Jewish students have described feeling upset after MP Clive Lewis came out in support of a Labour party activist investigated for anti-Semitic remarks.
Mr Lewis, who represents the Norwich South constituency, submitted character statements in support of Marc Wadsworth, who has since been expelled from the party. The Labour activist was suspended in 2016 after challenging the Labour MP Ruth Smeeth at a press conference launching the Chakrabarti report on antiSemitism. In defending Wadsworth, students said Lewis joined in with the politicisation and minimisation of anti-Semitism.
Jess Shindler-Glass, a Jewish student at UEA 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.”
She further added: “On campus, the Jewish society is growing year by year, and having that support is always comforting, however it is important that support comes from non-Jews as well, who can understand that there is an inherent anti-Semitism problem under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. There should be no tolerance for people inciting these racist comments, so it is disappointing to see Clive Lewis standing up for Wadsworth.”
Mr Wadsworth was deemed to act in a way “prejudicial … or in any way grossly detrimental to the party,” specifically regarding antisemitic behaviour.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) issued an open letter to Mr Lewis, who they said “categorically failed” Jewish constituents.
UJS President, Josh Holt, said: “Is it really too much to ask that you distance yourself from a colleague that has been caught on video espousing anti-Semitic tropes when you yourself outlined the anti-Semitic nature of such allusions back in 2016?”
Mr Wadsworth will challenge the expulsion decision in court.
UEA’s Labour Students’ Chair Tiffany Evripidou called the issue of anti-Semitism in the party “deeply concerning”.
“As Labour students, we work tirelessly to promote equality and value diversity and want racism and discrimination to be stamped out altogether. It has no place in Labour, or politics, ever,” she said.
“Regardless of Clive’s activities, these principles stand and we defend them as Labour Party members.”
Student Eda Cazimoglu tweeted she was “heartbroken and disappointed” in the MP.
Heartbroken and disappointed in my MP today
A few tips for you @labourlewis
A. If you’re an antisemite you’re not an anti racist. You must oppose all forms of racism to be an antiracist
B. If you’re not jewish you do not get to decide what is and isn’t antisemitism.
End of. https://t.co/o0HBUAqF1Y
— Eda Cazimoğlu (@EdaCaz) April 25, 2018
Eda, who is running to be on Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), said: “If you’re not Jewish you do not get to decide what is and isn’t anti-Semitism.”
In response, Mr Lewis tweeted: “Well here’s a wee tip for you. You or any other individual in @UKLabour doesn’t get to be judge, jury and executioner when it comes to who’s expelled or not. Go read a history book about what happens when an accusation equals evidence. It’s not pleasant.”
Well here’s a wee tip for you. You or any other individual in @UKLabour doesn’t get to be judge, jury and executioner when it comes to who’s expelled or not. Go read a history book about what happens when an accusation equals evidence. It’s not pleasant. https://t.co/ay6WLl0JFY
— Clive Lewis MP (@labourlewis) April 26, 2018
SU Welfare Community and Diversity Officer India Edwards said: “It’s bad enough that our own local MP- who benefitted hugely from students and young people to get elected last year, feels it’s OK to get onto social media and patronise us like this.
“It’s worse that on the face of it Clive looks like he’s looking the other way on a serious case of anti-Semitism.”
“The Labour Party really needs to get its house in order on these cases if we are to have trust that it stands against all forms of discrimination,” she said.
Clive Lewis was contacted for comment but did not respond.