Jess Phillips calls for action on anti-Semitism after Labour member allegations

PUBLISHED: 16:24 14 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:30 14 January 2020

Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips has stepped up with a bid to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. Picture: Jess Phillips

Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips has stepped up with a bid to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. Picture: Jess Phillips

Jess Phillips

Jess Phillips has called for a culture change after a Labour member claimed there had been anti-Semitic abuse at a local Labour party meeting.

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Alex Holmes, vice-chair of the Ilford South branch of the party, tweeted that he had just been to "the worst Labour party meeting I have ever attended", saying that he and others had been accused of being "agents of a foreign power".

Members at the meeting had proposed a motion claiming that there is no anti-Semitism within the party, and that the Board of Deputies of British Jews is a "Tory" organisation that is "illegally" interfering in the Labour leadership contest.The Board of Deputies has published a list of 10 pledges that it has called on the party to commit to, which has been backed by leadership candidates including Rebecca Long-Bailey and Sir Keir Starmer.

Holmes said he and a Jewish member had opposed the motion against the Board, and claimed that party members used anti-Semitic tropes in making their arguments.

Sam Tarry, MP for Ilford South, said he is investigating the meeting and added that there are "conflicting accounts of what happened and what was said".

He tweeted: "I've been speaking to members this morning who were in attendance at the local ward branch meeting last night, including the two Jewish members who proposed the motion.

"The allegations are very serious and should be looked at carefully. If any allegation is upheld, there should be absolutely zero tolerance."

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner tweeted the thread, calling the described events "an example of how difficult it will be for any new leader to dislodge the anti-Semitic culture from Labour".

In response to this, Jess Phillips said she plans to speak to Holmes about the meeting's events.

"Adam is right, this will not be easily solved but we must change culture that accepts without shame and embarrassment calling Jewish orgs, Jewish people and their allies 'agents of a foreign power'. It's racism."

Following Holmes' tweets, the Board of Deputies said: "We are profoundly saddened to see yet another example of the hatred which has infested parts of Labour.

"Our sympathies are with those decent, upstanding members of the party who are determined to fight such insidious bigotry."

Phillips is one of five candidates through to the second round of the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.

She has earlier said that the party's handling of anti-Semitism allegations had led her to consider leaving the party.

The New European has approached the Labour Party for comment.

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