Controversial activist voted onto Labour’s ruling body despite Jewish comments

(Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA) Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

A controversial Labour activist has been re-elected to the party’s ruling body, despite a row over his comments about Jews.

Peter Willsman was elected as part of a nine-strong slate of Jeremy Corbyn-supporting Labour members, as the party left strengthened its position on the National Executive Committee (NEC).

One of the casualties of the success of the so-called #JC9 was comedian Eddie Izzard, who lost his seat on the NEC.

Mr Willsman’s success came despite the influential Momentum campaign group withdrawing its support for him following “deeply insensitive” comments about Jews.

Mr Willsman had called some members of the Jewish community “Trump fanatics” and suggested they were “making up” problems about anti-Semitism in the party.

Mr Willsman apologised and acknowledged the “offensive nature of my comments” and referred himself for equalities training after a recording emerged of his comments at an NEC meeting.

Amanda Bowman, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said Mr Willsman’s election following his “reprehensible comments” was “deeply concerning”.

The new members of the NEC will not take up their posts until after the Labour Party’s conference.

On Tuesday, the current NEC is expected to decide on whether to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism and its examples, which has been the subject of a bitter row within the party over recent months.

The nine candidates elected were Yasmine Dar (88,176 votes), Claudia Webbe (83,797), Momentum founder Jon Lansman (83,072), Rachel Garnham (81,702), Huda Elmi (80,371), Darren Williams (79,361), Ann Henderson (79,176), Navendu Mishra (75,224) and Mr Willsman (70,321).

Izzard finished 10th in the contest, almost 3,000 votes behind Mr Willsman and long-standing NEC member Ann Black also lost her seat on the body.

The comic said Labour now had to “work together and stop tearing each other apart” after a “tough summer”.

Labour MP Wes Streeting said Mr Willsman had shown he is “unfit to serve on Labour’s NEC” and he should have been “booted off” the body already.

Former minister Jim Fitzpatrick said: “I expect trouble ahead,” as Mr Corbyn’s supporters strengthened their position at the top of the party.

The moderate Labour MP said the NEC vote was “clear evidence” that Mr Corbyn and his team were in charge and the “spat” over Mr Willsman’s comments had little or no impact on their support.

Denny Taylor, a spokesman for the Labour Against Antisemitism campaign, said: “The election of the ‘#JC9’ slate by Labour members to the party’s NEC raises further concerns about institutional antisemitism in the party.

“None of the #JC9 have publicly supported the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, with many simply refusing to respond to polite inquiries from the Jewish Labour Movement to clarify their positions.

“One of the successful members, Pete Willsman, was embroiled in controversy earlier this summer when he claimed Jews who were concerned by anti-Semitism in the party were ‘Trump fanatics’.”