Tom Watson: Labour must deal with anti-Semitism issue by the end of the year
Tom Watson says Labour’s general secretary should consider her position if faith in the party’s ability to deal with anti-Semitism has not been restored by the end of the year.
The West Bromwich East MP said former union official Jennie Formby, who joined in April, had 'staked her career' on dealing with anti-Semitism, an issue which has plunged Labour into crisis over the summer.
“We should have dealt with it earlier. We have hired a new general secretary who has staked her career on dealing with anti-Semitism in our party," the deputy Labour leader said.
“She has been in post for three or four months. If I come here again at Christmas and she has not dealt with it then you may be asking me why she is still in post.”
Ms Formby, who took over from Iain McNichol, has vowed to introduce a faster system to deal with complaints and disciplinary procedures against members accused of anti-Semitism, after a number of high-profile cases that have taken years to resolve.
Mr Watson was a key figure in pushing for Labour to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which the party's ruling NEC finally accepted last week.
However the row has been prologued – which Mr Watson says he regrets – by the party's insertion of a controversial 'free speech' clause that critics say allows open criticism of Israel.
Mr Watson said it had been 'a very difficult summer' dominated by disputes over the party’s code of conduct. He added: “We’re not going to rebuild trust with the Jewish community in Britain very easily.
“Not for the first time, I will say I wish we had dealt with it sooner rather than later.
“Because we didn’t deal it with it early, it’s going to be harder for us to rebuild trust.”
Mr Watson said the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, understood that anti-Semitism among some party members was an issue.
“I think he does care about this and he understands it’s a big political problem for us, not least because it’s a distraction from dealing with these key issues like Brexit and the crisis in the NHS,” he said.