Jeremy Corbyn’s chief trade union cheerleader, Len McCluskey, has accused “Blairite” Labour MPs of using the anti-Semitism row to provoke a split in the party.
In a typically belligerent outburst, the Unite leader also took aim at his friend-turned-foe Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, and accused Jewish leaders of hostility to Mr Corbyn.
Yet, at the same time, Mr McCluskey backed other senior union leaders who have called on Labour to back the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.
“Two things have now become clear regarding Labour’s anti-Semitism controversy,” Mr McCluskey wrote in a lengthy and wide-ranging blog for the HuffPost website.
“First, it is being used to provide rocket fuel for a split in the party and, second, it is being prolonged and intensified when it might otherwise be resolved.”
In his latest attack on “Blairite” Labour MPs, Mr McCluskey singled out Chuka Umunna, accusing him of writing “nonsense” in an article for The Independent earlier this week.
“Given the paucity of evidence that he actually produces to sustain his charge that he is a member of an ‘institutionally anti-Semitic’ party, it is fair to ask whether Umunna is merely exploiting the latest episode to justify his moves to break away from Labour, the plotting for which has been widely reported elsewhere,” he writes.
In a clear reference to Mr Watson, his former friend and ally and now sworn enemy, Mr McCluskey wrote: “While rooting out the anti-Semites, we cannot descend into a vortex of McCarthyism, however much Labour’s opponents might enjoy the spectacle.”
Earlier this month, Mr Watson claimed Labour would “disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment” and render itself unfit for government unless it called an immediate halt to damaging arguments over anti-Semitism.
Mr McCluskey has also accused leaders of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jewish Leadership Council and Jewish Labour Movement of “intransigent hostility and an utter refusal to engage in dialogue about building on what has been done and resolving outstanding difficulties”.
He wrote: “I therefore appeal to the leadership of the Jewish community to abandon their truculent hostility, engage in dialogue and dial down the rhetoric, before the political estrangement between them and the Labour Party becomes entrenched.”
He accused three newspapers – the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and Jewish Telegraph – that claimed Mr Corbyn was an “an existential threat to Jewish life” of a “thoroughly irresponsible act of fear-mongering”.
But on the definition of anti-Semitism, Mr McCluskey gave a clear commitment that his union, Labour’s biggest paymaster, will back moves to accept the IHRA definition in full at the next meeting of Labour’s national executive on 4 September.
“Clearly, it would have been far better for the party to have adopted at least ten of the eleven IHRA examples in their original wording,” he wrote.
“Not doing so – and particularly without adequate consultation – was insensitive and bound to lead to misunderstanding, and also served to distract attention from the real issues at stake. It would be for the best if all eleven were now agreed, so the party can move on.”
Mr McCluskey concluded: “So let us now move to put this row behind us. Let Labour complete the measures it has pledged to meet the concerns of the Jewish community as rapidly as possible. Let the leadership of the Jewish community grasp the hand stretched out towards them.
“And let those few Labour MPs looking to break away from the party do so on an honest basis, embracing capitalism, the free market and the alliance with Trump’s America, and not pretend that Labour is something it is not, an institutionally racist party.”