JLM Chair on Antisemitism - BBC Today Programme 16 March 2016 (07:19)

JLM National Chair, Jeremy Newmark was interviewed by Sarah Montagu on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme on 16 March 2016. The interview covered the question of antisemitism within the Labour Party.

A transcript of the full interview follows here:

Sarah: Matthew Price there. It's now 19 minutes past 7. Labour have suspended one of their activists for a second time for posting anti-Semitic tweets. Vicki Kirby was first suspended in 2014, when she was a parliamentary candidate. She'd said, "Jews have big noses and they slaughter the oppressed." Well yesterday it emerged that another Labour Party member had complained to Police about her comments. And that she had not only been reinstated, but elected the local party's Vice Chairman. Jeremy Newmark is chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, and he's here with me in the studio. Now, good morning to you.  

Jeremy: Good morning, Sarah.    

Sarah: And this of course at a time when the Labour peer Baroness Royall is carrying out an investigation into Antisemitism at Oxford University's Labour Club. And there are allegations of similar problems at the LSE. Does the Labour Party have a problem with Antisemitism?   

Jeremy: Antisemitism’s never been the sole preserve of the extreme right. In fact it was a former German socialist politician who described antisemitism on the left as "the socialism of fools." And unfortunately, what we have seen over the past 9 to 12 months is an apparent resurgence of the acceptance of antisemitism within the mainstream Labour Party today.   

Sarah: And so are you suggesting that the top is accepting? That Jeremy Corbyn - it's 9 to 12 months since he became leader. That that's why it has been allowed to emerge?  

Jeremy:  2 things have happened. There's been a massive change and shift in the membership base of the Labour Party at grassroots level. And it appears that within that surge in members, there is a pocket - possibly a very small pocket of people, that do harbour these problematic views. And at the same time, what we've seen is an apparent impotence, an inability of the leadership and the top of the party to deal with these issues in a swift and firm manner. In the same way that any other form of racism would be treated and dealt with today.  

Sarah: Are you hearing more than we've reported on there?   

Jeremy: What we have heard at the Jewish Labour Movement - and we act, in many ways, as a kind of lightning rod for people that are suffering from problems of this nature - that particularly on campus, yes the problem is greater than that has been surfaced to date.   

Sarah: Jeremy Corbyn, of course - himself - can't control who becomes a member of the Labour Party. What are you saying that he should do?

Jeremy: Well look, what we need to see is a scenario in which the political rhetoric of zero tolerance for antisemitism - which Jeremy Corbyn and other leading figures in the party have delivered very well and very clearly and very effectively in recent weeks. Actually needs to be matched with action. And examples like the one that you introduced this section with today, appear to show that the party's structures, systems and processes don't seem to be geared up for dealing with contemporary antisemitism in the manner in which one would expect.

Sarah: In terms what he can do, because, I mean - as far as Vicki Kirby's concerned, do you know when she re-joined the Labour Party?   

Jeremy: I think the timeline on the Vicki Kirby incident is unclear, and hopefully that fact that there is a new investigation - will disclose that.

Sarah: Because it could have been before Jeremy Corbyn became leader?  

Jeremy: Oh, and I think it almost certainly was.

Sarah: So in terms of what he can do, would you expect there to be discussions at the Shadow Cabinet level on this?   

Jeremy: We would expect there to be discussions at all levels in the party. I think the problem is that often people in shadow cabinet - including Jeremy Corbyn himself, have delivered fantastic rhetoric, pledges and commitments about zero tolerance on antisemitism. But now they need to act and ensure that the systems and structures of the party enable them to match rhetoric with action. 

Sarah: Jeremy Newmark, thank you very much.  

Jeremy: Thank you.