Labour row: Corbyn-backing Momentum accuse party of trying to ‘destroy’ left-wing elements
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The latest criticisms of Labour come from Gaya Sriskanthan, the new co-chair of the grassroots group Momentum, and are in response to an email from the party’s general secretary David Evans – an ally of Sir Keir. He emailed local parties warning debates aimed at rejecting the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism should not take place within local party meetings and risk undermining Labour’s “ability to tackle racism”. But in Facebook posts leaked to Sky News, Ms Sriskanthan warns activists not to “fall for the bait or they’ll use it to suspend everyone”.
She wrote: “This is clearly an issue of shutting down democratic debate and we have to focus our arguments on the principle rather than the details of what we want to talk about, or they will use any excuse to destroy left (Constituency Labour Parties)”.
Labour’s adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism was a hot topic of discussion under the leadership of Mr Corbyn.
Members of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) eventually supported a change in its code of conduct to fully adopt the internationally-recognised definition in September 2018.
But the NEC added its own “free speech clause”, which the party said at the time “ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians”.
The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism reads: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.
“Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The IHRA also provides 11 examples, adding manifestations “might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity”.
Mr Evans also said debates about the upcoming report from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour and the party’s decision to apologise to whistleblowers who spoke to BBC Panorama about the claims were not “competent business” for meetings.
But in a further sign of huge divisions in Labour, supporters of Mr Corbyn have accused the party’s general secretary of waging a political war against the left of the party.
Labour International co-chair Colin O’Driscoll wrote in the same Facebook post: “Starmer’s office boy blowing smoke. None of this has any basis in the Labour Party rulebook.”
The NEC has also been left furious by the latest comments from Mr Evans.
Rachel Garnham, a member of the committee, posted online stating she and several other activists had written to the general secretary asking “on whose authority” he was acting.
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Last month, the EHRC provided the Labour with a draft of its report into allegations of anti-Semitism sweeping through Labour under the leadership of Mr Corbyn.
Labour confirmed it had received a draft of the report from the EHRC, but that it would be “inappropriate to comment on any of the contents of the draft report” as it has been sent in confidence.
The party said in a statement: “The Equality and Human Rights Commission has provided the Labour Party with a draft of its report into allegations of antisemitism.
“The draft report has been shared with the Labour Party as part of a process afforded to us prior to the report’s publication.
“It is sent in confidence by the EHRC, so until that process is completed, it would be inappropriate to comment on any of the contents of the draft report – and we will not do so.”
But Labour said current leader Sir Keir and his deputy Angela Rayner are “committed to tackling antisemitism within the Labour Party”, adding it has been a “stain” on the opposition over recent years.
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