Student in anti-Semitism storm at Oxford University Labour Club loses election

AntiSemitismWatch has twice reported in recent times on the allegations of anti-Semitism that surfaced at Oxford University’s Labour Club following the resignation of its co-chair, Alex Chalmers. The initial surfacing of the report was followed by the announcement that the Labour Party was going investigate the claims.

One of the students believed to be implicated by the allegations, James Elliot, has now lost an election to Labour’s national executive council.

Jasmin Beckett, a psychology student at Liverpool University, was elected to the position with 49.55% of the vote, beating Elliott, a history student at Oxford, on 49.41% of the vote. Around 1% of voters spoiled their ballots, and supporters of Elliott said he lost by a margin that amounted to a single vote.

The annual conference of the Labour party’s youth wing, Young Labour, met in Scarborough this weekend to elect delegates to its committee and a representative to sit on the NEC. Delegates, however, described a “poisonous atmosphere” riven by factionalism.

2016-02-16-08-02-49-620037710Elliott was the preferred candidate of Unite and Momentum, the group established to support Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour movement. He worked as Corbyn’s youth policy adviser during the leadership campaign in September last year.

The results were announced on Saturday evening and prompted calls for a recount, which were rejected by the returning officer Stephen Donnelly, a former chair of Scottish Young Labour.

James Elliot - Photo from his Young Labour campaign page
James Elliot – Photo from his Young Labour campaign page

Supporters of Elliott complained that the election was being run by “a rightwing faction in Labour students”. They also accused the opposing team of mounting a smear campaign that led to the antisemitism row at Oxford.

Other delegates at the conference alleged that union officials had used bullying and intimidation to pressurise people into voting for Elliott.

A 23-year-old delegate who asked not to be named said he had been called a “Blairite c**t” because he was wearing a sticker supporting Beckett, and friends had been called “Blairite nonces”. He said: “It’s hardly the kinder, gentler politics that we’ve heard about.”

Zac Harvey, 19, a delegate from Welsh Young Labour, complained on Twitter that a Unite officer had demanded to see his ballot paper voting for Elliott, tweeting an image of a text message exchange as evidence. The image appears to show a message to Harvey that reads: “At the very least I need you to send me a picture of your Unite ballot paper with James Elliot selected.”

A Unite spokesman said there was not a shred of truth that there was “any wrongdoing by the Unite delegation co-chair who acted with propriety at all times. Claims to the contrary are deliberately misleading and malicious, intended for no other reason than to bring this union into disrepute.”

He added: “The Labour party is due to examine the Young Labour elections including some concerning allegations of a smear campaign organised by one candidate against a rival. Unite urges that a full and independent look at these elections is agreed, and we will happily cooperate fully in this process.”

Elliott and Max Shanly, a former member of Young Labour’s national committee, also understood to have been implicated in the Oxford allegations, both vehemently deny the allegations.

Read more here.

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