Labour anti-Semitism row 'stirred up' to attack Corbyn, says official who quit

The row over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is being "stirred up" to attack Jeremy Corbyn, the senior official forced to quit over her role in handling complaints has claimed.

Christine Shawcroft stood down as disputes panel chairwoman after opposing the suspension of a council candidate accused of Holocaust denial.

Some 39 MPs and peers have since signed an open letter calling for Ms Shawcroft to be suspended from the National Executive Committee (NEC).

Christine Shawcroft's Facebook post

In a statement posted on Facebook, Ms Shawcroft said she was "not a Holocaust denier and I would not support a Holocaust denier".

"I have been trying to support members who have been affected by all the shenanigans around Council selections, and thought this case was just another one of those," she added.

"I had not seen the appalling and abhorrent post which was shared, and if I had seen it I would not have sent the supportive email."

Ms Shawcroft said it was "entirely right" that she had quit her role chairing the disputes panel.

She added: "This whole row is being stirred up to attack Jeremy, as we all know. That someone who has spent his whole life fighting racism in all its forms should find himself being accused of not doing enough to counter it, absolutely beggars belief."

Mr Corbyn has said he hopes Passover will mark a move towards closer relations with the Jewish community and insisted he is an "ally" in the fight against anti-Semitism.

But a Jewish Labour peer said the party leader had "encouraged and endorsed" anti-Semites.

Lord Winston said hostility to Jews has "infected the Labour Party so it's become endemic".

Siobhain McDonagh told the BBC the group who had signed the letter felt "very strongly" about the issue (Lauren Hurley/PA)

Former prime minister Tony Blair said it has become an issue in the party because the leadership and its supporters do not really think it is a problem.

He told BBC Radio 4's The Week In Westminster: "It's become a problem because I'm afraid the people around Jeremy Corbyn - maybe even he himself - I don't think they really think it is a problem.

"I think they think it's basically something that's got up by people who are opposed to him for all sorts of other reasons and are using anti-Semitism as the battering ram against his leadership.

"When this row first began - a couple of years ago it's really been going on now - I confess to you because I know the history of the Labour Party, I was sceptical about it.

"But the more I talk to Labour MPs and I talk to Labour members and Labour councillors, the more I realise, I'm afraid, it's real.

"It should have been dealt with before."

Mr Blair said it was "very painful" and he had "literally never had this discussion in the Labour Party before" it erupted in recent years.

Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, lead signatory of the letter calling for Ms Shawcroft to be removed from the National Executive Committee, told the BBC the group felt "very strongly" about the issue.

The missive, also signed by MPs including Mike Gapes and Luciana Berger, said it was "highly offensive to the Jewish community" that Ms Shawcroft remained a member of the NEC.

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