John Mann MP at the CST Annual Dinner: We have to take the war to the antisemites

1 Mar 2019 by CST

On 27 February 2019, John Mann MP, spoke at the CST Annual Dinner 2019. Below the video is the full transcript of the speech:

"Friends, I took advice on what to say at a big Jewish communal event and of course I was advised well just talk about family.

So I will.

I’ve just spent some magical days with my two young grandsons aged three and two, and in doing so it made me think what to say tonight.

What question might they ask in the future of me?

Grandad, what did you do when the antisemites came for the Jews?

Well, kids, I invited them in, I said, bring along your associates. I threw them a party. I gave them my party. Or would I…

Or would I be able to look them, my grandchildren, in the eye, and tell them honestly, I was not a bystander, I stood and fought.

And I bring you, incredibly, greetings from the front line in the battle against antisemitism. The front line, the Labour Party.

Let me tell you about my party, the real Labour Party.

This is the real Labour Party, 1943, the publication of the conference of the Labour Party, which has in it a message from the Labour Zionists of the Warsaw ghetto in their last days, which said and determined unanimously in its policy:

This conference declares that victory must ensure for the Jews full civil, political and economic equality and national rights.

It demands, Labour demands, for the Jewish people, an equal status among the free nations of the world.

And in backing that resolution, moved by the Jewish Labour Movement or Poale Zion, as they were known then, Maurice Rosett, the delegate started by saying to the delegates:

Sympathy is not enough.

It is our proud boast that the Labour Party was the first in this country to understand the age-old Jewish problem and to associate itself with the great work of revival of Palestine which envisaged its solution.

And it said on antisemitism, by action or speech, by word or deed, anyone who allows himself to be duped by this campaign of lies and calumny is serving the forces of darkness.

That’s the real Labour Party.

And this, not the hammer and sickle, this red rose is the real emblem.

And I’ve given today, in advance of speaking, I’ve given four red roses out to four women. I’ve given one to Margaret Hodge for what she’s done. I’ve given one to Louise Ellman for what’s she’s done. I’ve given one to Ruth Smeeth and I’ve given one to Luciana Berger, and I say,

Say to you Luciana, you’ve left the Labour Party but you have not left us and we will never ever leave you.

Our job as MPs is not to stand alongside you. Our job is to stand in front of you, when they are throwing the stones of hatred of bitterness the bile this is our duty. And it's not us who needs your thanks, what we need from you is your voices, your action, your organisation.

For the antisemites, my messages to you is:

Let us make sure that there will always be consequences that, to me, is the point of the CST.

And let me be quite clear to all of you, however complacent you are, and I hope you’re not, I get the opportunity to go see politicians and Jewish communities around the world, as I chair the International Parliamentary Coalition.

You have no idea how lucky you are to have the CST.

Other countries, other countries would give their right arm for a tenth, for a tenth of what the Jewish community in this country has with the CST, and you really need to understand how significant this organisation is.

And I say on behalf of all of us, the parliamentarians who’ve been fighting, thank you to the CST for your support to us.

See I, I stand there as a member of the Labour Party, ashamed of my party, ashamed of its inability, its unwillingness to act.

And with a burning anger.

I haven’t just wandered off the streets into the Labour Party, I met my wife through the Labour Party, my parents met through the Labour Party, my grandparents were in the Labour Party.

My great grandparents formed the Labour Party with Jewish workers in Leeds in 1906, and at every stage in their history, in their involvement in the Labour Party, stood alongside the Jewish community defended the Jewish community and when my family was in trouble, when my family was thrown out of work for forming the Labour Party in Leeds, the Jewish community, the Jewish workers, the Jewish Labour Movement, they stood and backed alongside my family.

That's the history of the Labour Party.

You cannot imagine how much hurt, how much shame, how much anger we have in what is defiling, what has been, not just my life, but my families’ existence. And many families’ existence down the generations.

That’s what’s at stake here.

We’re not going to give in. We’re not going to hand over to these antisemites and those that stand by and encourage them and are silent.

And I’ll tell you there’s another group.

There is a group you should be thankful for because you’ve no idea about this because people don’t talk about it - well I’m going to.

The staff of those MPs that I've mentioned. Well, you don't know their names. You don't need to know their names. But if we're ahead of you in getting the abuse, who do you think is ahead of us in getting the abuse? And the threats. And the dangers.

And alongside that, what about Luciana's husband? What about Ruth's mother? What about Louise's family? What about Margaret's children? What about my family? What about my wife, and my daughters?

With the rape threats from antisemites against them. With the bomb scares. With the dead birds sent through the post. You cannot imagine what our staff and our families have gone through because the Labour Party has refused - refused - to deal with this scourge of antisemitism. They're the people that need thanking. And I also say this because it's important to understand where we're coming from.

I represent a community that was comprised of coal miners. Coal miners who. when this country needed it. spent their lives underground digging coal. And what the coal miners in the coaleries in my area did to warn against the impending doom was to take a small bird in a cage down the pit with them. A yellow canary.

Well, the Jewish community. You are the canary in the cage for humanity. You're the canary in the cage for the safety and future of my grandchildren.

That's why we have whether we like it or not, no choice. That’s why you have no choice but to support this organisation - the CST: more vigorously, more generously, more actively, then you've done before.

And I say and end on this. To fight this scourge of antisemitism from the far right, from the far left, from the Islamists, I look every one of you in the eye. Every person on every table. Every friend you have. Every family member. Every synagogue. Every real MP. Every faith ally. Every public servant. Every decent citizen.

We all have to do our bit. And we need a lot more with the spirit of the Maccabees. With the organisation of CST. We have to take the war to the antisemites and when we do - we will win.

We have no choice.

Thank you for listening.


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“"The Guardian of Israel doesn't slumber or sleep". This feeling of safety and security that we search for and need is gratefully appreciated when it's given to us by the CST. It really is a pleasure to work with the CST and to be looked after and cared for by them. Where ever I go throughout Britain, in all our Synagogues from north to south the impact and help given by the CST is warmly valued.”

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner
Senior Rabbi, Reform Judaism