Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker removed from position over Holocaust comments

Momentum sources had told The Independent they were "fuming" with Ms Walker's comments

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Jackie Walker, Momentum’s vice-chair, has been removed from her position following comments in which she appeared to criticise Holocaust Memorial Day for commemorating only Jewish victims.

Ms Walker, one of the chiefs of the grassroots organisation set up shortly after Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in 2015, made the claim at the party’s anti-Semitism training event during Labour’s annual conference in Birmingham.

“In terms of Holocaust day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all people who experienced Holocaust?” she had told organisers.

Momentum’s Steering Committee voted to remove Ms Walker at a meeting this evening. Following the meeting, the committee, which voted seven to three to remove Ms Walker, issued the following statement:

“Momentum’s Steering Committee has voted, seven to three, to remove Jackie Walker as its Vice Chair, a position it elected her to. She remains a member of Momentum and its Steering Committee.

“Jackie’s actions at Labour Conference, in her subsequent Channel 4 Interview, and not understanding concern caused by her statements, have led the Steering Committee to view her behaviour as irresponsible and lose confidence in her as Vice Chair. 

“Having read reports of what Jackie Walker is alleged to have said, listened to the leaked video and heard Jackie’s version of events, the committee does not regard any of the comments she appears to have made, taken individually, to be anti-Semitic.

“However, the Committee does consider her remarks on Holocaust Memorial Day and on security of Jewish schools to be ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive. In such circumstances, the committee feels that Jackie should have done more to explain herself to mitigate the upset cause and should have been careful about statements on this and related subjects whatever her record as an anti-racist, which the Committee applauds.

“Momentum is concerned that footage of a training session was leaked to the press. The leak is unacceptable and undermines much needed political education.

“Momentum also calls on Labour to apply the principles laid down in the Chakrabarti report in its investigation of Jackie. On the basis of the evidence the Committee has seen, Jackie should not be expelled from the Labour Party.”

During the meeting Ms Walker was recorded as saying: “I came in here ... and I was looking for information and I still haven’t heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with ... [shouting from audience] and in terms of Holocaust day wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all people who experienced holocaust ... [shouting from audience] in practice it’s not actually circulated and advertised as such.”

Momentum sources had told The Independent they were “fuming” with Ms Walker’s comments but could not act until the organisation had a meeting of its steering committee. It is understood that Labour has already suspended Ms Walker from the party but said it did not comment on individual party memberships.

“The Labour party treats all allegations of anti-Semitism, racism, intimidation or abuse very seriously. Any evidence of such behaviour will be looked at and action will be taken when relevant,” a party spokesperson added.

Ms Walker’s comments reportedly led to one activist shouting “you’re telling lies” while others corrected her to say that not just Jews can commemorate the day.

Following the release of the footage, Ms Walker had said she was sorry for any offence caused. She said: “A number of people made comments in a private training session run by the Jewish Labour Movement. As we all know, training sessions are intended to be safe spaces where ideas and questions can be explored. A film of this session was leaked to the press unethically. I did not raise a question on security in Jewish schools.

“The trainer raised this issue and I asked for clarification, in particular as all London primary schools, to my knowledge, have security and I did not understand the particular point the trainer was making. Having been a victim of racism I would never play down the very real fears the Jewish community have, especially in light of recent attacks in France.

"In the session, a number of Jewish people, including me, asked for definitions of antisemitism. This is a subject of much debate in the Jewish community. I support David Schneider's definition and utterly condemn anti-Semitism.

"I would never play down the significance of the Shoah. Working with many Jewish comrades, I continue to seek to bring greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimised. If offence has been caused, it is the last thing I would want to do and I apologise."

Her remarks were widely criticised by a range of organisations and Jeremy Newmark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, had called on her to resign, adding he was “appalled” at the comments. The Holocaust Education Trust accused Ms Walker of undermining and belittling “the distinct nature of the tragedy itself”.