On Wednesday, following last week’s allegations on a BBC Panorama documentary that senior figures close to anti-Semitic British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn had interfered in anti-Semitism cases, the roof fell in on Corbyn, as over 60 members of his party took out an ad in The Guardian accusing him of having “failed the test of leadership” and saying to Corbyn, “You still haven’t told the whole truth.” At the same time, Conservative party leader Theresa May used the ad in Parliament to launch a fiery denunciation of Corbyn, calling on him to apologize.
May thundered, “There is an issue, Mr. Speaker, that needs to be addressed in this House, and before the right honorable gentleman stands up and parades himself as the champion of climate change or the champion of the people, or the defender of equality and fairness, he needs to apologize for his failure to deal with racism in the Labour party. Just today, 60 distinguished members of the Labour party have written in the newspaper, ‘The Labour Party welcomes everyone, except, it seems, Jews. This is your legacy, Mr. Corbyn. You still haven’t opened your eyes. You still haven’t told the whole truth. You still haven’t accepted your responsibility. You have failed the test of leadership.’ Apologize now.”
Corbyn responded weakly, “This party opposes racism in any form whatsoever. Anti-Semitism has no place in our society. No place in any of our parties and no place in any of our dialogue.” He then accused the Conservative party of harboring Islamophobia.
May then rose and fired back, “But the right honorable gentleman I know, did not apologize in response to my first questions. We deal with Islamophobia in the Conservative party; any allegations of Islamophobia are dealt with, unlike his way in the Labour party, where he is failing to deal with anti-Semitism. Just last week, Trevor Phillips, the former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the following: ‘Labour today presents like a textbook case of institutional racism’.”
The Guardian noted that in the BBC documentary, “eight former staff members accused the Labour of failing to tackle complaints about antisemitism properly and allowing Corbyn’s office to get involved in disputes.”
The full text of the advertisement signed by 64 members of the Labour party read:
The Labour Party welcomes everyone* irrespective of race, creed, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation. (*except, it seems, Jews)
This is your legacy Mr Corbyn
Under your leadership, Labour is no longer a safe place for all members and supporters, whatever their ethnicity or faith. Thousands have resigned and thousands more feel unable to attend party meetings because of the toxic culture you have allowed to divide our movement. After initially defending the racist mural in East London you admitted being unable to recognise that it was antisemitic because you didn’t look closely enough.
You still haven’t opened your eyes.
After your staff shielded antisemitic conduct from the party’s disciplinary rules, you said: ‘I do not intervene in cases, my office does not intervene in cases.’
You still haven’t told the whole truth.
We are not asking if you are an anti-Semite. We are saying you are accountable as Leader for allowing antisemitism to grow in our party and presiding over the most shaming period in Labour’s history.
You still haven’t accepted your responsibility.
Labour can’t fight racism in society if we can’t deal with racism in our own party. We can’t be a credible alternative government that will bring the country together if we can’t get our own house in order. Your failure to do the right thing will lead to the failure of the Labour Party being able to make our country a better place for the people and communities we seek to serve.
It’s the style of your office and your followers to deny the truth of the message and denounce the messengers, whether they are party members or whistleblowers from Labour’s head office. But we cannot stay silent while younger, braver party workers and members speak out.
You have failed to defend our party’s anti-racist values.
You have therefore failed the test of leadership.
Clive Soley, a former chair of the parliamentary Labour party who was one of the members signing the ad, stated, “I think the situation is that we either do something now or just watch the the Labour party die. It is that tragic. If you look at it historically, the Liberal party took two general elections to die as an electoral force. This could happen to us. The party is hemorrhaging support dramatically and it’s very hard to see how we stop that with Jeremy and his group leading the party.”
Former defense secretary Lord Robertson, who also signed the ad, stated, “It was important to make a bold statement so that Jeremy sits up and understands the strength of feeling. The problem has been discussed by Jeremy but the action taken hasn’t been strong enough. No one is convinced that the party is getting to grips with the truth, which is shameful to us all, that there are racists in our party and they aren’t being thrown out quickly enough.”