Unite chief Len McCluskey has emailed Labour MPs insisting that “antisemites do exist” after facing a furious backlash to a recent article in which he appeared to suggest that MPs were using antisemitism claims to “smear” Jeremy Corbyn.
In his email, McCluskey slams “MPs and commentators making comments about about my New Statesman article and saying that I am denying anti-Semitism exists in the Labour Party” saying that “they clearly haven’t read the article”.
Including a link to his New Statesman piece, McCluskey tells his critics “to read the article and you will see very clearly that I accept that anti-Semites do exist”.
The email comes as McCluskey faced a backlash from critics inside and out of the Labour Party for the article that said that “Corbyn-hater” Labour MPs were using the antisemitism row to “smear” him. The highest profile of these critics was Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, who said the article was “part of the problem” of left-wing figures “denying that there is even a problem” with antisemitism.
Jeremy Corbyn was eventually moved to reject McCluskey’s views, saying he did not agree with the union boss “because we have to deal with the issue of antisemitism”.
However, the email is unlikely to satisfy critics of McCluskey who say his recent article is just the latest in a series of attempts to blame Labour’s antisemitism problems on Labour MPs seeking to “smear” Jeremy Corbyn.
McCluskey attended the launch controversial Jewish Voice for Labour at party conference in September, announcing that Unite would affiliate to the organisation, promising the union would be “supporting their efforts”. The launch event featured platform speakers who attacked the Jewish Labour Movement for its “pro-Zionist agenda” and appeared to deny Labour’s antisemitism problem, describing it as the “myth of antisemitism in the Labour Party” and an “antisemitic smear campaign”.
Jewish Voice for Labour has since proven controversial for its claims that Jewish organisations that have raised concerns about antisemitism are “attempting to influence the local elections” and for organising a “counter-protest” to the demonstration against Labour antisemitism organised by Jewish community organisations in March.
In a BBC Newsnight interview the day after his appearance at the Jewish Voice for Labour launch, McCluskey described allegations of antisemitism as “mood music that was created by people who were trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn”.
It was the second time that McCluskey has described Labour’s antisemitism problem as “mood music”, having used the term in a 2016 interview where he also attacked what he called a “cynical attempt to manipulate antisemitism for political aims”.