Starmer apologises to Jewish community in video meeting

Elliot Chappell

Keir Starmer held a video meeting with representatives of the UK Jewish community this morning, in which he apologised and vowed to start working on the introduction of an independent complaints system.

In the conference call, Starmer and new deputy leader Angela Rayner met with figures from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Community Security Trust and the Jewish Labour Movement.

The new leader reaffirmed the commitment made during his leadership campaign to set up an independent complaints process and to cooperate “fully” with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission inquiry into Labour antisemitism.

He also said he has asked the party for a report on all outstanding antisemitism cases by the end of the week, and said he wanted to roll out training of all party staff as soon as possible.

Commenting after the meeting, Starmer said: “I want to thank the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Community Security Trust and the Jewish Labour Movement for taking this opportunity to meet me – not least so close to Passover.

“It was very important to me to seek to address the disgrace of antisemitism in our party as soon as possible. Today, I repeated once again the apology I made as soon as I was elected leader.

“Over the last few years, we have failed the Jewish community on antisemitism. Labour is a proudly anti-racist party and, going forward, it will not be enough to ‘pass the test’ on antisemitism. We need to set new standards for best practice.”

The EHRC launched its formal investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party in May 2019, after it said receiving dossiers of antisemitism evidence from Jewish groups. It is expected to conclude in the summer.

Starmer added: “At today’s meeting, I committed to begin work on setting up an independent complaints process, cooperating fully with the EHRC’s inquiry and asking for a report on all outstanding cases to be on my desk at the end of the week.

“I also discussed with Jewish Labour Movement my ambition to roll out training of all Labour Party staff in as soon as practically possible.”

The Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl, JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein, CST chair Gerald Ronson and JLM chair Mike Katz, said: “While we would have fully understood the need to focus entirely on coronavirus at this time, Keir Starmer has already achieved in four days more than his predecessor in four years in addressing antisemitism within the Labour Party.

“As we discussed with Keir and Angela, we want to have a normal relationship with Labour whereby we can discuss the full range of issues affecting our community, from religious freedom to Israel, from Jewish schools to poverty, from refugees to the environment – and not just antisemitism.

“This has certainly been a good start. If the new Labour leadership continues in this way, we can work together to make the changes that will make Labour a proudly anti-racist party once again.”

Joining the Labour leadership team at the meeting were also Phil Rosenberg, Simon Johnson, David Delew and Peter Mason, plus Labour staffers Morgan McSweeney, Ellie Robinson, Nick Parrott and Alex Barros-Curtis, and advisers Lord Jonathan Kestenbaum and Sir Trevor Chinn CVO.

The Board of Deputies set out ten pledges during the leadership campaign, and asked candidates to back them. They included the implementation of a new independent disciplinary process.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Emily Thornberry and Starmer publicly supported the pledges. The two deputy candidates who did not sign the pledges – Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler – were stood down from the shadow cabinet by Starmer.

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