LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s governing Conservative Party took aim at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday, blaming him for fuelling anti-Semitism in his opposition party by failing to tackle a culture that has led to threats against some of his lawmakers.
Less than a month before local elections when Labour is expected to oust the Conservatives from many councils in London, a passionate debate in parliament underlined the depth of the criticism directed towards Corbyn over anti-Semitism.
Lawmakers were keen to say they were not political point-scoring in the debate, when Jewish Labour lawmakers listed the abuse they had received on social media, sometimes, they said, from party members who were self-declared Corbyn supporters.
Corbyn has apologized for what he has called “pockets” of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and says he is tackling it.
Scheduled by the Conservatives, the debate was opened by communities minister Sajid Javid, who told Corbyn “it won’t perhaps be the most comfortable three hours … that he has sat in on”.
“There has frankly been a deeply worrying lack of leadership or moral clarity on this issue from him,” Javid told parliament.
“We cannot and we must not ignore the particular concern with elements within the Labour Party, nor can we ignore the fact that this increasing concern has correlated with the current leader of the opposition and the wave of activists that have come with him.”
Earlier this month, British Jewish groups protested against Corbyn, accusing the leader, a supporter of Palestinian rights and a critic of Israel, of failing to tackle anti-Semitism because of a far-left world view hostile to Jews.
Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s policy chief for communities and local government, said his party was tackling anti-Semitism and that where there were allegations the party and its leader “don’t just call it out, we root it out”.
“It is our responsibility to show that we have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. There is no place for anti Semitism in the Labour Party, in the left of British politics, in British society at all. End of.”
But for many in parliament, the efforts were not enough.
Several Labour lawmakers called for the expulsion of supporters such as former London mayor Ken Livingstone, after he was suspended last year for saying Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism.
Luciana Berger, a Jewish Labour lawmaker who listed the attacks upon her because of her faith, said she felt that anti-Semitism in the party was “now more commonplace, it is more conspicuous and it is more corrosive”.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Stephen Addison)