The new co-chair of the Corbyn-supporting campaign group Momentum has accused Labour of trying to “destroy” left-wing elements of the party.
The comments by Gaya Sriskanthan are in response to an email from Labour‘s general secretary, in which he said debates aimed at rejecting an internationally agreed definition of antisemitism should not take place within local party meetings.
In Facebook posts leaked to Sky News, Ms Sriskanthan warns activists not to “fall for the bait or they’ll use it to suspend everyone”.
“This is clearly an issue of shutting down democratic debate and we have to focus our arguments on the principle rather than the details of what we want to talk about, or they will use any excuse to destroy left [Constituency Labour Parties]”, she wrote.
Earlier this week, Labour’s general secretary David Evans emailed local parties warning that discussions that repudiate the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of antisemitism risk undermining Labour’s “ability to tackle racism”.
Labour’s adoption of that definition was a point of contention under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Members of the party’s National Executive Committee did eventually back a change in its code of conduct to fully adopt the definition back in September 2018 – but added its own “free speech” clause.
The party said at the time that the clause “ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians”.
The IHRA definition reads:
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.
“Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The IHRA also gives 11 examples, saying that manifestations “might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity”.
Mr Evans also said debates about the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report into antisemitism and Labour’s recent apology to whistleblowers who spoke to BBC Panorama were not “competent business” for meetings.
That sparked an angry backlash from supporters of Mr Corbyn, who accused Mr Evans – an ally of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer – of waging a political war against the left of the party.
Co-chair of Labour International Colin O’Driscoll wrote on the same Facebook post: “Starmer’s office boy blowing smoke. None of this has any basis in the Labour Party rulebook.”
Rachel Garnham, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, posted online saying she and other activists had written to the general secretary asking “on whose authority” he was acting.
Momentum and the Labour Party have been approached for comment.