“Jew-Baiting” In Hastings Labour Party?
Amber Rudd’s Remarks Draw Prompt Denials
In a remarkable press release, issued last Sunday and given extensive exposure by the national newspapers, Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye as well as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, referred to a “new Hastings antisemitism crisis” . She demanded that Labour leaders Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson put her local political opponents, the Hastings and Rye Labour party, “under special behavioural measures” and personally oversee efforts to rid them of “repeated and flagrant acts of Jew-baiting”.
Ms Rudd was reacting to an emergency motion passed by the local party in support of Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North, who has recently been suspended for criticising the national party’s handling of antisemitic complaints.
But Ms Rudd went much further in alleging a sustained period of antisemitism within the local party. “Jewish people in Hastings & Rye deserve far better than a local Labour Party obsessed with peddling conspiracy theories about Jewish people. For too long, (it) has deliberately goaded and baited Jews with hateful language and got away with it. This latest salvo is a disgrace and shows that the local Party is infected with antisemitism. I know there are Labour Party members and councillors in Hastings who are appalled by this.”
When called upon to justify these remarks she cited the instance of a previous prospective Labour parliamentary candidate Michelle Harris, dropped from consideration in 2015 after describing Holocaust victims as having “died with dignity”; and the experience of a Labour councillor for the Old Hastings Ward who “dramatically quit the Party earlier this
year, saying the party had become a welcoming environment for antisemites”.
The phrase used by Ms Harris seems, at least out of context, hardly the stuff of hateful Jew-baiting. Furthermore the departing Labour councillor, Dany Louise, though indeed she claimed publicly that she had resigned out of concern at antisemitism within the leadership of the national party, made no such allegations at local level.
Local Labour response
Ken Maitland, chair of the local constituency Labour party (CLP), has issued a statement rejecting “entirely” Ms Rudd’s slurs. “We are a vibrant, welcoming and diverse local party which is absolutely committed to fighting racism and antisemitism.
“Antisemites are a tiny minority within our party of over half a million people, but one antisemite is too many. Polling has shown that antisemitic attitudes are higher among Conservative voters than Labour voters, so clearly all parties must work together to tackle this prejudice across the political spectrum.
“We are very pleased to have a close relationship with members of the local Jewish community and the many active Jewish members in our CLP. We will always ensure our meetings are welcoming, comradely and without any discrimination.”
The full text of the local party motion which has produced this furore is set out below.
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