Two Labour peers resign whip over ‘anti-Semitism’

Lord Triesman Image copyright UK Parliament
Image caption Lord Triesman said his decision to resign the whip had “become inevitable”

Two peers have left the Labour group in the Lords, accusing the party of anti-Semitism, BBC Newsnight has learned.

Lord Triesman, general secretary between 2001 and 2003, accused Jeremy Corbyn of anti-Semitism and said the party was no longer “a safe environment” for Jewish people.

Lord Darzi, meanwhile, said he would sit as an independent, adding that he had “zero tolerance to anti-Semitism”.

Labour has said it has strengthened the party’s disciplinary procedures.

Newsnight has asked the party to comment directly on the resignations.

Former Health Minister Lord Darzi said that “as an Armenian survivor of the Armenian genocide”, he had no tolerance to any “discrimination against religion or race,” adding that his decision to resign the whip “has not been lightly taken”.

Meanwhile, Lord Triesman wrote: “My sad conclusion is that the Labour party is very plainly institutionally anti-Semitic.”

‘Deep prejudice’

Speaking in February, Labour’s current general secretary, Jennie Formby, said it was her mission “to eliminate the evil of anti-Semitism from our movement once and for all”.

But, in his resignation letter to Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, Baroness Smith, Lord Triesman said Mr Corbyn “and his circle are anti-Semitic, having never once made the right judgement call about an issue reflecting deep prejudice”.

Anti-Semites were “shielded”, while “serious party members are thrown out unceremoniously”, he said.

“The experience of life in the party has become sickening.”

The remarks represent the strongest personal attack on the Labour leader from within the party since Margaret Hodge reportedly called Mr Corbyn an anti-Semitic racist last year.

Lord Triesman told Newsnight the party had been “a central plank of my political life for over 50 years”.

But it had now “slipped into the familiar gutter of so many of the hard left”.

“It is a painful decision,” the former trade union leader told Newsnight.

“I remain completely aligned to the values I’ve had over all these years but I can no longer take direction from a leadership that is institutionally anti-Semitic.”

‘Unicorn delusion’

Lord Triesman wrote: “I always said it was worth hanging on to fight so long as there was a prospect of winning.

“I now don’t believe with this leadership there is.”

He said hoping “something will turn up to change it all” was a “unicorn delusion”.

The resignations came as Labour’s disputes panel met to discuss the suspension of MP Chris Williamson.

Mr Williamson was suspended earlier this year after saying Labour had “given too much ground” over anti-Semitism.

In February, nine MPs quit Labour, some citing the leadership’s handling of anti-Semitism as their reason for leaving.

Luciana Berger said she had come to the “sickening conclusion” the party had become institutionally anti-Semitic and she was “embarrassed and ashamed” to stay.

Joan Ryan claimed Labour’s leadership had allowed “Jews to be abused with impunity”.

And Ian Austin said Jeremy Corbyn was “incapable” of dealing with anti-Semitism.

In his letter, Lord Triesman also cited Labour’s policy position on Brexit, which he said had “encouraged xenophobia”, and on defence and Nato, which he called “worse than ambiguous”.

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