Jewish leaders have praised new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer for having “achieved in four days more than his predecessor in four years”, with his steps to tackle anti-Semitism in the party.
Sir Keir, who replaced Jeremy Corbyn as leader on Saturday after convincingly winning the leadership contest, spoke to Jewish community leaders over Skype, along with newly-elected deputy leader Angela Rayner.
The former shadow Brexit secretary apologised for Labour’s failure to deal with anti-Semitism in its ranks, calling it a “disgrace”, and promised to establish new procedures to deal with fresh cases.
Equality and Human Rights Commission
The issue dogged Labour after Mr Corbyn’s election as leader in 2015, and leadership hopefuls were regularly asked how they would tackle it.
An inquiry into Labour’s handling of the crisis is currently being undertaken by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Sir Keir, in his online call on Tuesday, said he had demanded that all the outstanding anti-Semitism cases be “on my desk at the end of the week”, while also vowing to set up an independent complaints process.
The Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl, Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) chairman Jonathan Goldstein, Community Security Trust (CST) chairman Gerald Ronson and Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) chairman Mike Katz issued a joint statement following the online meeting.
We want to have a normal relationship with Labour
They said: “While we would have fully understood the need to focus entirely on coronavirus at this time, Keir Starmer has already achieved in four days more than his predecessor in four years in addressing anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.
“As we discussed with Keir and Angela, we want to have a normal relationship with Labour whereby we can discuss the full range of issues affecting our community, from religious freedom to Israel, from Jewish schools to poverty, from refugees to the environment – and not just anti-Semitism.
“This has certainly been a good start.”
Sir Keir thanked the representatives for meeting with him “not least so close to Passover”.
“It was very important to me to seek to address the disgrace of anti-Semitism in our party as soon as possible,” he said.
“Today, I repeated once again the apology I made as soon as I was elected leader.
“Over the last few years, we have failed the Jewish community on anti-Semitism.
“Labour is a proudly anti-racist party and, going forward, it will not be enough to ‘pass the test’ on anti-Semitism. We need to set new standards for best practice.
“At today’s meeting, I committed to begin work on setting up an independent complaints process, co-operating fully with the EHRC’s inquiry and asking for a report on all outstanding cases to be on my desk at (the end of) the week.
“I also discussed with the Jewish Labour Movement my ambition to roll out training of all Labour Party staff as soon as practically possible.”
Jewish Labour Movement
Others on the call included the Board of Deputies chief executive and public affairs director, Gillian Merron and Phil Rosenberg respectively, JLC chief executive Simon Johnson, CST chief executive David Delew and Peter Mason, national secretary of JLM.
Party staff included Sir Keir’s chief of staff Morgan McSweeney, Ellie Robinson, director of stakeholder engagement, Nick Parrott, policy adviser to the deputy leader, and Alex Barros-Curtis, legal adviser to Sir Keir’s leadership campaign.
Campaign advisers Lord Jonathan Kestenbaum and Sir Trevor Chinn also dialled in.