Gordon Brown urges Jeremy Corbyn to tackle 'running sore' of Labour anti-Semitism

Posted On: 
15th August 2018

Jeremy Corbyn must heal the "running sore" of anti-Semitism in Labour, Gordon Brown has said, as he urged the party to fully adopt an international definition of anti-Jewish abuse.

The former Labour prime minister said Jeremy Corbyn had 'got to change' his stance on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Jewish abuse

The ex-Labour prime minister said Mr Corbyn had "got to change" his stance on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition on anti-Semitism, which the party's ruling body has chosen not to fully implement alongside its examples of abuse.

A string of Jewish groups and some of the party's own MPs have criticised the decision to omit four of the IHRA's examples relating to Israel, while three trade union bosses have also urged Labour to adopt the code in full.

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The party has said it will continue to consult Jewish groups over the code, while Labour MPs are preparing to hold a vote in September in a bid to adopt the IHRA guidelines.

Mr Brown today revealed that he had been pushing "hard" for the party to accept the full legal definition of anti-Semitism, as he urged the Labour leader to acknowledge the "deep hurt" that had been caused to the Jewish community in recent weeks.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, he said: "Jeremy Corbyn has got to change.

"He cannot sustain particularly what he is saying about the international agreement on what we do in our attitudes to both the Holocaust and to Israel.

"I predict to you that's going to change within a few weeks. I believe that it will change but even that will not be enough.

"You have got to show by your actions - not simply by saying some words - that you understand the deep hurt that has been caused. I'm very clear about that."

The former prime minister - who has previously described Mr Corbyn as "a phenomenon" - said Labour's "problem" with anti-Jewish abuse had "got to be dealt with" swiftly.

"Within a month, within a few days, we have to approve the international recommendations about how we deal with questions about the Holocaust," he said.

"And it's absolutely central to the progress of a democratic society that is tolerant and liberal, that a party like the Labour party comes out strongly against any anti-Semitism within the far right.

"I'm not going to predict whats going to happen within the Labour party... but this problem has got to be sorted out and it's got to be sorted out immediately."

He added: "This cannot keep going on as a running sore. And it's not because it's an embarrassment - it is because it is simply wrong.

"The persecution that has been suffered by the Jewish community must never be forgotten. It is something that has got to be remembered every time we see vicious actions and discrimination and prejudice in different communities around the world."

A Labour spokesperson said: “In recognition of the serious concerns expressed, Labour's National Executive Committee decided to re-open the development of the Code of Conduct, in consultation with Jewish community organisations and groups, in order to better address their concerns.

"Jeremy Corbyn has made clear that there is no place for antisemitism in the Party, and that rooting it out and rebuilding trust and confidence among Jewish communities are priorities." 

A source noted that the decision over the code of conduct was a matter for the National Executive Committee and not the Labour leadership.


The intervention from Mr Brown came as it emerged that the Jewish Labour Movement, a longstanding affiliate of the party, had pulled out of talks with Labour's working group on anti-semitism after accusing party chiefs of trying to deliberately "antagonise tensions".

The JLM had been demanding the full adoption of the IHRA definition and its examples, as well as a permanent place on the party's ruling National Executive Committee.

In a letter to general secretary Jennie Formby, seen by the Independent, JLM chair Ivor Caplin said: "Unless and until we are able to obtain satisfactory outcomes to the below, the Jewish Labour Movement cannot participate in good faith with the antisemitism working group’s activities."

Responding to the story, a Labour source said: "The party has always sought to work constructively with JLM and invited them to join the working group meeting.

"Jennie and the NEC have made clear that they want to work with the Jewish community to address their concerns about the code of conduct and tackle anti-Semitism within the party and across society."