Labour’s Tom Watson promises to ‘log and monitor’ anti-Semitism allegations

Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson has written to all the party's MPs and peers to say that from now on he will be "logging and monitoring" all complaints of anti-Semitic abuse and bullying.

In an email, Mr Watson asked Labour parliamentarians to inform him of any complaints of anti-Semitism so he can ensure that they are shared with Jeremy Corbyn and other leading figures.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said that the move was "a sad commentary" on the failure of the Labour leadership so far to take "satisfactory action against a culture of anti-Semitism and bullying".

Meanwhile, the founder of the influential Corbyn-backing Momentum group warned that "a few hundred" Labour members are "hardcore anti-Semites" who need to be kicked out of the party.

Jon Lansman told BBC Radio 4's Today that Labour needed to be more "proactive" in tackling anti-Semitism and said that more rigorous disciplinary procedures had taken "very much longer than we had hoped" to take effect.

Mr Watson announced on Sunday that he was sending a dossier of 50 complaints of anti-Semitism to Mr Corbyn and calling on him to take a "personal lead" in examining them and recommending action.

His move came after Jewish MP Luciana Berger quit the party, citing the leadership's failure to act on anti-Semitic bullying and abuse.

In his message to MPs – obtained by The Times – he said that any concerns about anti-Semitism should be raised with general secretary Jennie Formby.

And he added: "As your deputy leader, I am deeply alarmed at the amount of abuse that colleagues are receiving from within the party.

"In order to properly assess and monitor the scale of the problem, I would like to see any issue or complaint you raise with the general secretary.

"From now on, my team will be logging and monitoring all complaints. I will ensure that this information is shared with both Jeremy, the shadow cabinet and colleagues on the National Executive Committee."

Berger
MP Luciana Berger cited the Labour leadership's handling of anti-Semitic abuse as one of the issues behind her decision to quit the party (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The president of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, responded: "It is tragic that the deputy leader of the opposition has felt the need to personally push for greater transparency in Labour's complaints process for anti-Semitism, racism and bullying – including that suffered by the party's MPs.

"The fact that Tom Watson has felt the need to do this himself is a sad commentary on the fact that the Labour leadership that has so far failed to take satisfactory action against a culture of anti-Semitism and bullying in the party.

"This noxious behaviour is so rife within Labour that it is leading to the resignations of MPs, councillors and other members. What will it take for Jeremy Corbyn to act?"

Mr Lansman – who is himself Jewish – told Today that he was "extremely upset" by Ms Berger's departure, adding: "I think any Jewish member of the party leaving the party because of anti-Semitism is a source of tremendous regret and sadness and some shame."

He rejected Ms Berger's claim that the party is "institutionally anti-Semitic".

But he said: "I do think we have a major problem and it always seems to me that we under-estimate the scale of it. I think it is a widespread problem.

"I think it is now obvious that we have a much larger number of people with hardcore anti-Semitic opinions which unfortunately is polluting the atmosphere in a lot of constituency parties and in particular online. We have to deal with these people."

Mr Lansman, who has been sitting on a panel hearing complaints of anti-Semitism, later tweeted: "Just last Friday, we referred 19 out of 35 cases reviews to the NCC (National Constitutional Committee) almost all with a strong recommendation for expulsion.

"Of Labour's 500,000 members perhaps a few hundred are hardcore anti-Semites. If we improve our processes, we can make sure they are kicked out of the party."

2/2 Just last Friday we referred 19 out of 35 cases reviews to the NCC almost all with a strong recommendation for expulsion. Of Labour's 500,000 members perhaps a few hundred are hardcore antisemites. If we improve our processes, we can make sure they are kicked out of the party

— Jon Lansman (@jonlansman) February 25, 2019

Mr Lansman said measures had been taken to speed up decision-making in anti-Semitism cases, but added: "It has taken very much longer than we had hoped and it has proved larger and larger."

But he was wary of calls for Mr Corbyn to take personal charge.

"Jeremy Corbyn has been an anti-racist campaigner all his life, I have known him for decades and I do absolutely believe in his commitment to eradicate that," he said.

"I think he is overseeing the party's battle against anti-Semitism. I'm not sure about him taking personal responsibility for cases. I think if he did that, some people might argue that that would be inappropriate."

Mr Lansman said the emergence of anti-Semitism as a major issue was in part due to the trebling of Labour's membership since Mr Corbyn took the helm, with the 300,000 new members including some conspiracy theorists who are active on social media.

"There are conspiracy theorists in many parts of the political spectrum, I don't think it's exclusive to the Labour Party," he said.

But he added: "The Tory Party is a smaller party and an elderly party and the role of social media in fomenting and spreading some of the poison is therefore more of a problem in the Labour Party."

Labour is yet to comment on reports that Mr Corbyn is considering asking former justice secretary Lord Falconer of Thoroton to be the party's anti-Semitism surveillance commissioner.

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