Starmer pledges to lead the fight against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party
The shadow Brexit secretary has promised tougher action, saying the party had not done enough to tackle the issue.
Sir Keir Starmer has vowed personally to take charge of the fight to stamp out anti-Semitism in the Labour Party if he wins the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.
The shadow Brexit secretary, who is launching his leadership campaign in Manchester, said the party had not done enough to tackle the issue which bedevilled it under Mr Corbyn.
“We should have done more on anti-Semitism. If you are anti-Semitic you shouldn’t be in the Labour Party,” he told BBC1’s Breakfast programme.
“What I would do is lead from the top and say it’s my responsibility to deal with it. I wouldn’t say it’s for somebody else. I want the files, I want to know the numbers on my desk so that I can monitor this.
If you have been chucked out of the Labour Party for supporting another political party, you should be chucked out for being anti-Semitic Sir Keir Starmer
“Only when people who have left our party because of anti-Semitism feel that they can return will I be truly satisfied that we have dealt with the problem.
“There has to be leadership from the top and a personal involvement in this. I never want our activists, our members, our supporters, ever to knock on a door again and to be met with the response: ‘I usually vote Labour but I’m not going to do so because of anti-Semitism.'”
Sir Keir said that he had argued within the party for tougher action, with automatic expulsion for anyone found to be anti-Semitic.
“It seemed to me that if you have been chucked out of the Labour Party for supporting another political party, you should be chucked out for being anti-Semitic. I had those conversations around the shadow cabinet table,” he said.
Sir Keir has emerged as the clear favourite among Labour MPs and was the first of the six contenders to secure the 22 nominations required to progress to the next stage of the contest.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, the favourite of the left, and the backbenchers Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips have also passed the threshold.
However shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, with 10 nominations, and Clive Lewis, with just four, appear to be struggling.
They have until 2.30pm on Monday to get the necessary support or be forced to drop out.
Sir Keir would not be drawn into personal criticism of Mr Corbyn, although he said that it was right that he was now stepping down after Labour’s “devastating” general election defeat.
Unlike Ms Long-Bailey, who gave Mr Corbyn 10/10 and Ms Thornberry who gave him 0/10, Sir Keir refused to give him marks out 10 for his leadership.
“Jeremy Corbyn led us through really difficult times as a Labour Party. He positioned us in the right place on anti-austerity but we lost the election and now he is stepping down. That is the right thing to do,” he said.
“I am not going to get into ranking Jeremy Corbyn out of 10. I think it trivialises him. He is a friend and a colleague. I respect him, thank him for what he has done, but we are moving on now.”
Ms Long-Bailey, campaigning in Staffordshire, acknowledged the party had lost support among the Jewish community.
“Lifelong Jewish voters in our communities just couldn’t support us because we’d lost their trust,” she said.
“We’ve got to make sure this never happens again and that this trust is rebuilt quickly.”
However, in a thinly veiled swipe at Sir Keir, she said it was the party’s support for a second EU referendum which had cost it support in its traditional heartlands.
“I was told time and time again on the doorstep by those who voted leave in my constituency and across the Midlands and the North that they just felt we didn’t respect the democratic mandate,” she said.
“We’ve got to remember this, and we can never let that happen ever again.”