Norwich South MP Clive Lewis has addressed criticism over his support for accused anti-Semitic Marc Wadsworth, in what he has called ‘a point of principle’.
Mr. Wadsworth was expelled from the Labour party last month over heckling Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth at an anti-Semitism conference. Mr Lewis believed it important to state that the party’s National Constitution Committee (NCC), who deal with disciplinary issues did not deem his comments to be anti-Semitic.
Telling Concrete that he watched the footage ‘over and over and over’, Mr Lewis thought that the heckling from Mr Wadsworth could be called ‘abusive, rude and critical, but not anti-Semitic’. He added that while he never ‘had an inkling’ that Mr Wadsworth was an anti-Semite in 20 years of knowing him, it doesn’t mean that he isn’t and that it’s important that the accusation was taken seriously. This is something which he felt the Labour party did over the course of the 2-year investigation:
“I’m proud that people get angry about anti-Semitism, I’m proud that people get angry about racism, about sexism, about homophobia, but you also have to have a line […] where the pen’s swinging too far the other way”
For Lewis, that line is when the ‘accusation becomes the evidence’, which he believes was the case in the criticism of Marc Wadsworth. The MP gave an analogy that, while as a black man, he is able to make an accusation of racism and that it ought to be taken seriously, it doesn’t mean that the person in question or the remark is necessarily racist.
While Mr Lewis was aware that he would receive criticism for showing support for Mr Wadsworth, he was unwilling to remain silent while someone who he believes is innocent of anti-Semitism was accused of something he ‘could clearly see they weren’t doing’.
At the beginning of May, Jewish students at UEA expressed disappointment with the MP for his comments. Speaking then, Jess Shindler-Glass said: “I feel his recent remarks defending Marc Wadsworth have been concerning.
“The current climate of the Labour Party is worrying for many in the UK Jewish community, and living in a constituency where its MP defends his colleague for making hateful comments towards other colleagues cannot be forgiven.”
Eda Cazimoğlu, a UEA student running to be on Labour’s national executive committee, also tweeted at Clive Lewis saying: “If you’re not Jewish you don’t get to decide what is and what isn’t antisemitism.”
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) have also issued an open letter to Mr Lewis, who they believe has “categorically failed” his Jewish constituents.