FRANK FIELD MP has vowed to “fight to the courts” legal attempts by the Labour Party to expel him. Last Thursday he resigned the Labour Party whip to sit as an independent Labour MP in the House of Commons.
In a letter to the Opposition Chief Whip, Nick Brown MP, last week, Mr Field, an Anglican, cited Labour’s “toleration of anti-Semitism” and a “culture of nastiness, bullying, and intimidation” within the party as the two reasons for his resignation.
A Labour source told The Guardian, however, that the MP had been “looking for an excuse to resign for some time”, and that his letter of resignation had been connected to a complaint linked to the local Labour party which had been investigated and resolved.
In a further statement on Monday, Mr Field has said that he would not be calling a by-election in his constituency, Birkenhead, where he has been MP since 1979. “In the 2017 general election, I received the biggest majority I have ever had in Birkenhead, standing clearly on a national and local manifesto.
“All of these people, and practically all of the local residents who have contacted me in recent days, have stressed that I should simply get on with the job of representing Birkenhead. . .
“Meanwhile, I now have what may become a major legal dispute with the Labour Party over my continuing membership of the Party. I shall fight any attempt at expelling me in every way I can and, if need be, in the courts. This interpretation of Labour’s rule book could last a long time.”
Responding to Mr Field’s decision to resign, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said on Monday: “I’m sorry that he’s resigned and I thank him for all the work that he’s done as an MP, and for the party, but I don’t see why he had to resign.
“He’s made his decision and obviously one has to acknowledge that.”
Last week, the Council of Christians and Jews criticised Mr Corbyn for using an “anti-Semitic trope” after footage from 2013 emerged in which he said that British “Zionists” had “no sense of English irony” (News, 31 August).
On Tuesday, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Labour Party adopted the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, and 11 accompanying examples. It had previously decided against this, to the dismay of the CCJ, which endorses the definition.
The definition reads: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
An accompanying statement from the NEC, however, said: “This will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.”
The chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, Simon Johnson, retracted his original statement on the adoption of the definition, after learning about the “free-speech caveat”. His second statement on Tuesday said that the addition “drove a coach and horses” through the IHRA definition.
“It will do nothing to stop the vitriol being poured at those who put their head above the parapet to condemn the party of anti-Semitism, which the Leader has done nothing to stop. . . It is clearly more important to the Labour leader to protect the free speech of those who hate Israel than it is to protect the Jewish community from the real threats that it faces.”
The group Labour Against Anti-Semitism said: “We are disappointed by the decision of Labour’s governing body, the NEC, to diminish the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism via the attachment of a ‘clarification’ that risks giving racists in the party a get-out-of-jail card.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said that the adoption was “long overdue”, and called on Mr Corbyn to apologise for “past anti-Semitic comments and affiliations”.