Ronald Campbell, the Labour Party MP for Blyth Valley in Northumberland, has told the BBC that charges of antisemitism in the Labour Party are politically motivated and that “the Jewish issue” is being used “as a big stick to beat Corbyn and get rid of him.”
In an interview commencing at 05:25 minutes on The World This Weekend program on BBC Radio 4, Mr Campbell told presenter Mark Mardell that it was “deplorable” and “just unacceptable” that Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge secretly recorded her meeting with Jeremy Corbyn to discuss the Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis. The recording revealed that Mr Corbyn has been making assurances of firm action against antisemitism whilst in reality he believed that evidence of antisemitism was being “ignored”.
Mr Campbell said that: “The people in the Parliamentary Labour Party are using the Jewish issue, the antisemitic issue, as a big stick to beat Corbyn and get rid of him. It’s as simple as that as far as I can see. I’ve been in the Labour Party nearly — more than 50 years and I’ve never heard anything like this before. Now I understand there’s a lot of people have come in to the Party from the far-left and have these views. I would say to them, please leave, you’re not welcome in this Party.”
Mr Campbell, who has represented the constituency of Blyth Valley since 1987, appeared to downplay the antisemitism faced by Dame Margaret and others, declaring: “I know they’ve had some stick on their Facebook and whatnot and it shouldn’t be tolerated. But to use the Leader and get at the Leader because you want rid of the Leader — nobody wanted him in the first place, remember. The Parliamentary Labour Party put a no confidence vote in. When they didn’t get that, they started to say what issue can we get them on? Ah the Jewish issue. This is a good one. I feel sorry for the Jewish people…You’re being used by these people. Just to get rid of Corbyn that is.”
Mr Campbell reportedly made similar comments in April last year. According to ChronicleLive, which covers his constituency, he said that: “The latest row over the bizarre allegation that Jeremy is in any way anti-Jewish has been got up by the right-wing media. It is getting so bad that you cannot criticise Israel in its dealings with Palestine without being accused of racism or fascism. They are using it as a big stick to hit Jeremy with.” He added that the attacks were coming from inside Labour: “For once, it is not the Tories that are doing this; it is people on our side. Those career politicians in the Labour Party need to wind their necks in and fight the Tories. We have to remember who the enemy is – the Tories!”
To claim that allegations of antisemitism are being invented or exaggerated for political gain is to accuse Jews of complicity in a political conspiracy. Additionally, Mr Campbell’s clumsy use of the term “Jewish issue” will evoke historic language about the “Jewish problem” or the “Jewish question” which was central to European antisemitism in the 19th and 20th centuries, including that of the Nazis.
Campaign Against Antisemitism condemns Mr Campbell for his repulsive attempt to characterise Jews’ complaints about antisemitism in the Labour Party as some kind of political and media plot. Such claims against any other minority or in any other political party could be expected to end his career, but in the institutionally antisemitic Labour Party, we have come to expect that there will be no justice.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has begun pre-enforcement proceedings against the Labour Party following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant. The pre-enforcement proceedings are a precursor to opening a full statutory investigation.
In the BBC interview, Mr Campbell seemed to support the Equality and Human Rights Commission investigating Labour, saying: “[It] might be a good idea for an independent body to look at these things. I’m not arguing that argument. I’m arguing that these people have come in to the Labour Party from the far-left and got these views, should leave. You’re in the wrong party.”
In recent months, eleven MPs have resigned from the Labour Party over antisemitism, along with numerous councillors and members.
Almost 50,000 people have now signed our petition denouncing Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemite and declaring him “unfit to hold any public office.”