Angela Rayner says Corbyn has “absolute blindspot” on antisemitism

Elliot Chappell

Angela Rayner has said Jeremy Corbyn has an “absolute blindspot and a denial” when it comes to issues raised in the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into antisemitism within the Labour Party.

Commenting on the 128-page document published today, the deputy Labour leader told listeners on BBC’s World at One show that the findings of the report were “stark” and reiterated Keir Starmer’s apology to the Jewish community.

She discussed the suspension of Corbyn from the party for his response to the findings of the EHRC, saying that she is “devastated that it has come to this” and arguing that “today should be about really listening and reading the report”.

On the findings of the investigation, Rayner said: “It’s a day of shame for the Labour Party and the findings were stark. We’ve all got to do our bit now and have that commitment to ensure that we implement the changes that are necessary.

“We can’t mitigate away the fact that we are in this very, very difficult position and we have to do everything we can to restore the trust between the Labour Party and its members and the Jewish community.”

The EHRC concluded today that Labour is responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act relating to political interference in antisemitism complaints; failure to provide adequate training to those handling them; and harassment.

Corbyn issued a statement this morning in response to the report, arguing that the “the scale of the [antisemitism] problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party”.

On this response from the former Labour leader, Rayner said this afternoon: “I’m just deeply, deeply upset by the circumstances and really upset that Jeremy wasn’t able to see today the pain that the Jewish community has gone through.

“And the fact that we, including myself as a member of the shadow cabinet, failed in our duty… That’s what we should be speaking about today – about our apology for that failure and about doubling down on making sure we do something about.”

The deputy Labour leader added: “Jeremy is a thoroughly decent man. But as Margaret Hodge said in her piece he has an absolute blindspot and a denial when it comes to some of these issues.

“And that’s devastating but as the deputy leader of the Labour Party, I’m elected to represent and to ensure that we uphold our values and today is about making sure we do that.

“So it’s not about personal friendships, it’s about making sure that we ensure that the Labour Party does the right thing by the Jewish community.”

Asked why she and others did not take action as members of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, Rayner said: “We spoke out about the issues. I didn’t have access to the complaints that were going on at the time, but we certainly collectively raised concerns about the allegations that were being made about the process…

“We knew that there were complaints being raised, absolutely, and I raised it at the time – as did Keir, as did many members of the shadow cabinet, as Jeremy acknowledged himself. He said himself that there is a problem in the Labour Party.

“But we failed. We absolutely failed. We collectively failed, and that’s what the report says.”

She added: “Myself and Keir have said quite categorically that we will accept the recommendations of the report… We unreservedly apologise to the Jewish community and those that faced that harassment and indirect discrimination.”

Starmer told a press conference this morning: “I found this report hard to read. And it is a day of shame for the Labour Party. We have failed Jewish people. Our members. Our supporters. And the British public.

“And so: on behalf of the Labour Party: I am truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused… I will act. Never again will Labour let you down. Never again will we fail to tackle antisemitism and never again will we lose your trust.”

In comments that some interpreted as referring to former leader Jeremy Corbyn and other individuals, the Labour leader declared: “If you’re antisemitic, you should be nowhere near this party. And we’ll make sure you’re not.

“And if after all the pain, all the grief, and all the evidence in this report, there are still those who think there’s no problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party. That it’s all exaggerated, or a factional attack.

“Then, frankly, you are part of the problem too. And you should be nowhere near the Labour Party either.” Former leader Corbyn was suspended from the party, pending investigation, shortly after the press conference.

A number of recommendations have been made by the EHRC for Labour around living up to its zero-tolerance commitment on antisemitism, rebuilding trust, education and training and on monitoring and evaluating improvements.

Labour has been served with an unlawful act notice following the investigation. The party has six weeks to produce an action plan in response to the findings and recommendations of the report published today.

Starmer has pledged to implement an independent complaints process “as quickly as possible” and he hopes that this will be “early next year”. Rule changes would normally require conference approval.

The party has until December 10th to deliver an action plan to the EHRC on how it will implement the recommendations and when. This is legally enforceable by the court if not fulfilled.

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