicated Jewish Labour MPs no longer see a place for themselves in the Labour Party, it’s clear that the party has lost its way.
This crisis of antisemitism in the Labour Party stems from a failure of leadership from Jeremy Corbyn. When the answer has been to take swift, decisive action, the reality has been equivocation and token gestures. Time and time again, the Party has not engaged in good faith to try to implement the actions that we believe are necessary to tackle anti-Jewish racism.
Well I believe that Labour Members know best about what is happening in the Labour Party and that Jewish people are most able to know anti-Semitism when they see and feel it. On that basis I have no hesitation in saying I believe Luciana and Louise.
There is a chance for the Labour Party to redeem itself by supporting the Liverpool Against Anti-Semitism statement. To date not one Liverpool Labour candidate has agreed to do so despite two of them the candidates for Wavertree and Walton being challenged to do so in person. This is the statement:
“Liverpool has a proud history of mobilising against racism and a proud history of solidarity with the victims of racism.
Over the past few years we have seen a string of antisemitic incidents culminating in 2019 with the successive resignations from the Labour Party of two Liverpool MPs, Luciana Berger and Louise Ellman.
They both denounced institutional antisemitism in the Labour Party and a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation in their local CLPs [constituency Labour parties].
This should have been a turning point. Instead, they were largely allowed to “walk alone”.
We, citizens of this city, Jewish or not Jewish, want to express our profound disquiet and regret at these events as well as our solidarity with Luciana and Louise.
We will not tolerate antisemitism and we will not tolerate the accommodation of antisemitism. We commit to hold to account, to educate and to mobilise. Today, we reclaim Liverpool’s proud history.”
On checking before I wrote this it had been supported by more than 130 Liverpool citizens from a range of backgrounds including Labour Councillors but not Labour’s Parliamentary candidates for this General Election. So, I say to Labour candidates that they should support this simple statement and I say to Wavertree Labour Party, “If you think I have libelled you, take me to court and sue me”.
I am prepared to stand up and be counted to defend decent people irrespective of their religion, colour or gender. If people cannot be relied upon to be there for one faith or group, they cannot be relied on to stand up for any.