Labour is launching an inquiry into alleged anti-Semitism within the party, party leader Jeremy Corbyn told The Guardian.
The move comes after a nightmare week for Labour, which saw MP Naz Shah and former London mayor Ken Livingstone suspended from the party amid an increasingly surreal row about anti-Semitism, Zionism, and the policies of Adolf Hitler.
It began when old social media posts of Shah’s surfaced suggesting that Israel be relocated to the US and referring to “the Jews”; the Bradford MP apologised, which Jeremy Corbyn accepted, before suspending her anyway. Livingstone then came to her defence — and became the focal point of blistering criticism after claiming Hitler supported Zionist policies “before he went mad.”
Dozens of Labour MPs called for his suspension on Thursday as he made multiple media appearances to defend and double down on his comments. The extraordinary events culminated in Livingstone sheltering in a disabled toilet as journalists shouted questions about Hitler at him through the door; he was suspended shortly afterwards.
The debacle has the potential to be particularly damaging for Labour because of its timing: Next Thursday, Britain goes to the polls for local, London mayoral, and a number of other elections.
Political opponents are already attempting to capitalise on the week’s events, with Conservative candidate for London mayor Zac Goldsmith claiming to Business Insider that “there is anti-Semitism running right the way through the Labour party.”
Jeremy Corbyn denies this — but there has been intense pressure to take action. “Labour is an anti-racist party to its core and has a long and proud history of standing against racism, including antisemitism,” he told The Guardian. “I have campaigned against racism all my life and the Jewish community has been at the heart of the Labour party and progressive politics in Britain for more than 100 years.”
The inquiry will be independent, and headed up Shami Chakrabarti, the former director of advocacy group Liberty.
In a tweet linking to the news of the inquiry, Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “My aim is that something good comes from this dreadful week. We’ll restore Labour as leading anti racist force in UK.”