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Jewish Leaders Call For "Constant Vigilance" As Labour Antisemitism Special Measures End

Keir Starmer (Alamy)

3 min read

Jewish community leaders have responded to the equality watchdog's decision to take the Labour party out of special measures, and Keir Starmer's decision to block Jeremy Corbyn standing as a Labour MP at the next general election.

The party was placed in special measures in 2020 for after the equalities watchdog ruled that Jewish members had been unlawfully discriminating against under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership between 2015 – 2019.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) chief executive, Marcial Boo, said the watchdog is now "content with the actions taken" by the party to tackle the issue since Keir Starmer was elected as party leader in 2020.

At a press conference in East London on Wednesday, Starmer apologised to the Jewish community for the hurt the period had caused, and said he did not see the EHRC’s decision “as the end of the road”.  

“I see it as a signpost that we are heading in the right direction,” he said.

He also categorically ruled out the former Labour leader’s return to stand as a Labour MP at the next general election. Corbyn, who remains an MP, had the Labour party whip removed in November 2020 for claiming accusations of antisemitism in the Labour party had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.

Jewish community leaders have welcomed Starmer’s commitment to continue to focus on tackling anti-Jewish racism in the party following the EHRC's announcement.

"This is a good and important day for the Labour party, but Sir Keir is right that there is more to do, and constant vigilance will be required,” Danny Stone, chief executive of the Antisemitism Policy Trust, told PoliticsHome.

“The Labour party’s accession from the Equality Commission's special measures follows years of anti-Jewish racism and a denial of the problem from elements within the party under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.”

Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) chair Mike Katz described today a “testament to the strong political leadership” of Starmer and said the party was in "moral turpitude and political denial" under Corbyn.

“It was JLM’s members that suffered the brunt of antisemitism in the party which is why we made the referral to the EHRC," said Katz.

"As Keir said today, this is a milestone, not the end of a journey. JLM will always be vigilant and call out antisemitism.

"Those who deny it or downplay the problem should be booted out."

He added: “Jews can once again call Labour their natural home and have no concerns about voting for it.”

The Community Support Trust (CST) and Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) in a joint statement said Starmer had “gone a significant way towards making the Labour party an unwelcome home for anti-Jewish racists” but added “there is still much work to do”.

"We always maintained that we would judge the Labour leadership on its actions rather than its words," they said. 

"The Labour party under Sir Keir Starmer has gone a significant way towards making the Labour party an unwelcome home for anti-Jewish racists.

"We believe that the Labour party and Sir Keir have engaged us honestly and transparently about the scale of the challenge throughout the EHRC monitoring period and we have welcomed this radically different approach."

However comedian David Baddiel told PoliticsHome it is important to acknowledge that antisemitism is an issue that goes beyond Labour.

"I think that the political and online community in this country seem to think that antisemitism is entirely focussed on the Labour Party 2015-2019, but that in itself is a 'Jews don't count' phenomenon – a reduction of an ancient, deep-seated and eternally recurring psychosocial malaise to something temporary,” Baddiel said.

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