‘As Bad as You Can Get’: Labour Chief Starmer Blasts Predecessor Corbyn’s Response to Antisemitism Report
UK Labour leader Keir Starmer has blasted his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn for damaging the party’s attempt to deal with antisemitism in its ranks, saying, “I’m deeply frustrated that we’re in this place.”
Labour experienced a series of antisemitism scandals during Corbyn’s tenure as leader from September 2015 to this past April. He stepped down after Labour suffered a crushing defeat in the December 2019 general election, and Starmer has expressed determination to purge antisemitism from Labour’s ranks.
Corbyn caused yet another scandal last month after the government’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that Labour suffered from systemic antisemitism while he was in charge. Corbyn claimed that the EHRC findings were the result of a conspiracy against him.
In response, Corbyn was suspended from Labour, only to be reinstated shortly after. Starmer then “withheld the whip” from Corbyn, a maneuver that prevents Corbyn from sitting in parliament with the Labour delegation.
The Jewish Chronicle reported that Starmer told a conference held by the Jewish Labour Movement on Sunday that Corbyn’s latest antics caused serious damage to his attempts to end antisemitism in Labour and win back the goodwill of the Jewish community, saying Corbyn “undermined me and what I was trying to achieve.”
“I felt that over the last six, seven months that we had slowly taken some steps in that direction,” he said of his campaign against antisemitism in the party. “We had got better processes in place; we’d begun to have the engagement that we needed.”
“I wanted the publication of the EHRC report to be a defining moment where we could move on to the mend part of the exercise,” he continued. “My team and I spent a lot of time in the days leading up to the launch of that report making sure that everybody understood the approach we would be taking so we could actually move on to that action plan.”
“I can’t tell you how disappointed I was with Jeremy Corbyn’s response,” Starmer said. “Because the words he used, what he said coming from the former leader of the Labour party in response to that report, were just about as bad as you could get.”
“Everything that has followed in the last few weeks follows from those words,” he noted. “That has exacerbated the pain and the hurt. And we’re in a position that I did not want to be in.”
“I genuinely thought that on the day of the commission report we could take the next important step towards mending the situation with an action plan. I still think we can,” Starmer added.
“I don’t want us to be talking about Labour and antisemitism in months and years to come. I do think we can get past this. We had been making good progress,” he commented.