John McDonnell admits antisemitism row damaged Labour's election chances

Labour paid the price for the row in Barnet, one of its key target seats, says shadow chancellor

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Sunday 06 May 2018 17:01 BST
John McDonnell: Antisemitism affected the vote in Barnet

Senior Labour figures have admitted that the row over antisemitism in the party’s ranks damaged their performance in the local elections.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the party had paid the price in Barnet – one of its key target seats – where it failed to win over the council after the area’s substantial Jewish population reacted with outrage to a wave of antisemitism allegations in the national party.

Labour had set its sights on the northwest London council as one of the Tory “crown jewels”, but the council’s Labour group leader Barry Rawlings has directly blamed the antisemitism scandal for the Conservative victory at the polls.

Voters failed to give Jeremy Corbyn the victory he was hoping for in London, as the party fell short on its pledge to seize key Tory councils such as Wandsworth and Westminster.

Mr McDonnell promised to meet Barnet councillors this week and said Labour would be able to show the work it is doing to tackle antisemitism during a meeting with Jewish leaders in July.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ”Antisemitism certainly had its effect, there’s no doubt about it, in Barnet itself.

“I’m hoping that the measures we have put in place now, the Chakrabarti Report implemented in full, Jennie Formby, the new general secretary – Jeremy Corbyn said to Jennie, ‘your first priority is tackling this issue’.”

Labour party chairman Ian Lavery also said the scandal over anti-Jewish sentiment had cost them constituencies.

Mr Lavery told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “My heart goes out to [those] in the Jewish communities who have put a lot into the Labour Party, and yes, many of them, councillors that is, may not have been returned in their constituencies.

“We have lost constituencies because of what happened in the row on antisemitism.”

He added: “Antisemitism has no role, no place at all in the Labour Party, we will root it out from top to bottom.”

Both main parties had a mixed night during the local council elections in England, in which Labour gained 82 seats and controlled the same number of authorities as before the vote.

The Tories endured a net loss of two councils and returned 96 fewer councillors.

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