Britain's General Secretary of the Labour Party Jennie Formby speaks at the annual Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, Britain, September 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay - RC16ED884900
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Labour MPs have called for tougher action from the party leadership after new figures showed that only 12 members have been expelled out of 673 alleged cases of anti-Semitism since last April.

Jennie Formby, general secretary of Britain’s main opposition party, revealed the figures in an email to MPs on Monday. She wrote that there was no comparable earlier data because there had previously been “no consistent and comprehensive system” for recording such cases.

But Iain McNicol, the former general secretary, disputed that claim, saying there had been a system in place.

The figures showed that 96 members had been suspended from the party for their conduct between April 2018 and January 2019.

Some 146 members received first warnings, and 220 were deemed to have insufficient evidence of a breach of party rules. Out of 307 who were suspended or notified of an investigation, 44 left the party.

A Labour spokesman said the figures related to about 0.1 per cent of the membership: “But one anti-Semite in our party is one too many.”

Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North, said the data “just doesn’t pass the smell test”, saying it raised legitimate questions over the leadership’s approach.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader, has vowed to crack down on anti-Jewish sentiment within his party. But questions have been raised over the record of Mr Corbyn himself, who has been a life-long campaigner against the state of Israel.

This summer he admitted having attended a wreath-laying in 2014 for Palestinian leaders behind the group that carried out the Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes in 1972. He said: “I was present at that wreath-laying, I don’t think I was actually involved in it.”

Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP who is eight months pregnant, had been facing two motions of no confidence from activists in her Liverpool Wavertree constituency — although they were withdrawn on Friday evening. The activists said their motions were in protest at Ms Berger’s criticism of Mr Corbyn.

During a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour party last week, MPs had unanimously passed a motion calling on the leadership to do more to tackle incidents of anti-Semitism among members.

Producing the figures on Monday — ahead of another meeting of the PLP — Ms Formby said she rejected the idea that anti-Semitism in the party was a “smear”.

“I have seen hard evidence of it and that is why I have been so determined to do whatever is possible to eliminate it from the party,” she said.

Margaret Hodge, a veteran former minister, said there had been a “breakdown in trust”, saying she alone had submitted more than 200 examples of what she called “vile anti-Semitism”.

Ruth Smeeth, an MP who has been the victim of anti-Semitic abuse, said: “I wish this was over, every Jewish MP wishes this was over, but it’s not over and we’re not going to keep quiet until anti-Semitism has gone from the Labour party.”

Tony Blair, who won three general elections as Labour leader, on Sunday called on the current leadership to do more to tackle the issue.

“We are supposed to be a progressive political party. How can we say it’s tolerable to have a certain level of anti-Semitism in the party?” he said.

“No, we’d say of course we can’t have that, and yes, there are parts of the Left, not the whole of the Left, but there are parts of the Left that do have a problem with anti-Semitism.”

In March an estimated 1,500 people attended a rally in Parliament Square to put pressure on Mr Corbyn to do more to tackle anti-Semitism in Labour.

In September Labour’s ruling national executive committee accepted the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism in an attempt to close down a long-running row with Jewish groups over the behaviour of some members. The NEC rejected a last-minute attempt by Mr Corbyn to add a caveat giving members more leeway to criticise Israel.

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