Margaret Hodge has said the statement issued by Jeremy Corbyn in response to the publication of the Equality and Human Rights Commission report shows that he is in “permanent denial” about Labour antisemitism.
During a press conference by the Jewish Labour Movement this afternoon, the parliamentary chair of the organisation discussed the report that has found Labour breached the Equality Act 2010 in its handling over antisemitism.
Corbyn has claimed in response to the EHRC report that the “the scale of the [antisemitism] problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party”.
Asked about the former Labour leader’s reaction to the document, Hodge said: “The statement that Jeremy chose to put out today demonstrates that he is in permanent denial about the extent of the problem…
“Even when the evidence is placed in front of him he fails really to understand the importance and severity of it. It happened on his watch. He shamed the Labour Party. He sat at the centre of a party that enabled antisemitism to spread from the fringes to the mainstream.
“But I’ve got to tell you this, he is yesterday’s man. He is absolutely irrelevant and I think that for us today, what we’re looking to – thank goodness – is the present and the future…
“We’ve had a lot of really good commitments out of Keir Starmer and his leadership today. We’ve seen a few good actions but what we now have to do is ensure, and he knows this, that his actions match up to his words.”
JLM secretary Peter Mason added: “Keir Starmer made it very clear that any Labour Party member who engages in denialism or seeks to diminish the impact of antisemitism on Jewish Labour Party members or what has happened has no place in the future of the Labour Party.
“Having made those statements, it is now for the Labour Party to demonstrate that they are going to put them into action and that will be the fist priority of JLM in making sure that happens. So we will be watching very closely.”
Keir Starmer described today as a “day of shame for the Labour Party” and during his own press conference apologised to party members and the Jewish community “for all the pain and grief that has been caused”.
Asked whether further action would be taken against Jeremy Corbyn and other individuals, Starmer said: “There is a collective finding of a failure of leadership and we need to understand that and accept that…
“But there were not individual findings against Jeremy and others. It is incumbent on all of us to accept the findings, all of us to act on the recommendations and all of us including myself to apologise.”
Pressed on whether she thinks Corbyn should remain in the party following his statement, Hodge replied: “I don’t want to be diverted from the main challenges that we’re facing… It just doesn’t matter.”
The EHRC report found that there were “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination for which the Labour Party is responsible”, “serious failings in leadership and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints”.
After repeatedly complaining to Labour about Corbyn but not finding that it would open an investigation, the Campaign Against Antisemitism formally referred the party to the EHRC in July 2018.
The EHRC decided that the threshold for a full statutory investigation had been met and launched a probe in May 2019 into whether Labour had “unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish”.
The Labour Party has been served with an unlawful act notice. The party has six weeks to produce an action plan in response to the findings and recommendations of the report published today.