Labour Chairman stands down over row about anti-semitism in the party

Mayfield festival has changed its line up to maximise appeal

THE chairman of the Tonbridge & Malling Constituency Labour Party [CLP] has stepped down from the post in protest at anti-semitism within the party.

Euan Philipps has become one of the leading figures in the fight against anti-Jewish racism on the left and has reported thousands of examples to Labour’s disciplinary panel.

He was appointed local party chairman last July and said he ‘felt very proud of the role’.

Four months earlier, in March 2017, he was instrumental in setting up the campaign group Labour Against Anti-semitism [LAAS].

Now he has written to party leader Jeremy Corbyn notifying him of his decision to step down because of a lack of action to stamp out the problem.

LAAS identifies perceived incidences of anti-semitism by Labour members and has passed on up to 12,000 instances involving 1,200 party members to the party’s Compliance Unit.

The 39-year-old communications manager, who lives near Larkfield, has described the situation on social media as a ‘cesspit’ and says he has a backlog of reports about more than 1,000 other members.

Mr Corbyn has come under increasing pressure to accept the existence of a widespread problem within the party and take decisive disciplinary action.

Earlier this month a borough council candidate in Tunbridge Wells, Roy Smart, was found to have posted antisemitic content on his Facebook page.

Mr Philipps wrote to Mr Corbyn saying that he had taken up the chairmanship because he ‘optimistically believed that further steps would be made by you and by the Labour Party to tackle and eradicate what was already a growing and concerning issue within some elements of our party: anti-semitism’.

He added: ‘Unfortunately, the last few weeks have shown that optimism to have been wildly misplaced.

‘I do not believe that you are committed to tackling racial discrimination in our party and I cannot support you as the leader of our party.

‘The time for words has long passed, yet words are all you continue to offer, while you allow the most pernicious and vile hatred to continue in your name. You denounce, but in truth you do nothing.

‘I now believe that not only are you and your leadership team guilty of failing to deal with this anti-semitism crisis, but that there is an institutional racism embedded within our entire Labour movement.’

His successor at the CLP, Vice-Chair Mary Arigho, expressed her shock at his decision and the manner in which he announced it.

‘It was a complete surprise as he did not inform the Executive Committee of his decision, as is the correct procedure,’ she said. ‘Instead, he chose to email his resignation to members.’

Ms Arigho added: ‘The Labour Party does not condone anti-semitism and our new General Secretary [Jennie Formby, appointed on March 20] has pledged to eradicate it where it exists.

‘However, we are also concerned that legitimate criticism of the current regime in Israel is not conflated with anti-semitism for political ends.’

Many members of the Labour movement have claimed that they are being accused of anti-semitism when they are simply expressing criticism of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

Mr Philipps, who writes for the news website Huffington Post, has said of this difficult relationship: ‘Groups like Jewish Voice for Labour who promote the ‘Anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism’ lie (for what is denial of a people’s homeland, if not intrinsically hateful?) are courted and validated by senior party figures such as [union leader] Len McCluskey and Jeremy Corbyn himself.’

He adds that Jewish groups are struggling to keep up with the scale of anti-Jewish sentiment on social media platforms ‘which is where Labour Against Anti-semitism does most of its work. In fact, it’s a cesspit’.

Mr Philipps told the Times: ‘We are absolutely horrified by the amount of racist content we were seeing online in Labour-orientated Facebook groups, and the growing prominence of people with extremely anti-semitic views within the party structure.

‘It’s become institutional, by which I mean anti-semitism can be found embedded in every part of the Labour movement, and the processes for dealing with it have effectively failed so it is actually getting worse.

‘What we’re witnessing is quite frightening really. It should concern everyone who believes in democracy and the future of our country.’

He believes a new level of oversight must be brought in to adjudicate on all the complaints.

‘The whole process around resolving this issue is simply not fit for purpose,’ he says.

‘An independent body needs to be brought in to provide a robust, fair process that everyone can have confidence in.’

PICTURE: RED MIST: Euan Philipps on the campaign trail

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter