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Momentum vice-chair 'suspended by Labour' amid anti-Semitism row

September 30, 2016 9:01 PM
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Momentum vice-chair 'suspended by Labour' amid anti-Semitism row

The vice-chairwoman of pro-Corbyn group Momentum has been suspended by the Labour Party over controversial comments she made at a party training event, it has been reported.

Jackie Walker has faced criticism over comments made at the anti-Semitism event and on social media, and had been under pressure to quit.

Ms Walker told Channel 4: "I certainly wouldn't call myself an anti-Semite."

Earlier, the TSSA union said it would "seriously reconsider" its support for Momentum if Ms Walker remained in place and the group said its steering committee would meet on Monday to seek her removal.

But a spokesman for Momentum, the left-wing grassroots organisation set up in wake of Jeremy Corbyn's 2015 election as Labour leader, said: "Members of Momentum's steering committee are seeking to remove Jackie Walker as vice-chair of the committee."

Ms Walker was previously suspended by the Labour Party over comments made on social media in which she claimed that "many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade" but was re-admitted following an investigation.

But a leaked video emerged on Wednesday of her saying at an anti-Semitism training event: "I came here... with an open mind and I was seeking information and I still haven't heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with". She also questioned why Holocaust Memorial Day was not more wide ranging.

Ms Walker later told Channel 4 News she was not challenging the definition of anti-Semitism but rather "wanted to be clear what we were talking about" at the training event.

Asked if she would describe herself as an anti-Zionist and not an anti-Semite, she said: "Yes. I certainly wouldn't call myself an anti-Semite as I am Jewish and my partner is Jewish."

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA union, which backed Momentum and Mr Corbyn's leadership, said on Thursday he was "deeply saddened that a fellow member of our Labour and trade union family holds such anti-Semitic views" and said she should not be allowed to "remain active within our party".

"I am asking Jackie that in the interests of unity she resigns at once from our party and also as vice-chair of Momentum.

"If she doesn't, both the Labour Party and Momentum need to act to get rid of her at once.

"We would seriously need to consider our union's support for Momentum if she is still in post by this time next week."

In an interview with Channel 4 News, Ms Walker said she had not intended to offend anyone.

Asked whether she had thought about resigning, given criticism from some Jewish groups, she said: "Some other prominent Jewish groups, of which I'm a member, think a very different thing.

"What we have to look at when we're talking about this subject, particularly at the moment, is the political differences that are underlying this as well."

Whoever leaked the video "had malicious intent in their mind", she said.

Ms Walker said she was anti-Zionist, rather than anti-Semitic: "Zionism is a political ideology and, like any political ideology, some people will be supportive and some people won't be supportive of it."

Ms Walker previously had support from six Jewish Labour activists who issued a statement saying she had been subject to a witch-hunt.

Mr Corbyn has denied there is a "crisis" in the party amid accusations of anti-Semitism in its ranks.

Labour MP Naz Shah and former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone were among those to be suspended over allegations of anti-Semitism.

A review of the issue of racism in Labour, led by former Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, found the party was "not overrun by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism".

But the report was criticised by Jewish leaders and MPs, who said its credibility was undermined because Ms Chakrabarti was nominated for a peerage by Labour just weeks after its release.


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