Controversial pro-Corbyn group Jewish Voice for Labour to speak in city

A controversial pro-Corbyn Labour fringe group which denies the Labour Party has significant issues with anti-Semitism will give a talk in the Black Country tomorrow.

Mike Cushman is due to speak in Wolverhampton this week
Mike Cushman is due to speak in Wolverhampton this week

Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) representative Mike Cushman has accepted an invitation to address a Wolverhampton South West constituency Labour Party (CLP) meeting.

He will deliver a speech entitled "Combatting the Rise of Racism and the Far Right". It follows the CLP's decision to invite JVL at a meeting last year.

JVL has sparked controversy since it was founded in July 2017, with critics claiming it does not represent the views of the Jewish community.

It has no official party affiliation and was formed as an alternative to the party-backed Jewish Labour Movement. Its stated aims include upholding "the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities" and free speech on Israel and Zionism.

The group's co-chair, Jenny Manson, was given a written warning by party bosses in October after she appeared to compare the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism with Section 28 legislation, which prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Minutes from the CLP's October 11 meeting stated: "It was proposed that JVL be invited to speak at a future meeting. It was separately suggested that if JVL was invited there should be a speaker from the Jewish Labour Movement, the only Jewish group formally affiliated to the Labour Party.

"It was agreed that JVL be invited to the January meeting."

The event was confirmed in an email to members.

Mr Cushman is a member of the campaign group Free Speech on Israel, which is against the Labour Party's decision to adopt the adopt the IHRA definition. He has called for a boycott of Israeli goods.

In a blog post in January 2017, he wrote that Labour had become "a pawn of Zionist organisations that place loyalty to Israel’s interests above advancing the Labour Party.”

It comes as Labour continues to find itself immersed in a row over anti-Semitism, with the Met Police currently investigating a dossier of hate crime claims against party members.

In recent weeks West Midlands organiser Mohammed Yasin was suspended by the regional party for posting anti-Semitic material on Facebook, while Dudley Council suspended officer Paul Jonson after he called Israel a "racist endeavour" in an online message promoting a protest against Dudley North MP Ian Austin.

Mr Jonson has since been cleared by the Labour-run council.

Wolverhampton South West was retained by Labour at the 2017 snap General Election, with first-time MP and Jeremy Corbyn supporter Eleanor Smith winning with a majority of 2,185.

Ms Smith credited the support of Momentum campaigners and trade unionists for her victory, claiming that members of the CLP at the time had failed to back her.

Since then party sources say the CLP has become "over-run" with hard-left activists. At last year's party conference it backed a motion condemning the "injustice of Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights".

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