Keir Starmer: “A day of shame for the Labour Party”

Elliot Chappell

Keir Starmer has responded to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into antisemitism within Labour by apologising and describing this is a “day of shame for the Labour Party”.

Addressing a press conference this morning, the Labour leader reiterated the commitment made during his leadership campaign to implement the recommendations outlined in the document.

The EHRC report published today found that there were “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination”, “serious failings in leadership” and an “inadequate” process for antisemitism complaints.

Starmer told the press conference: “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.”

He added: “The Labour Party I lead accepts this report in full. And without qualification. We will implement all the recommendations. And we will implement them in full. That process starts today.”

The Labour leader said he had already instructed his staff members to start work with the Commission to start the implementation of the recommendations set out in the report published today.

Starmer said the party is working to address the backlog of antisemitism complaints referred to the party, adding: “There will be more cases completed in the last six months than in the whole of 2019.”

In comments that some interpreted as referring to former leader Jeremy Corbyn, Starmer 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.”

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 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.”

Asked whether he would welcome back former Labour MPs who left the party due to antisemitism, Starmer said: “I can’t speak for them but the test I’ve set for myself is when they and others feel it’s safe to return to the Labour Party.”

The EHRC concluded 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.

Analysis of evidence by the body has also found that there was a “culture” within the Labour Party that “at best, did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it”.

The complainant in the EHRC investigation, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said in response to the report: “The debate is over. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour Party became institutionally antisemitic…

“Sir Keir Starmer now has a long list of reforms to make, including establishing an independent disciplinary process so that those who put Britain’s Jews in fear for their future in this country can at last be held to account for their deeds.

“To that end, we have submitted complaints against Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and 14 other sitting MPs and have given Labour six months to conduct transparent investigations and finally deliver justice for the Jewish community.”

A number of recommendations have been made 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.

CLICK TO READ THE REPORT.

Below is the full text of the statement made by Keir Starmer today.

This morning the Equality and Human Rights Commission published their final report into anti-semitism in the Labour Party. I want to thank Caroline Waters, David Isaac and everyone at the Commission for their work in the last year and a half. It is a comprehensive, rigorous, and thoroughly professional report.

When the Commission was set up by the last Labour Government to tackle discrimination, promote equality, and protect human rights. It never occurred to me or anyone else, that one day the Labour Party would be investigated for breaching the equality legislation that a Labour Government had introduced.

Worse still, that the Labour Party would be found to have committed unlawful acts under that same legislation. But that is what this report finds. Both in terms of unlawful harassment through the acts of our agents and unlawful indirect discrimination. The report’s conclusions are clear. And stark. They leave no room for equivocation.

The report finds: serious failings in leadership, processes and culture in dealing with anti-semitism within our party; specific examples of unlawful harassment and unlawful indirect discrimination; “clear examples” of political interference from the Leaders’ Office in anti-semitism cases; an inadequate process for handling complaints of anti-semitism; a failure to deliver adequate training for staff responsible for investigating cases; repeated failure to implement the recommendations of previous reports into anti-semitism; a culture that is, and I quote: “at odds with the Labour Party’s commitment to zero-tolerance of anti-semitism”; and – perhaps most telling of all: “a clear breakdown of trust between the Labour Party, many of its members and the Jewish community.”

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.

To Jewish people, our Jewish members, our long-standing Jewish affiliate, JLM. To the people driven out of our Party, the Jewish Members driven out of Parliament, including Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger. And to the members of Labour Party staff who spoke out, I want to say this: I know how hard these last few years have been for you. How painful today will be and how hard you have had to fight to have your voices heard.

So let me be clear, I hear you. And I can promise you this: I will act. Never again will Labour let you down. Never again will we fail to tackle anti-semitism. And never again will we lose your trust. The Labour Party I lead accepts this report in full. And without qualification. We will implement all the recommendations.

And we will implement them in full. That process starts today. I have already instructed my staff to start work with the Commission to implement the recommendations at the earliest possible opportunity. We will provide the Commission with our action plan to achieve all of this within six weeks. We will establish an independent complaints process – and it will be in place as soon as possible in the New Year.

We will ensure that neither the Leader, the Deputy Leader nor our offices will have any involvement in the outcome of complaints initiated under the Labour Party processes. And we are already addressing the backlog of anti-semitism cases. In fact, there have been more cases completed in the last six months than in the whole of 2019. But we will go much further. And we must go further.

Because – as the report makes clear – this cannot be solved just by changing the Labour Party’s processes and structures. We also need a culture change in the Labour Party. It must become, once again, an open and welcoming place for people from all backgrounds, and all communities.

Under my leadership, zero-tolerance of anti-semitism will mean precisely that. If you’re anti-semitic, 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 anti-semitism 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.

This report is painful to read. But I urge everyone to do so. Because this must be a line in the sand. There can be no more missed opportunities. No more denials or excuses. Under my leadership, Labour will act decisively against anti-semitism in all its forms. We will repair the breach. I know it will take time. And hard work. But when I stood for leader of this Party, I was clear that my first priority would be to root out anti-semitism. And rebuild trust.

That started in April. We have made progress. It will intensify today. But I will only consider it a success when those members who left our Party because of anti-semitism feel safe to return. And when we no longer hear the words “Labour” and “anti-semitism” in the same sentence. Thank you.

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