Published: 15:44, 17 July 2019
| Updated: 15:46, 17 July 2019
Rosie Duffield has come under fire from her own party following comments on anti-Semitism within Labour which have been branded “incredibly reckless”.
The Canterbury MP admitted Labour “probably is” institutionally anti-Semitic while appearing on the Sunday Politics show.
Canterbury Labour Party chairman Ben Hickman claims her comments have angered the “overwhelming majority” of local party members - raising questions over whether she will continue to be backed.
It has even been suggested she could face a re-selection process ahead of the next general election, despite her stunning victory in 2017.
Controversy about her comments erupted following her appearance on the BBC show at the weekend.
She was asked if she agrees with the chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement’s opinion that Labour is “institutionally anti-Semitic”, and replied: “I’m afraid it probably is right.
“We absolutely have to deal with this urgently now, no more excuses, no more kicking it in to the long grass, or investigations of two or three years.
“We really have to be seen to be doing the right thing.
“It’s not good, its shameful for us as a party. I’m really embarrassed about it. I’ve got many close Jewish friends and I know how upset they’ve been.
“We absolutely have to deal with it quicker. It does take strong leadership and that’s what we’ve got to show now. I think we’ve got to step up and get on with it.
“It’s horrible - most of us are very embarrassed and ashamed about this. I’m not going to pretend it’s OK and I’m not going to defend us as a party because people are leaving and the Jewish community have been let down.”
Mr Hickman says “many, many people” in the local Labour party are committed to “eradicating anti-Semitism.”
“It’s for that reason that Rosie’s language is incredibly reckless,” he added.
“No one is saying anti-Semitism doesn’t exist in Labour. But it seems to many people that it’s reckless to say it’s ‘institutionally’ anti-Semitic because it simply is not.
“We don’t want to attack her. But we find her quite casual approach to language around this issue as dangerous - it is in no way a help to the cause of eradicating anti-Semitism. Her views are certainly not the views of the local party - there is a significant degree of disagreement.”
Ms Duffield was also asked if Labour is currently fit to govern the country, to which she replied: “I hope so”.
Mr Hickman says her hesitancy over the party’s strength is causing opposition within the Canterbury ranks.
“The overwhelming majority of members are opposed to this uncertainty over whether Labour is fit to govern,” he said.
“People aren’t foaming at the mouth but a lot are in disagreement with her.
“We’re planning on having a meeting with Rosie. We want to have a discussion and well-mannered conversation.”
Ms Duffield overturned a 9,798 Tory majority to win the seat for Labour in 2017, but Mr Hickman says there is the possibility for a re-selection process ahead of the next general election.
'Rosie’s language is incredibly reckless' - Canterbury Labour chairman Ben Hickman
All current Labour MPs wanting to again be a parliamentary candidate had to put their names forward for re-selection by July 8.
When approached by the Gazette, Ms Duffield declined to say if she hopes to stand again, and did not want to respond to Mr Hickman’s criticism.
In order for a re-selection process to be triggered, a third of the local party needs to indicate they want it to take place.
“It doesn’t seem outrageous for members to vote for who they want to be their candidate,” Mr Hickman said.
“We have Canterbury and Whitstable Labour groups, so if one of them were to vote in for an open selection process then that would happen.”
Ms Duffield’s appearance on Sunday Politics came days after an unnamed female MP told Sky News that the Canterbury representative is one of about 80 MPs facing the risk of a trigger ballot, in which local party members will try to oust them.
She also suggested there are groups of men in local parties who are intent on forcing out women MPs.
Ms Duffield, 48, admitted last autumn she was considering her future following a row over her attendance at a rally against anti-Semitism.