A former Labour Parliamentary candidate for the Sheffield Hallam seat says he will not be standing for the role again because of his concerns about anti-Semitism within the party.
Oliver Coppard, who took on then-Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in the 2015 General Election, has ruled out trying to be Labour’s candidate for the same seat the next time it is contested.
Sheffield Hallam’s current representative Jared O’Mara was elected last year as a Labour candidate, ousting Liberal Democrat Mr Clegg, but quit the party this summer while remaining MP. Labour has not yet started the process for deciding who will be its candidate in Sheffield Hallam.
In recent months the party has come in for fierce criticism for its handling of anti-Semitism claims against its members, as well as the terms of the recent code of conduct it drew up on the subject.
Critics say it is not as comprehensive as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s guidelines, a claim denied by the party. Earlier this month, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn came under fire over his presence at a ceremony in Tunisia in 2014, which is said to have honoured the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich terror attack.
In an article published today on the Huffington Post website Mr Coppard, who is Jewish, said recent controversies had “once again shown Jewish people that our empathy with minority voices has fallen victim to the intolerance of our own factionalism”.
He added that his view that the best way to “make a difference in the world” was as a Labour MP had stopped him speaking about anti-Semitism in Labour earlier. He wrote: “As the party begins its search for a prospective MP in Sheffield Hallam, for now, despite encouragement from local people, the growing intolerance of our movement has crushed my belief that I could play an active role in putting the Labour Party into government and Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10.
“I hope I’m wrong. I hope we regain the courage to respect a diverse range of voices, not just the Jewish community, but all those people with whom we disagree, without challenging their right to speak out or the good faith in which they do so.
“I hope we can rediscover what we used to know; that tolerance and empathy not only make us stronger as a movement but are a fundamental requirement of a transformative, socialist party of government.”
A Labour spokesman said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints of antisemitism extremely seriously and we are committed to challenging and campaigning against it in all its forms. All complaints about antisemitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures.”