Labour MP claims Lisa Forbes victory at Peterborough by-election shows ‘antisemitism becoming normal in the party’

Lisa Forbes giving her victory speech after being elected
Lisa Forbes giving her victory speech after being elected

The victory of Labour’s Lisa Forbes in the Peterborough by-election shows “antisemitism 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 an April Facebook post she ‘liked’ which said Theresa May has a “Zionist slave masters agenda”.

She also commented on a post from September 2014 which accused the CIA and Mossad, “supported by British imperialism”, of funding and creating extremists such as ISIS.

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

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Ms Forbes said she “apologised wholeheartedly for not calling out these posts” and would “deepen” her understanding of antisemitism.

She was also criticised for signing a letter which called on Labour’s ruling body not to accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.

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 antisemitism is becoming normal in the party”.

The Birmingham Yardley MP said: “Lisa ignored and endorsed antisemitic 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 antisemitism.”

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 Mr Corbyn over antisemitism, 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.”

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 antisemitism 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 programme 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.

The Jewish Labour Movement said Ms Forbes should have the party whip suspended immediately for previously rejecting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.