Labour members in Bristol have tabled a motion declaring there is “little evidence” of antisemitism in the party and describing claims that it exists as a plot to discredit the Labour leader.
The motion tabled by Bristol West CLP also defends the infamous mural commented on by Jeremy Corbyn – which contained grotesque Jewish stereotypes – by claiming that it only depicts two Jewish people.
In one of the most hard-hitting and uncompromising responses to the controversy currently engulfing the party, the motion tabled by Bristol West members – which is represented in Parliament by Thangham Debonnaire – describes it as “a carefully orchestrated attempt to discredit the Labour leadership and indeed the Labour party just before local elections”.
The motion, which will be debated on Thursday, also:
- Demands that “spurious” allegations of anti-Semitism result in disciplinary action
- Blames Owen Smith for breaking with party policy and precipitating the current crisis
- Attacks “Blairite” Labour MP Luciana Berger, who is Jewish, for “reviving the issue” of Corbyn’s 2012 Facebook post about the east London mural by Kalen Ockerman
- Calls for Bristol West CLP to affiliate to controversial group Jewish Voice for Labour and donate £150 to it
The two-page motion, which also attacks all those who attended the protest led by Jewish groups outside Parliament last week, puts members in Bristol at odds with the party leadership.
Jeremy Corbyn has conceded antisemitism does exist within Labour and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has repeatedly made it clear that a letter signed by thousands of Labour members referring to a “very powerful special interest group” is itself antisemitic.
The Bristol West motion says the mural Corbyn commented on was about class, elitism and oppression, and declares that the Labour leader’s defence of it does not constitute antisemitism.
It is widely accepted that some of the images used in the painting are so obviously antisemitic that they closely resemble some of the worst examples of Nazi-era propaganda.
The uncompromising language used in the memo illustrates the scale of the challenge facing the Labour leadership as it seeks to tackle antisemitism in the party.
It shows that many Labour members are adamant that it simply does not exist in Labour’s ranks, and is being fabricated or exaggerated in order to damage Corbyn.
The motion points out that the demonstration on Friday was attended by Tory and DUP MPs, as well as Labour MPs who it says have sought to undermine Corbyn.
It cites research showing that the UK has one of the fewest incidents of antisemitism in the world, and points out most members of the public don’t believe Labour has a major problem with antisemitism – despite the fact Jeremy Corbyn has publicly stated it does exist in “pockets”.
Thursday’s debate on the motion is likely to be highly-charged. There have been dozens of incidents of antisemitism amongst Labour members in recent years – including incidents of holocaust denial – which have resulted in censure or expulsion and are too numerous to list.
Many have been high profile – including comments by Ken Livingstone that Hitler supported Zionism – that have been written about widely.
Despite that fact, there is a significant strain of grassroots Labour opinion which now disagrees with Corbyn and other senior Labour figures and completely refutes any suggestion that antisemitism exists within the party.