Labour is facing a fresh antisemitism row after Jewish activists were banned from attending an event with John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, as organisers accused them of having “previously misrepresented events”.
Multiple Jewish people who had tickets to the event on Thursday evening, but who had previously spoken out about the antisemitism row that engulfed Labour over the summer, were told at the last minute that their tickets had been cancelled.
Organisers told The Independent that people had been banned because they had “previously misrepresented events, people or facts”.
The event will see Mr McDonnell join Jenny Manson, chair of the controversial Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) group, who is seeking to become a Labour MP in north London. It has been organised by her campaign team, which is closely linked to the Barnet branch of the influential Momentum organisation.
JVL has been strongly condemned by mainstream Jewish groups because of its dismissal of concerns about antisemitism in Labour.
Ms Manson has frequently spoken in defence of people accused of antisemitism, including former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who was suspended by Labour after claiming Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism.
She has previously said she “began to identify as a Jew in order to argue against the state of Israel and its behaviour”.
JVL also organised a counter-demonstration in Parliament Square during the “Enough is Enough” protest in March. It claims Labour does not have a problem with antisemitism and that the row has been concocted by right-wing Jews.
Mr McDonnell’s endorsement of Ms Manson’s bid to become an MP has furthered anger Jewish groups that have accused Mr Corbyn and his top team of failing to tackle antisemitism.
The row deepened on Wednesday night – less than 24 hours before the meeting – when dozens of people planning to attend were told they would not be allowed entry. They were not given a reason for their tickets being cancelled.
Those barred include campaigners from the Labour Against Antisemitism group and others who have criticised Mr Corbyn’s party over its handling of anti-Jewish abuse. It is understood that journalists from papers including the Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News were also initially banned, although they have now been told they can attend.
Members of the media were told they must donate at least £8 to Ms Manson’s campaign in order to attend.
Antisemitism campaigners demanded Mr McDonnell withdraw from the event, saying it was “a betrayal of every Labour value he claims to hold dear”.
A spokesman for Ms Manson’s campaign confirmed organisers had cancelled the tickets of “tens” of people who had applied to attend.
Ms Manson is part of the Barnet Momentum group, which has previously been criticised over alleged antisemitism. In August, the The Independent published leaked emails in which activists claimed security guards were stationed outside synagogues to “generate an atmosphere of insecurity” because “Zionists” wanted to “exploit and generate the fear of antisemitism”.
Ms Manson was included in the email discussion, along with other organisers of the meeting with Mr McDonnell.
The event on Thursday is billed as a “head to head” between Mr McDonnell and Ms Manson. The shadow chancellor has already endorsed the JVL chair, saying she “will make an excellent candidate”.
He said: “Jenny is a fine socialist and a splendid advocate on behalf of our movement.”
Ms Manson is understood to be considering standing in either Hendon or neighbouring Chipping Barnet – areas with among the highest proportion of Jewish voters in the country.
One of the organisers of the event, who acts as a spokesman for Barnet Momentum and for Ms Manson, told The Independent: “We have a duty of care to the attendees at the meeting. That means that some people who have a track record of disrupting events in the past had their tickets returned.
“We did not look at people’s political tendencies or ideology. There are people who are not Labour members or who are supportive of other parties who are coming to the event.
“We did, however, consider whether some people might have reported from the meeting in a way that was a misrepresentation of what was taking place in the meeting, if they had a previous record of misrepresenting events, facts or people. We used our discretion. That is what we said we would do from the beginning.”
Organisers sought “security advice and legal advice” when deciding who would be allowed to attend, he said, adding: “There were a variety of administrative, technical, professional and security reasons why some people had their tickets returned.”
A spokesperson for Labour Against Antisemitism said: “The banning of Jewish Labour members from a John McDonnell event tonight is an act of racial segregation that underlines the institutional antisemitism now endemic within the Labour Party.
Of Ms Manson, he said: “Her campaign to be selected as a Labour parliamentary candidate in an area of London with a significant Jewish population, is surely now impossible if this is her attitude towards her would-be Jewish constituents.
“We demand that Mr McDonnell withdraw from this event and show that he is able to understand why this situation is a betrayal of every Labour value he claims to hold dear.”
Mr McDonnell said: “Jenny is a good friend and I am fulfilling a longstanding commitment I gave her to offer her my support in seeking selection as a candidate.”
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.