Harlow MP responds to report in antisemitism in Labour Party

Statement from Rt. Hon. Robert Halfon MP:

IN a speech on antisemitism in the House of Commons in April 2018, I explained how “the air has grown tighter” for the Jewish community. Antisemitic acts were unthinkable just a few years ago but are becoming increasingly commonplace.

I described how, as an MP of the Jewish faith, antisemitism had affected me. Other Jewish MPs of the Labour Party broke down in tears in the House of Commons chamber, as they explained that antisemitism had been left unchecked and allowed to grow inside their Party. The speech was reported in YourHarlow, available here: www.yourharlow.com/2018/04/18/harlow-mp-robert-halfon-slams-anti-semitism-with-passionate-speech-in-house-of-commons/

Today, what has gone on over the past few years, was sadly confirmed by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission – a public body established by law to weed out racism and discrimination – has published its report on antisemitism within the Labour Party

The Party has been served with an unlawful act notice for breaches of the Equality Act (2010) relating to:

  1. Political interference in antisemitism complaints
  2. Failure to provide adequate training to those handling antisemitism complaints
  3. Harassment

The ECHR has suggested there is “a culture within the Party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it.” The report also identified “serious failings” in the Labour Party’s leadership in addressing antisemitism and handling antisemitism complaints.

Sadly, during the 2019 General Election, the cancer of antisemitism that infected the Opposition Party came to Harlow. National newspapers reported how the Harlow Labour parliamentary candidate and her chief advisor were engulfed in allegations of an antisemitic controversy of their own. Again, you can read the report issued in November 2019 by YourHarlow: www.yourharlow.com/2019/11/08/political-storm-as-jewish-news-claims-harlow-labours-election-candidate-laura-mcalpine-defended-jewish-final-solution-slur/

It is incredibly disappointing that the Harlow Labour Party seemingly did very little to condemn the antisemitism that existed under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, nor did they condemn publicly the controversy surrounding the Labour parliamentary candidate and her adviser. I appreciate that many members of the Labour Party, including in Harlow, oppose racism of any kind. However, it is not good enough just to keep silent when such things are going on.

As a Jewish MP, I have frequently had to deal with antisemitism, whether it is being shouted at by members of the Left in public, being told to “go back to Israel” (even though I was born here and am a proud Englishman) or dealing with abusive comments and messages on social media – something which would have been unimaginable when I was first elected in 2010 or became a parliamentary candidate in Harlow in 1999.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has set out clear, fair and achievable recommendations to help the Labour Party make positive changes to its policies, processes and culture.

I welcome what the new Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer MP, has said today, accepting the recommendations. I hope that never again will Harlow Labour, or the national Party, at best, keep silent, or at worst, allow antisemitism to thrive.

This is an evil that led to the Holocaust, gas chambers and the loss of 6 million Jewish people in the Second World War. All that it takes for evil to flourish is for good men and women to do nothing. Now is time for those of all parties – and of none – to do everything to combat the scourge of antisemitism once and for all.

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