Members of a Jewish group are weighing up a “very difficult” decision over whether to end an association with the Labour Party stretching back almost 100 years.
Members of the Jewish Labour Movement were debating whether to break away from Labour over the party’s handling of anti-Semitism claims.
Labour veteran Dame Margaret Hodge was among hundreds of JLM members at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in London on Wednesday evening.
The meeting came as further leaks indicated staff in Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle influenced the handling of anti-Semitism claims last year.
— Jewish Labour Movement (@JewishLabour) March 6, 2019
The JLM members were expected to hold an indicative vote on whether the JLM should disaffiliate from Labour, with a formal vote anticipated next month.
The group has been affiliated with Labour since 1920 and JLM vice-chairman Mike Katz said it “feels like an existential moment for the Jewish Labour Movement”, with members weighing up if they should fight anti-Semitism from inside the party or whether the battle is over.
“We live in such difficult times. Nobody ever thought we would be taking this disaffiliation vote. But it’s very unclear whether the party can heal itself out of this position,” he said.
Asked whether the issue can be saved under Mr Corbyn’s leadership, he said: “It is about leadership and control.”
Jean Jaffin said the decision is weighing heavily on her as a member of the Labour Party for more than 60 years.
“My view is to stay and fight to stop the growth of anti-Semitism, which is scary and distressing,” the 82-year-old said.
Colin Appleby, a 52-year-old who has quit the party, said it remains a “really difficult decision” on whether to vote for JLM disaffiliation but he was “leaning towards” voting in favour.
Dan Jacobs, 42, said: “I would vote to stay but I totally respect and stand with solidarity if we go with the other decision.
“It’s very, very difficult. It’s a very painful place to be a Jew, in the Labour Party.”
Earlier, Mr Corbyn accused veteran MP Dame Margaret of a “total breach of trust” by recording a private meeting between them without his permission.
The Labour leader also defended the party’s handling of anti-Semitism cases following accusations by Dame Margaret that members of his inner circle interfered to reduce the sanctions that were imposed.
On Tuesday, Dame Margaret claimed that Mr Corbyn had either misled her or been misled himself about the extent of his team’s involvement in such cases.
In a letter to the MP, Mr Corbyn acknowledged that a “very small group of staff” in his office were asked by the party’s governance and legal unit (GLU) to help clear the backlog of cases that had built up.
He said that in an “act of good faith”, his staff had complied but that decisions remained with the GLU and that there had never been any attempt to overrule them.
Mr Corbyn said the help provided by staff from the Leader of the Opposition’s Office (Loto) had been during the transition from former general secretary Iain McNicol to his successor Jennie Formby.
“It would appear that during the transition period between Iain McNicol’s departure and Jennie Formby taking over, a very small group of staff in the leader’s office were approached by now former GLU staff members at head office, and were asked for help in clearing a backlog of cases,” he said.
“This help included a clear request for advice on a small number of cases. In an act of good faith, staff in my office complied with this request in order to assist the party.
“The decision-making remained with staff members from GLU, and there was never any attempt to overrule them.
“As soon as Jennie Formby started as general secretary, this process was overhauled, and advice from Loto was no longer sought on individual cases.”
But further leaks of emails showed that key members of Mr Corbyn’s staff asked to be copied in on anti-Semitism complaints last year to give them an “overview” of sensitive cases, according to The Guardian.
Ms Formby took over at the start of April 2018, but in a message sent on April 8, Mr Corbyn’s chief of staff, Karie Murphy, asks for his political secretary to continue to be given an “overview”.