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26 Apr, 2018 16:48

Did politician at center of anti-Semitism hearing really need a 40-strong MP ‘human shield’?

Did politician at center of anti-Semitism hearing really need a 40-strong MP ‘human shield’?

Labour MP Ruth Smeeth was escorted by a ‘human shield’ of 40 MPs, as she gave evidence at a hearing into alleged anti-Semitism directed at her by party activist Marc Wadsworth during the launch of the Chakrabarti Report in 2016.

The majority of mainstream media outlets framed the event as Smeeth battling with a vast amount of protesters as she ran “a gauntlet” to appear at the disciplinary hearing. However, video footage of the protesters would suggest that number was around 10-15; holding banners and vocalizing their support for Wadsworth, who some on social media claim is the victim of a witch hunt.

The MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, who is Jewish, said: “I was verbally attacked by a Momentum activist and Jeremy Corbyn supporter who used traditional anti-Semitic slurs to attack me for being part of a ‘media conspiracy.’”

So, what do we know about the facts of the case? Well, video recordings have circulated on social media documenting the alleged anti-Semitism directed at Smeeth by Wadsworth.

The controversy revolves around his following statement: "I saw that The Telegraph handed a copy of a press release to Ruth Smeeth MP, we can see who's working hand in hand."

Some, including certain supporters of Corbyn, may feel Wadsworth has indulged in an age-old anti-Semitic troupe, that of Jews being in cahoots with the media, as Smeeth appears to have concluded.

However, others may take the view that Wadsworth was insensitive in what he said, but was not anti-Semitic, as Open Democracy columnist Hicham Yezza suggested. “Based on this video, Marc Wadsworth was insensitive and rude and unpleasant to/about Ruth Smeeth, but not anti-Semitic,” he stated. “To suggest a politician is working with sympathetic journos towards shared political ends may be unfair or inaccurate or even libelous, but it is not anti-Semitic.”

Speaking outside his hearing, Wadsworth said that he was feeling "very confident" that he would be exonerated. “I've endured almost two years of trial by media where I've had to correct a lot of incorrect reporting and, as a journalist of more than 40 years, I'm astounded that some colleagues have reported this as they have.”

There have been suggestions from some Jeremy Corbyn supporters that a select number of Labour MPs, seen as being on the right of the party, have been all too happy to go and brief or write columns for right-wing newspapers such as The Sun and Daily Mail to undermine the Labour leader, papers that have faced their own accusations of anti-Semitism and racism.

The BBC reports that Wadsworth will find out on Thursday whether he is to be expelled from the Labour Party.

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