John McDonnell rebukes Corbyn supporters for perpetuating ‘antisemitic stereotypes’ – but key ally dismisses row as ‘stirred up to attack Jeremy’

Shadow chancellor condemns letter backed by 2,000 Corbyn supporters suggesting a Jewish-organised protest was the work of ‘a very powerful special interest group’

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Friday 30 March 2018 17:11
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Passover message from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

John McDonnell has rebuked Labour supporters for perpetuating “antisemitic stereotypes” and undermining Jeremy Corbyn, as the party was embroiled in a deepening row over anti-Jewish sentiment in its ranks.

The shadow chancellor condemned an open letter backed by 2,000 Corbyn supporters suggesting a Jewish-organised protest against antisemitism in Labour was the work of “a very powerful special interest group”.

His intervention came as Christine Shawcroft, who resigned as head of Labour’s disputes panel on Wednesday over antisemitism allegations, claimed the ongoing dispute was “being stirred up to attack Jeremy”.

Her comments threatened to overshadow the Labour leader’s efforts to heal divisions with his Passover message on Friday, in which he admitted that Labour needs to “do better” in the fight against antisemitism.

Dozens of Labour politicians have written to Mr Corbyn demanding Ms Shawcroft be suspended from the party and its ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), after it emerged she had defended a council candidate accused of Holocaust denial.

Mr McDonnell posted on Twitter: “Describing Jewish people as a ‘very powerful special interest group’ is an antisemitic stereotype that undermines not supports Jeremy and his determination to unite our communities.

“Let’s all come together now, not divide.”

The shadow chancellor’s intervention comes as Ms Shawcroft, a key Corbyn ally, posted a statement on her public Facebook profile where she blamed his opponents for stoking up the row.

The senior Momentum figure said she was not a “Holocaust denier” and she had not seen the “appalling and abhorrent” social media post by council candidate Alan Bull before she questioned his suspension from the Labour Party.

She added: ”It is entirely right that, having made the initial mistake, I should resign as Chair of the Disputes Panel (which never meant I had the power to overturn suspensions anyway).

“This whole row is being stirred up to attack Jeremy, as we all know. That someone who has spent his whole life fighting racism in all its forms should find himself being accused of not doing enough to counter it absolutely beggars belief.”

Mr Corbyn released a Passover video message on Friday where he insisted he was an “ally” in the fight against abuse, although he conceded that it was easy to denounce antisemitism in other countries but “sometimes harder to see it when it is closer to home”.

He said: “We in the Labour movement will never be complacent about antisemitism. We all need to do better.

“I am committed to ensuring the Labour Party is a welcoming and secure place for Jewish people.

“And I hope this Passover will mark a move to stronger and closer relations between us and everyone in the Jewish community.

“In the fight against antisemitism, I am your ally and I always will be.”

Mr Corbyn faced protests outside parliament this week, as well as criticism from senior Jewish figures, that he had failed to adequately address antisemitism in the Labour movement.

The Independent revealed that the open letter, posted on the ‘We Support Jeremy Corbyn’ Facebook page, claimed the Jewish organisers of Monday’s demonstration had used their “immense strength” to launch an “onslaught” against the Labour leader.

In an interview with Jewish News, Mr Corbyn said he was “not an antisemite in any way” but he acknowledged there had been 300 complaints of antisemitic abuse in the party since he took the helm in 2015.

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