Sajid Javid backtracks on Jeremy Corbyn 'Holocaust denier' tweet following backlash

Labour MPs had accused home secretary of 'peddling a lie' - calling on Theresa May to step in

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 21 July 2018 11:24 BST
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Sajid Javid has been forced to backtrack after being accused of suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn is a Holocaust denier.

The home secretary triggered a storm of criticism after responding to a Twitter user by saying: “How can you even question the Holocaust. Please think carefully about what you are saying. Don’t be misled by Corbyn.”

Labour MPs reacted with fury, accusing him of “deliberately peddling a lie” and demanding he both apologise and retract the comment.

Late on Friday, Mr Javid responded by tweeting: “Corbyn is not a Holocaust denier. I am happy to make that clear.”

The controversy blew up amid growing criticism of Labour for declining to adopt the full wording of the International Holocaust Memorial Alliance (IHRA)’s document on antisemitism.

Instead, the party’s code accepted that only seven of 11 examples “are likely to be regarded as antisemitic”, while dropping, or reworking, the other four.

After Mr Javid waded into the row, Clive Lewis, a Labour frontbencher, hit out, saying: “Are you seriously accusing Jeremy Corbyn of being a Holocaust denier?

“Seriously I’d apologise, detract and wind your neck in. And whilst you’re at it launch an investigation into Islamophobia in your own sorry excuse for a party.”

Dawn Butler, Labour’s equalities spokesperson tweeted to Theresa May to demand “an explanation on the floor of the House”.

She alleged: “One of your ministers seems to be deliberately peddling a lie. And he is the home secretary! This cannot be allowed to continue.”

In his clarification, Mr Javid insisted his original comment referred to the Twitter user “buying into Corbyn’s position on antisemitism”.

Labour’s turmoil over the issue will deepen next week, when MPs furious about the code table another motion at a meeting of the parliamentary party.

A total of 68 rabbis from every religious stream in the country have urged the party to adopt the full, unamended description of what constitutes antisemitism from the IHRA.

It is used by the UK and Scottish governments, the Welsh Assembly, by public bodies including the Crown Prosecution Service and the College of Policing and by scores of local authorities.

Critics say that, in Labour’s code, it will no longer be antisemitic – but merely “wrong” – “to accuse Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations”.

It is also weaker on comparing Israel to Nazi Germany and on statements that a state for the Jewish people is a “racist endeavour”, they say.

But Labour insists antisemitic intent will not have to be proved to find someone guilty of breaching party rules for making such offensive comments.

It says its policy goes further in outlawing toleration of comments intended to offend Jewish people than the IHRA wording which is “too vague for application by a political party”.

Mr Corbyn has been accused of failing to explain why Labour will not use all the IHRA examples, following the national executive committee’s decision last week.

The NEC did agree to throw it open to fresh consultation – but, meanwhile, disciplinary action has been launched against Margaret Hodge for an angry public confrontation in which the veteran MP branded Jeremy Corbyn an antisemite.

The Barking MP, a secular Jew, said she was making him aware of her “anger and outrage” over the party’s adoption of its code of conduct.

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