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March 12, 2019 3:06 pm

Amid Antisemitism Crisis in Party, Moderate UK Labour Figures Form Dissident Group

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Britain’s opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his house in London, Aug. 6, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville.

Amid the UK Labour party’s ongoing antisemitism crisis, a group of 160 moderate Labour figures have formed an independent faction that dissents from the party’s direction under its far-left leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Since Corbyn, a vehement critic of Israel, became Labour leader in 2015, the party has been wracked by antisemitism scandals, several touching Corbyn himself. Last month, nine MPs formally left the party to form an independent group, citing antisemitism and the lack of an adequate response to it as one of the reasons.

In an indication of the extent of the problem, the Jewish Labour Movement declared on Monday, “The Party leadership have a choice. They can either address the concerns of its Jewish affiliate and those of the Jewish community. Alternatively, they can continue to act in a reckless and damaging way.”

The new Labour faction is headed by deputy party leader Tom Watson, who has been outspoken against antisemitism. In February, Watson announced that he was personally taking control of the party complaints process in order to deal with the issue.

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Watson called the problem “a crisis for the soul of the Labour party,” and said, “Over recent weeks a number of colleagues have shared their frustration that incidents of antisemitic, racist abuse and bullying have not been dealt with in an adequate and timely manner or that colleagues have not been informed of the outcome of party investigations.”

He also expressed alarm “at the amount of abuse that colleagues are receiving from within the party.”

According to The Telegraph, Watson’s new faction is composed of followers of the legacy of former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who adhered to a moderate “third way” ideology, as opposed to Corbyn’s more extreme beliefs.

Lord Mandelson, one of the members, said it was necessary for “Blairites and Brownites to work together to save the party.”

Members include a dozen shadow ministers and ex-Labour chief Lord Kinnock. A former cabinet minister who also joined was quoted as saying, “This is the only chance left for the party, it has been seized and asset stripped by the left.”

Watson said of the emergence of the new faction, “The last few weeks have been very difficult and upsetting. I really fear that unless we restore pluralism and tolerance to this party it will be irreparably damaged and we will see a schism bigger than any we have experienced in our long history.”

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