Serious progress must be made to tackle anti-Semitism

Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Barry Rawlings' letter to the Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle after attending the 'Call to Action against anti-Semitism' in Parliament Square on Monday 26 March:

Dear Editor

Yesterday, to show our ongoing solidarity with the Jewish community, I led a delegation of Barnet Labour councillors, local election candidates and party members to the 'Call to Action against Anti-Semitism' in Parliament Square.

Barnet has the largest Jewish population of any local authority area in the U.K., and we know from our own experience the level of concern Jewish residents have about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

They feel these concerns are not being fully acknowledged and addressed by the Labour Party leadership, and that's why I am glad Jeremy Corbyn has said he wants to meet urgently with the Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Serious progress must be made to acknowledge and address these deep seated concerns, and that requires more than making statements, it requires action.

Labour in Barnet has consistently called on the Labour Party leadership to take effective disciplinary action against evidence of anti-Semitic conduct and statements within the Labour membership.

Our frustration at the failure to take action on complaints about anti-Semitic conduct led to two of our constituency parties, Hendon and Finchley and Golders Green, passing rule change motions in 2016 that explicitly banned hate speech within the party for the first time. 

These rule changes were passed at the 2017 Labour conference by a margin of 98 per cent, with the support of the Jewish Labour Movement, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour national executive. 

We now want to see the new rule being used to deal with evidence of anti-Semitic conduct within the Party - and to build confidence this must happen swiftly.

Barnet Labour stands alongside the Jewish community, as we always have, and we always will. 

We are a local Party and Labour Group that is drawn from our diverse communities in Barnet, including the Jewish community. Indeed, a quarter of our current Labour councillors are Jewish, and other Jewish Party members have put themselves forward as local election candidates this year and been selected.

We were the first Labour Group in the country to call for Ken Livingstone to be expelled from the Labour Party, and we want the Jewish community in Barnet to know that we are vigilant, we will take disciplinary action against any member where there is evidence of anti-Semitic conduct, and if the new Party rule is not shown to be effective we will lead the campaign to strengthen it. 

Barnet Council was the first local authority to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism following motions submitted to the Council, including one by Barnet Labour councillors.

We are committed to working with the Jewish community to ensure anti-Semitism has no refuge in our Party or anywhere.

Yours sincerely
Cllr Barry Rawlings
Leader of the Barnet Labour Group of Councillors

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