Hackney North Labour members spark backlash by passing motion rejecting 'institutional racism' claims
PUBLISHED: 13:58 01 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:20 01 March 2019
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A motion passed by Labour members at the Hackney North constituency meeting last night has sparked a backlash by calling on the party's national executive to reject accusations it is institutionally racist.
The motion, defending the party’s reputation amid the ongoing antisemitism row, was passed by 45 votes to 35. The secretary of Hackney’s other CLP, Hackney South and Shoreditch, said the motion had been proposed by Jewish group members.
Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott was present at the meeting but reportedly did not speak on the motion. Hackney mayor Phil Glanville was also there.
The motion said the ongoing accusations had led to people in the media, and the right of the party, accepting that it was “institutionally antisemitic”.
It read: “The accusation of ‘institutional antisemitism’ in the Labour Party is asserted as a fact, despite data released by the party which shows a 0.08 per cent incidence of antisemitic behaviour by party members over the last 10 months.
“This has become a daily feature of the political debate over the last couple of weeks. It is distracting people’s attention away from the calamitous consequences of the Tory government’s continuing austerity and its disastrous handling of the Brexit issue as it nears the March 29 deadline.
“It is a scandal that we are allowing ourselves to be branded as a racist party. Meanwhile, figures like Tony Blair – who bear responsibility for the death and destruction of the Iraq war and who repeatedly, openly attack the democratically elected leadership of the party – are allowed to remain as Labour members. We completely reject such double standards.
“Furthermore, we call upon the NEC to release a statement firmly rejecting the accusation that Labour is in any way ‘institutionally racist’, making it clear Labour and its current leader have a proud record of fighting racism and will continue to do so.
“We must also be clear that to defeat racism, we have to fight the conditions that cause it. It is the capitalist system, and its relentless crises, unemployment, insecurity and unaffordable housing that foster racism. It is the apologists for it in the media and the Conservative party who promote racism.
“We also call on the NEC to immediately trigger ballot procedures in all constituencies, in order to allow the party membership to decide who should represent them in parliament.
“It is unacceptable to allow our representatives to slander the party and its members whilst we put them into office.”
Member and former Hackney councillor Patrick Moule wrote on Twitter: “Hackney North CLP passed this utter disgrace of a motion this evening, 45 votes to 35. Jewish members bravely spoke up and their lived experience was ignored and denied. I feel ashamed and bereft that my political home of over a decade has sunk so low.”
A similar motion was withdrawn before it could be officially proposed at the Hackney South and Shoreditch constituency meeting last night.
Hackney South secretary Heather Mendick was one of many people who responded to Patrick’s tweet. She said: “Jewish members bravely proposed and supported this motion but that is being erased by non-Jewish members who in tweets like this ignore and deny their (and my) lived experience.”
Mr Glanville would not be drawn on the happenings at the meeting, but today said: “We must listen, reflect and be clear it is utterly unacceptable to dismiss the concerns of those that feel the party is not doing enough to tackle these issues.
“Like any other group of people facing discrimination, Jewish people should have their experience of that discrimination acknowledged not denied.
“We need swift action against those who are antisemitic wherever this occurs and whoever they are, alongside far more solidarity with those who face abuse.
“Nationally the Labour Party has acknowledged there is a problem with anti-semitism within the party. It is incumbent on all of us who care about the party as an organisation, and potentially transformative Labour government that we so desperately need, to ensure it should be a welcoming, not hostile place for Jewish members of all Labour traditions.”
Labour’s Cllr Michael Desmond, who represents Hackney Downs, said he and his fellow ward councillors “disassociated” themselves from the motion.
He said: “We do not support it and obviously we are opposed to any form of antisemitism.
“I don’t believe the party is antisemitic but the threat of trigger ballots implies people who stand up to antisemitism could be deselected, which is inappropriate.
“Although we do not believe there is institutional antisemitism in the party we have to fight it every time it arises.
“We have the second largest Jewish community in Britain and we will always support anyone from any background, culture or religion because we are a multi-racial, multi-ethnic community.
“There was vigorous debate and a number of people were distressed during the course of the meeting.”
Ms Abbott and the CLP have been approached for comment.
Hackney North and Stoke Newington includes Stamford Hill, home to more than 30,000 Haredi Jews, the largest community in Europe.
Springfield Tory councillor Harvey Odze said he was “ashamed” to have Ms Abbott as his MP.
He said: “The fact the motion was tabled, discussed and passed despite the speeches of Jewish Labour members, some of whom were in tears, is itself an indication of the institutional racism deeply embedded in today’s Labour party.”