Former Labour MP Luciana Berger has said that Jeremy Corbyn should “reflect” on standing down as an MP in light of the findings of the newly released Equality and Human Rights Commission report into antisemitism.
Berger, who was one of Labour’s few Jewish MPs before leaving the party in 2018, told Radio 5 today that Corbyn’s actions suggested he was an antisemite and his response to the report today showed he was “not prepared to take responsibility”.
She also criticised current Labour leader Keir Starmer during the interview, saying he and his shadow cabinet colleagues “could have done more” to help stamp out antisemitism in the party while serving under Corbyn.
The interview came shortly before Labour announced that Corbyn has been suspended by the party pending investigation, and has had the whip removed from the Parliamentary Labour Party for his response to the EHRC report this morning.
Asked whether Corbyn was antisemitic, the former MP for Liverpool Wavertree said: “I call a spade a spade. If someone themselves makes antisemitic comments, if someone themselves shares a platform with antisemites, they’re antisemitic.”
She added: “The Labour Party in the wake of this report needs to look at whether he needs to be investigated for antisemitism… Certainly in the wake of the report and its findings, the party has a massive job to do.
“To look at all its processes and all of the things that happened over the course of the last five years, that includes the actions of the person at the helm of the Labour Party at that time, Jeremy Corbyn.”
Asked whether that meant he should be made to stand down as an MP, she added: “Certainly, the depth that he took the Labour Party to is unforgivable and it will be for him to determine the actions that he takes.
“But certainly, the statement that we have heard from him today will provide no comfort to the countless Jewish party members and activists that stood by our side today. And it would be for him to reflect on.
“In terms of the actual process through which that could occur, it’s quite technical and I don’t think it could happen. Certainly, it’s for him to reflect on what happened, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to see any contrition today.”
The EHRC report on Labour antisemitism has been published today following a formal investigation into the party that started in May 2019. It has found that there were “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination”.
Corbyn has claimed in response to the 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 whether she would talk to Corbyn now in light of this response, former Labour MP Berger said: “I don’t think in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s comments today there’s anything for us to discuss.
“Even in the wake of a statutory body finding that the party under his leadership was responsible for harassment and discrimination against Jewish party members, he is still not prepared to take responsibility.
On the actions of the current Labour leader, she said: “Starmer last night phoned me and extended an apology on behalf of the entire Labour Party for the events that had happened and for the distress and the experience that I went through.”
She explained that the conversation was the first time the two of them had spoken since September 2018. The former MP was then asked whether Starmer could have done more while serving as Shadow Brexit Secretary under Corbyn.
Berger responded: “Ultimately the responsibility lies with Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party at that time. Certainly, there are people in all levels of leadership that could have done more.”
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.