Labour NEC member Peter Willsman’s rant about Jewish ‘Trump fanatics’
A recording has emerged of a Jeremy Corbyn ally claiming Jewish “Trump fanatics” are behind recent claims of antisemitism that have dogged the party.
In the audio, obtained by the Jewish Chronicle, National Executive Committee member Peter Willsman is heard telling a meeting that he would be “amazed” if anyone there had seen examples of antisemitism within the party.
“They can falsify social media very easily,” Mr Willsman says.
“And some of these people in the Jewish community support Trump. They’re Trump fanatics and all the rest of it.”
Mr Willsman went on to say he would not be “lectured by Trump fanatics” who he claimed were making up claims “without any evidence at all”.
He added: “So I think we should ask the 70 rabbis ‘where is your evidence of severe and widespread antisemitism in this party?'”
Mr Willsman’s comments at the meeting earlier this month were investigated by the party and he escaped further action after making an apology.
According to the Jewish Chronicle, he said in his apology: “At the NEC…I spoke in support of the decision to confirm the adoption of the code of conduct on antisemitism and to reopen development of the code in consultation with Jewish community organisations.
“But I accept that what I did say, and the way I said it, fell short of the requirement, which I accept, for discussions of contentious issues to be conducted in a fully civil and respectful way.
“I deeply apologise for any offence caused to those present and those to whom my remarks were reported.”
Reacting to the recording, Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson hit out at Mr Willsman, labelling him a “loud-mouthed bully”.
Labour MP Luciana Berger said on Twitter that the clip was “sickening” to listen to, adding: “The fact that it took place in a meeting of @UKLabour’s sovereign body the other week after all that’s happened is a disgrace.
“Blaming any other minority group wldn’t be tolerated – why is the Jewish community treated this way?”
A Labour spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on individual cases.”
The disclosure of the audio recording is likely to deepen the antisemitism row engulfing Labour.
The furore has seen Jewish groups and MPs protest outside parliament and, more recently, fresh anger over the party’s controversial code of conduct on antisemitism.
A Labour spokesperson said at the weekend that Mr Corbyn was a “militant opponent” of antisemitism and remained “absolutely committed” to tackling it.
The comments came after Labour MP Ian Austin accused him of “supporting and defending” extremists and antisemites.
As the row rumbles on, The Times reports that shadow chancellor John McDonnell met with Mr Corbyn and criticised his handling of the issue.