LONDON (Reuters) - More than 60 opposition Labour members of Britain’s upper house of parliament signed a statement in a newspaper on Wednesday accusing leader Jeremy Corbyn of failing “the test of leadership” over anti-Semitism in the party.
Corbyn, a veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights and critic of the Israeli government, has long been dogged by charges he has allowed a culture of anti-Semitism to thrive in Britain’s main opposition party - something he denies.
Eight lawmakers left the party earlier this year over anti-Semitism and Corbyn’s position on Brexit, which has also angered many members who want Labour to adopt an unequivocal pro-European Union position.
The statement in the Guardian newspaper, signed by several former ministers when Labour was in power from 1997 to 2010, has a stark message: “The Labour Party welcomes everyone* irrespective of race, creed, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation. (*except, it seems, Jews).”
“You have failed to defend our party’s anti-racist values. You have therefore failed the test of leadership.”
The statement, signed by about a third of Labour members in the House of Lords including former ministers such as Peter Mandelson, challenged whether the party could ever win a national election “if we can’t get our own house in order”.
Last week, a BBC program reported that Corbyn’s office had interfered in the independent party discipline processes aimed at rooting out anti-Semitism, a charge rejected by the party.
A Labour spokesman said the party stood “in solidarity with Jewish people and are fully committed to the support, defense and celebration of the Jewish community” and speeding up its procedures to deal with anti-Semitism cases.
“Regardless of false and misleading claims about the party by those hostile to Jeremy Corbyn’s politics, Labour is taking decisive action against anti-Semitism,” he said.
Corbyn has made clear through the media that anti-Semitism had no place in the party, it said.
Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Angus MacSwan