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Sir David Garrard voices dismay at party leadership’s conduct, while top official quits NEC after criticism
One of Labour’s biggest private donors has said he no longer feels “any affinity or connection” with the party, and accuses its leadership of failing in its response to “the most blatant acts of antisemitism”.
As Labour struggles to quell a renewed outcry over the issue, Sir David Garrard, who has donated about £1.5m since 2003, said the party he had supported “no longer exists”. Despite funding Labour under three leaders before Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the post, he had now left the party, he revealed. He told the Observer that he had watched the current handling of the issue with “growing dismay and foreboding”.
His intervention comes as one of Corbyn’s allies quit a senior party post on Saturday night, after being criticised for apparently defending a Labour member accused of Holocaust denial. Christine Shawcroft had already resigned as the head of Labour’s disputes panel after it emerged she sent an email defending the Peterborough council candidate Alan Bull after he was linked to a series of antisemitic social media posts.
She later said she was “deeply sorry” at how she had handled the case and had not been aware of the “abhorrent” Facebook post that led to Bull’s suspension. Having rebuffed demands from MPs to stand down from the party’s ruling national executive committee (NEC), she revealed she had changed her mind.
In a statement, she said: “It has been a privilege to serve on the Labour party NEC for the last 19 years, and I was standing down in September in any event. I have, however, decided to resign with immediate effect. It is clear that my continued membership of the NEC has become a distraction for the party and an excuse for endless intrusive media harassment of myself, my family and friends. I reaffirm my complete opposition to antisemitism and my abhorrence of Holocaust denial.”
She will be replaced on the NEC by the comedian Eddie Izzard. Corbyn has vowed to be “a militant opponent of antisemitism”, but many of his supporters believe the issue is being exaggerated by his political opponents.
Garrard claimed that Labour’s leadership had in effect “supported and endorsed” acts of antisemitism. “As one of the former leading political and financial supporters of the Labour party, of which I was a member for so many decades, I no longer feel any affinity with, or connection to, what it seems to have become,” he said. “I have watched with dismay and foreboding the manner in which the leadership has, in my view, over the last two years, conducted itself.
“I consider that it has supported and endorsed the most blatant acts of antisemitism. And yet it has failed to expel many of those who have engaged in the grossest derogatory fantasies about Jewish/Zionist conspiracies – and Jewish characterisations and accusations which conjure up the very kind of antisemitic attacks that led to such unbearable consequences for innocent millions in the past. So there no longer exists a party which even pretends to maintain and promote the principles and the integrity of what always was, to me, the Labour party.