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April 24, 2023 2:17 pm

UK Labour Leader Condemns Suspended MP’s ‘Antisemitism’

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UK Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer. Photo: Reuters/Jane Barlow

The leader of the British Labour Party’s leader has denounced as “antisemitic” comments by a senior parliamentarian one day after she was suspended for her words.

In a statement on Monday, Sir Keir Starmer said that the comments made by the suspended MP, Diane Abbott, were to be “condemned, it was antisemitic.”

Abbott was suspended over a letter to the Observer newspaper in which she stated that Jewish, Irish and Traveller people “undoubtedly experience prejudice,” but added, “This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable. It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. But they are not all their lives subject to racism.”

On Sunday, the Labour Party removed its parliamentary whip from Abbott, meaning that she will not be allowed to represent Labour in the House of Commons, where she will now sit as an independent MP.

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Earlier Pat McFadden, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, told the BBC “it will be for the chief whip and the leader to decide what happens next.” Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire separately told the broadcaster that she found it “hard to see” Ms Abbott returning as a Labour MP.

Starmer asserted that the swiftness with which whip had been removed from Abbott demonstrated “how far the Labour party has changed” and that Labour now had “zero tolerance” of antisemitism. Under Starmer’s predecessor, the far left MP Jeremy Corbyn, Labour was plagued by a series of scandals involving antisemitism. Corbyn was himself banned from running for parliament again as a Labour candidate at the end of March.

Meanwhile, Abbott apologized for her remarks, claiming that “errors” arose in an initial draft that was sent.

She added: “But there is no excuse, and I wish to apologize for any anguish caused. Racism takes many forms, and it is completely undeniable that Jewish people have suffered its monstrous effects, as have Irish people, Travellers and many others.”

In the letter, she argued that in “pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus. In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships.”

She had been responding to a comment piece in the Guardian newspaper questioning the view that racism “only affects people of color.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews strongly condemned Abbott, describing her letter as “disgraceful” and her apology as “entirely unconvincing”.

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