Election of controversial activist to Labour’s ruling body fuels party rows

A Labour activist who made controversial remarks about Jews has been re-elected to the party’s ruling body, despite a storm of protest.

Peter Willsman was elected as part of a nine-strong slate of Jeremy Corbyn-supporting Labour members as the party left strengthened its position on the National Executive Committee (NEC).

Mr Willsman had called some members of the Jewish community “Trump fanatics” and suggested they were “making up” complaints about anti-Semitism in the party.

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His success came despite the influential Momentum campaign group withdrawing its support for him following the “deeply insensitive” comments about Jews.

Mr Willsman, who will now serve another two years on the NEC, said his job was to support his “friend for 41 years” Mr Corbyn – who he called “Jerry”.

He said critics were trying to undermine the Labour leader and “some MPs, elected by Labour voters, seem willing to help the rich and powerful”.

Amanda Bowman, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said Mr Willsman’s election following his “reprehensible comments” was “deeply concerning”.

The new members of the NEC will not take up their posts until after the Labour Party’s conference.

On Tuesday, the current NEC is expected to decide on whether to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism and its examples, which has been the subject of a bitter row within the party over recent months.

One of the casualties of the success of the so-called #JC9 slate was comedian Eddie Izzard, who lost his seat on the NEC.

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The nine candidates elected were Yasmine Dar (88,176 votes), Claudia Webbe (83,797), Momentum founder Jon Lansman (83,072), Rachel Garnham (81,702), Huda Elmi (80,371), Darren Williams (79,361), Ann Henderson (79,176), Navendu Mishra (75,224) and Mr Willsman (70,321).

Izzard finished 10th in the contest, more than 2,500 votes behind Mr Willsman.

The comic said Labour now had to “work together and stop tearing each other apart” after a “tough summer”.

Labour MP Wes Streeting said Mr Willsman had shown he is “unfit to serve on Labour’s NEC” and he should have been “booted off” the body already.

However, Corbyn loyalist Chris Williamson – who backed Mr Willsman even after Momentum withdrew support – said there had been a clean sweep for the #JC9 “despite the best efforts of the haters and the smearers”.

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Denny Taylor, a spokesman for the Labour Against AntiSemitism campaign, said: “The election of the ‘#JC9’ slate by Labour members to the party’s NEC raises further concerns about institutional anti-Semitism in the party.

“None of the #JC9 have publicly supported the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, with many simply refusing to respond to polite inquiries from the Jewish Labour Movement to clarify their positions.”

The Jewish Labour Movement said: “We note the election of Willsman to the ruling body of the Labour Party. It does appear to be one rule for friends of Jeremy and one rule for others.”

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Momentum stressed it had withdrawn its support for Mr Willsman after his controversial comments emerged.

The campaign group’s Laura Parker said: “These results are a fantastic victory for ordinary grassroots members and another step forward in building a reinvigorated, democratic Labour Party that is capable of winning the next election.

“The success of all eight Momentum-backed candidates builds on our NEC results from last year and we’re now looking forward to this year’s Labour Conference where the democracy review and open selections for parliamentary candidates are set to be debated.”