UK Politics

Calls for Momentum vice-chair to quit in anti-Semitism row

Jackie Walker
Image caption Jackie Walker has been urged to resign by the TSSA union

The vice-chairwoman of pro-Corbyn group Momentum is under pressure to quit over allegations of anti-Semitism.

Jackie Walker has faced criticism over comments made on social media and at an anti-Semitism training event.

The TSSA union says it will "seriously reconsider" its support for Momentum if Ms Walker remains in place and the group says its steering committee will meet on Monday to seek her removal.

She told Channel 4: "I certainly wouldn't call myself an anti-Semite."

She added: "I'm Jewish and my partner is Jewish."

But a spokesman for Momentum, the left-wing grassroots organisation set up in wake of Jeremy Corbyn's 2015 election as Labour leader, said: "Members of Momentum's steering committee are seeking to remove Jackie Walker as vice-chair of the committee."

Ms Walker was suspended by the Labour over comments made on social media in which she claimed that "many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade" but was re-admitted following an investigation.

But a leaked video emerged on Wednesday of her saying at an anti-Semitism training event: "I came here... with an open mind and I was seeking information and I still haven't heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with". She also questioned why Holocaust Memorial Day was not more wide ranging.

Ms Walker later told Channel 4 News she was not challenging the definition of anti-Semitism but rather "wanted to be clear what we were talking about" at the training event.

Asked if she would describe herself as an anti-Zionist and not an anti-Semite, she said: "Yes. I certainly wouldn't call myself an anti-Semite as I am Jewish and my partner is Jewish."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Shami Chakrabarti's report on racism within the Labour Party was criticised after she was nominated for a Labour peerage.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA union, which backed Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, said on Thursday he was "deeply saddened that a fellow member of our Labour and trade union family holds such anti-Semitic views" and said she should not be allowed to "remain active within our party".

"I am asking Jackie that in the interests of unity she resigns at once from our party and also as vice-chair of Momentum.

"If she doesn't, both the Labour Party and Momentum need to act to get rid of her at once.

"We would seriously need to consider our union's support for Momentum if she is still in post by this time next week."

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Media captionMomentum's Barbara Ntumy says the comments of Jackie Walker are "completely inappropriate"

In an interview with Channel 4 News, Ms Walker said she had not intended to offend anyone.

Asked whether she had thought about resigning, given criticism from some Jewish groups, she said: "Some other prominent Jewish groups, of which I'm a member, think a very different thing.

"What we have to look at when we're talking about this subject, particularly at the moment, is the political differences that are underlying this as well."

Whoever leaked the video "had malicious intent in their mind", she said.

Ms Walker said she was anti-Zionist, rather than anti-Semitic: "Zionism is a political ideology and, like any political ideology, some people will be supportive and some people won't be supportive of it."

What's the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?

Ms Walker previously had support from six Jewish Labour activists who issued a statement saying she had been subject to a witch-hunt.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has denied there is a "crisis" in the party amid accusations of anti-Semitism in its ranks.

Labour MP Naz Shah and former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone were among those to be suspended over allegations of anti-Semitism.

A review of the issue of racism in Labour, led by former Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, found the party was "not overrun by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism".

But the report was criticised by Jewish leaders and MPs, who said its credibility was undermined because Ms Chakrabarti was nominated for a peerage by Labour just weeks after its release.

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