The leader of the UK Labour party said in a Friday message to Britain’s Jewish community that he is “pleased with the progress” his party has made “against the stain of anti-Semitism” over the past year.
Keir Starmer released the video message ahead of the Passover holiday, praising the Jewish community for its response to the pandemic, as well as telling British Jews his party has “more work” to do in the fight against anti-Semitism.
“Last year we marked Passover as I was elected leader of the Labour Party and I vowed to take action against the stain of anti-Semitism within our party,” Starmer said.
“I am thankful for the opportunity the Jewish community has given me to begin to repair, to deepen, and to reinforce our relationship. I am pleased with the progress we have made although I know there is more work to be done,” he added.
— The Labour Party (@UKLabour) March 26, 2021
Speaking about the pandemic, Starmer commended “the Jewish community, who have come together to support those in need during this crisis. Your acts of kindness and giving tzedakah are an inspiration.”
“Now Jewish people across the country are volunteering to help the vaccination effort and demonstrating the importance of getting your COVID vaccine,” he added.
In April, Starmer took the helm of the defeated and divided party in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
Accusations of anti-Semitism within party ranks plagued Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, and are seen as a significant factor in its crushing defeat in the December 2019 general elections.
British Jews had 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, with widespread accusations that Corbyn himself was an anti-Semite — something he denied.
A UK government investigation into anti-Semitism in the party found that equality laws were broken and the party under Corbyn was “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.”
The report last year by the state anti-racism watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, came at the end of a year-long probe into allegations of anti-Semitism in the party.
The report found there were “serious failings” by the party’s leadership when it came to anti-Semitism, and that Labour had “inadequate processes” for handling complaints.
Labour suspended Corbyn following his response to the damning report. He had said he didn’t accept all of its findings and asserted that “the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media.”
Starmer’s wife is Jewish and the couple are raising their children to recognize their Jewish faith.