The front-runner in the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of Britain’s Labour party on Saturday promised to lead the struggle against rampant anti-Semitism within the party.
Speaking on BBC Radio, Keir Starmer said: “We should have done more on anti-Semitism. If you are anti-Semitic you shouldn’t be in the Labour party. It is not complicated.”
Starmer said that in internal discussions he had advocated automatic expulsion for those found guilty of anti-Semitism.
“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,” he said, vowing to take “personal responsibility” for the matter.
Another candidate, Rebecca Long-Bailey, in an interview Sunday with Sky News pointed the finger at Corbyn for not tackling the issue.
“He does [bear personal responsibility] and he’s apologized and I think any Labour politician that leads the Labour Party should apologize again for what has happened because it has been unacceptable,” she said.
Rebecca Long-Bailey says Jeremy Corbyn bears personal responsibility for not tackling the issue of antisemitism in the Labour Party. #Ridge
— Sophy Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) January 12, 2020
During the interview, Long-Bailey said the party has to “work very hard and very robustly… to repair our relationship with the Jewish community.
“I was absolutely devastated, as many of our members were, to knock on the doors of Jewish community members who said that just they didn’t trust the Labour party anymore and we do need to work hard to rebuild that trust, but that requires action,” she said, expressing criticism of how Labour had dealt internally with anti-Semitism complaints.
“I wasn’t happy with the way our process was being run, I’ll be honest. I don’t think we were dealing with complaints quickly enough and I think that’s quite clear, I’ve been quite vocal about that.”
British Jews deserted the party in droves because they believed that Labour had become institutionally anti-Semitic under Corbyn, a pro-Palestinian politician who was elected to lead the party in 2015.
Corbyn has been accused of failing to deal with hundreds of incidents of anti-Semitism within his party, as well as his reluctance for the party to agree to a definition of anti-Semitism that included some anti-Israel language.
His ties to members of the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups and photos of him laying a wreath at the grave of a Palestinian terrorist also sparked worries among UK Jews and Israelis, who feared that the Jewish state could lose its close alliance with the UK if Corbyn won.
Meanwhile, the Mail on Sunday reported that another Labour leadership contender, Jess Phillips, had on Friday suspended an aide who was discovered to have posted a series of tweets between 2014 and 2016 calling Israel a “murderer” and saying there was “no difference” between the Jewish state and the Islamic State terror group.
Jess Phillips suspends key aide for posting antisemitic tweets:
– Labour leadership contender @jessphillips has been forced to suspend one of her key aides for posting ‘offensive’ antisemitic and anti-Israel tweets
— LAAS (@LabourAgainstAS) January 12, 2020
Phillips’s office manager, Salma Hamid, also praised Palestinian terror group Hamas and alleged that Israel was “inflicting Holocaust conditions on Palestinians.”
“As soon as Jess was made aware of these comments, she acted,” the report cited a spokesman for Phillips as saying. “Her office manager has been suspended with immediate effect.”
Phillips herself posted a statement on Twitter Sunday on the matter, saying the tweets were “completely unacceptable” and that taking action quickly was ” the only way to start building a bridge again with the Jewish community.”
Hamid drew a distinction between Judaism — “a faith based on peace and love” — and Zionism, according to the Mail on Sunday. However, a spokesman for Labour Against Antisemitism said that “these offensive tweets are, in our opinion, anti-Semitic and it is right that Jess Phillips has acted quickly and suspended her office manager.”
There was no immediate reaction from Hamid.