Labour MPs hit out at new colleague over anti-Semitism row

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The victory of Labour’s Lisa Forbes in the Peterborough by-election shows “anti-Semitism is becoming normal in the party”, one of her new Commons colleagues said.

The new Peterborough MP faced controversy in the week before the poll, over a Facebook post she “liked” which said Theresa May has a “Zionist slave masters agenda”.

She subsequently apologised for “not calling out these posts” and promised to challenge anti-Semitism in future.

But Labour MP Jess Phillips said that while she was glad the Brexit Party had been defeated in Peterborough “I cannot be (as) gleeful or proud as I’d want to be because of how it shows that anti-Semitism is becoming normal in the party”.

The Birmingham Yardley MP said: “Lisa ignored and endorsed anti-Semitic things, I’ll take her explanation and apology at face value and look forward to her proving, as others have, that actions not excuses alone can heal.

“But with every case the parties values chip away and our ability to stand up against hate erodes.”

Ilford North MP Wes Streeting said he had not campaigned in Peterborough since Ms Forbes’ social media activity came to light as he wanted to demonstrate a “zero tolerance” approach.

He said her behaviour was “serious enough to warrant disciplinary action” adding: “She has apologised, but it is not my place to accept it.

“She will need to work hard to persuade the Jewish Labour Movement and wider community that her apology was meaningful and that she is genuinely committed to tackling anti-Semitism.”

He added: “I didn’t want to see the Brexit Party win, but it is no good to see Labour people demanding loyalty on the basis of being the lesser of two evils.”

Both Ms Phillips and Mr Streeting are prominent critics of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership.

Mr Streeting said: “I’ve given up hope that this Labour leadership can prove me wrong, but I have not given up hope that the new MP for Peterborough can be true to her apology and show genuine contrition.”

Labour former minister Dame Margaret Hodge, who has clashed with Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism, wrote on Twitter: “Seriously mixed feelings about the Peterborough result. I never want to see Nigel Farage’s party in Parliament. But Lisa Forbes & the Labour Party have a lot to answer for. We must learn lessons & never have a repeat of this. Have formally raised concerns with party leadership.”

Ms Forbes’ online activities were highlighted by the Sunday Times, which reported she also commented under a post whose author claimed that Islamic extremists were the creation of the CIA and Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service.

She wrote underneath: “I have enjoyed reading this thread so much. So much that trys (sic) to divide us, but there is far much more that unites us.”

Ms Forbes told the newspaper she apologised  “wholeheartedly for not calling out these posts” and said that she had liked the video attached to the post, “not the views expressed in the accompanying text”.

She added: “Regardless of whether I am elected, I will deepen my understanding of anti-Semitism so I can act as an ally, challenging it wherever it occurs.”

Labour Against Antisemitism spokesman Euan Philipps said his group would be submitting a complaint about the new MP.

He said: “The narrow victory by Lisa Forbes in the Peterborough by-election is a dark day for the Labour Party.”

He claimed Ms Forbes should have been forced to stand down as Labour’s candidate and criticised MPs who campaigned for her.

“It appears that tribalism has trumped principle, and that the policy of zero tolerance for anti-Semitism has once again been abandoned by the Labour Party,” he said.

“We call for Ms Forbes to be suspended, and will be submitting a complaint to the party in the next few days.”

Shadow cabinet minister Andy McDonald told BBC Radio 4’s Today he was “discomfited” by the row but “she did apologise”.

“She was careless, she made a mistake and she has apologised unreservedly and I think she should be given credit for that,” he said.

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