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4 October 2016

Momentum removes Jackie Walker from vice chair post after anti-Semitism controversy

The grassroots movement said Walker's comments were not individually anti-Semitic, but condemned her "irresponsible" behaviour. 

By Julia Rampen

Momentum has stripped Jackie Walker of her position as vice chair by a vote of seven to three. 

Walker, who is herself black and Jewish, has sparked controversy on more than one occasion for her outspoken comments on Jewish schools and Holocaust Memorial day. 

Her position as a senior leader of Momentum had attracted criticism both outside and inside the grassroots Labour movement. 

The committee said in a statement: “Jackie’s actions at Labour conference, in her subsequent Channel 4 interview, and by not understanding concern caused by her statements, have led the steering committee to view her behaviour as irresponsible and lose confidence in her as vice chair.”

At conference, Walker told an event: “In terms of Holocaust day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all people who experienced holocaust?” and stated that “still haven’t heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with”. She also questioned why Jewish schools need special security. The footage shows the audience protesting that Holocaust Memorial Day was open to others. 

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After the footage was leaked, she told Channel 4 the leak was done with malicious intent. 

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Walker’s comments were not “taken individually” anti-Semitic, the committee said, but it added: “The committee does consider her remarks on Holocaust Memorial Day and on security of Jewish schools to be ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive. In such circumstances, the committee feels that Jackie should have done more to explain herself to mitigate the upset caused and should have been careful about statements on this and related subjects, whatever her record as an anti-racist, which the committee applauds.”

But Momentum stopped short of calling for Walker to be expelled. Referring to the Chakrabarti report into anti-Semitism in Labour, it stated: “On the basis of the evidence the committee has seen, Jackie should not be expelled from the Labour Party.” Walker has previously been suspended for suggesting “many Jews” were “chief financiers” of the slave trade.

Momentum also criticised the leaking of the footage of the training session in which Walker made her comments.

At a seperate debate at Momentum’s “festival of ideas”, The World Transformed, Walker argued that antisemitism claims have been “exaggerated for political purposes”, and “the most fundamental aim of such allegations, I suggest, is to undermine Jeremy Corbyn”, and “silence” his supporters.