Supporter of UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn Slams Antisemitism Whistleblowers as ‘Bunch of Wimps’ During BBC Interview
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn outside his home in north London. Photo: Reuters/Peter Nicholls.
The schism within the British Labour Party over antisemitism deepened on Thursday, as supporters and detractors of the party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn furiously debated the previous night’s BBC Panorama program on the continuing crisis of Jew-hatred in Labour’s ranks.
One Corbyn supporter dismissed the former Labour staffers who appeared in the program as “wimps” during a live interview with the BBC
Wednesday night’s program included the testimony of many Labour members, Jewish and non-Jewish, some of them near tears, describing an atmosphere of intense antisemitism in the party.
One member said, “I joined the Labour Party because of my Jewish values” but had “been the unfortunate victim of a lot of antisemitism within the Labour party, and stuff I never thought I’d receive in 2019, let alone in the party I thought was anti-racist.”
“I wouldn’t say to a friend, ‘Go to a Labour party meeting if you’re Jewish.’ I couldn’t do that to someone I cared about,” she added.
Another member said simply, “It’s been soul-destroying to be a member of the Labour Party and Jewish.”
A third said, “The antisemitic abuse I received was what I was subjected to every single day. Telling me Hitler was right. Telling me Hitler did not go far enough. In Labour party meetings, we’ve seen people engage in Holocaust denial, and that’s terrifying for Jewish members.”
“I do not think the Labour party is a safe space for Jewish people anymore,” she asserted.
But according to one Corbyn supporter speaking to the BBC on Thursday, the former Labour Party staffers who risked legal action by speaking about the mental health issues they suffered because of party’s contemptuous treatment of antisemitism complaints were just “a bunch of wimps.”
Sian Rider, who described herself as a Jeremy Corbyn supporter, told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire program on Thursday morning that “last night’s [Panorama] program was a bunch of wimps, quite honestly.”
Rider continued: “I have been attacked in the street for carrying a Palestinian bag and I didn’t have a nervous breakdown, why did they?”
Rider’s comments were among the more inflammatory responses on a day that saw Corbyn’s allies continue to deny that Labour has a problem with antisemitism. Rider was strongly criticized by Labour MP Stephen Doughty, who pointed out that in the BBC program, Sam Matthews, the party’s former head of disputes, admitted that he had contemplated suicide, such was his despair over the antisemitism scandals that have enveloped Labour since Corbyn became leader in 2015.
“Quite frankly, when somebody spoke out and said that they want to take their own life by throwing themselves off the balcony of the general secretary’s office, to have that lady there call that person a wimp, I think is deeply offensive,” Doughty said.
As for the official Labour publicity machine, a party spokesperson told Sky Newsthat the BBC program had “engaged in deliberate and malicious representations designed to mislead the public.”
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson — who has repeatedly clashed with Corbyn and the party hierarchy over antisemitism — called on Thursday for a “completely independent process” to investigate complaints of antisemitism, “made up of people of standing from the Jewish community so that we can start to rebuild trust.”
That brought a furious response from Jennie Formby, the party’s secretary-general — and one of the Labour officials identified by the BBC as compromising the antisemitism complaints process — who insisted in a letter to Watson that the extent of Labour antisemitism had been exaggerated.
“The party has at all levels consistently shown that it recognizes the vital importance of combating antisemitism, yet you consistently use your considerable platform to denigrate any progress that has been made, and any individual involved in that,” Formby told Watson.
Watson also urged that Labour members should be automatically expelled if there is a “prima facie” case of antisemitism to answer — a position also adopted by Sir Keir Starmer, who is leading the party’s efforts over “Brexit,” the UK’s impending departure from the European Union.