Granada Debate: Labour's antisemitism problem is 'a million miles' from where it was, MP says

Antisemitism was discussed in the latest of Granada Reports' monthly political programme, The Granada Debate

Labour's problem with antisemitism is "a million miles" from where it was but everybody in politics has a "responsibility" to ensure it does not become mainstream, an MP has said.

Charlotte Nichols, who herself is Jewish, says she has experienced the "staggering rise" in antisemitism since the conflict in Gaza began, and often gets threats aimed at her.

Speaking as part of monthly political show The Granada Debate, the Labour MP for Warrington North said: "I've experienced it in terms of some of the abuse and threats that come into my inbox, but also in terms of trying to live my life as a Jewish person in the UK at the moment," she said.

"At my synagogue at the weekend there were 20 police officers outside and multiple police vans, that was deemed necessary for the protection of the congregation.

"It cannot be right in Britain that that is something that is having to be put in place.

"I think the really important thing that we need to do is to is to make sure there is additional funding going into these interfaith initiatives, community spaces and so on, that can start to bring these communities closer together rather than allow them to be divided by a conflict that is taking place overseas."

  • Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols spoke about the antisemitic abuse she has received

Labour recently suspended two candidates after they were recorded making anti-Israel comments at a party meeting in Lancashire.

It removed support from Rochdale by-election candidate Azhar Ali after he told the meeting Israel provoked the war in Gaza.

Mr Ali has since apologised for for his “deeply offensive” comments after he claimed Israel allowed Hamas to carry out its 7 October attack to provide grounds to invade Gaza.

The developments were then followed by the news another Labour candidate, Graham Jones, who was seeking re-election in Hyndburn, was also recorded allegedly making comments about Israel.

It has been described as one of the biggest crises of Sir Keir Starmer's Leadership, and has reignited a wider debate around whether antisemitism is still an issue within the Labour party.

But, Ms Nichols said she believed the party was "a million miles on from where we were just a few years ago".

"The EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) last year, gave us a clean bill of health but ultimately there will be issues that pop up from time to time unfortunately the key issue is how we deal with them," she said.

"Labour has been very decisive here in removing both of these candidates and I'm hopeful that in the future should an issue like this come out it will be dealt with in the same rough and robust way because there is no room for antisemitism in Britain.

"As someone, alongside being an MP, is Jewish I've seen the appalling rise in antisemitism that we have seen across the country since the 7 October and I'm clear that all of us in politics have a responsibility to make sure that isn't something that is part of the mainstream."

The Labour party has been dogged with antisemitism complaints. Credit: PA

Nichols was joined by Liberal Democrat candidate for Oldham and Saddleworth East, Sam Al-Hamdani.

He said he believed the problem reflected society as a whole.

"It is a problem of society, and politics reflects society," he said. "So, while there is a problem with antisemitism in the country as a whole, it is always going to come into politics.

"It's about how we deal with it and how we respond to it, and I appreciate what the Labour party is trying to do, it's unfortunate that once something has been established - and there has been a problem in the Labour party - then it's very easy for that to continue even if people are trying to do things about it.

"So it is going to be an ongoing problem in all parties, what we need to do is act decisively.

"I think there is a little bit of an issue for the Labour party in that Charlotte said it was decisive, but even if was - and I wasn't party to any of the discussions - it didn't come across as decisive, and if you don't put that across to people clearly and simply it gives people more of an opportunity to keep going with those wrong attitudes, so next time I think it would need to be done better."

Mr Al-Hamdani said the message needed to be constantly given to all that antisemitism was not acceptable.

He added: "Intervening at every step, reminding people again and again, stepping in every time there is an opportunity to make it clear that this is wrong, whether it is with an individual or with a group.

"We [Liberal Democrats] got a message from our party HQ this morning reminding people of the definitions, reminding people there is support out there and it is every party's responsibility to take those steps every single time they can."

Also on the programme was Conservative MP for Bolton West, Chris Green.

When asked whether he believed the government was doing enough to tackle antisemitism he said: "The government is doing a huge amount to work with the Jewish community and making sure they are protected to the best of our ability.

"But this is a societal problem, and one of the dangers with antisemitism there' a conflict in the middle east and that is then use to weaponise attacks against Jewish people right across the United Kingdom and right across the world.

"I think Sam was right, this is one of those things that needs to be challenged every step of the way."

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