LONDON — British opposition leader Keir Starmer on Wednesday hailed his high-flying Labour Party’s fight against antisemitism after receiving a clean bill of health from the UK’s anti-racism watchdog, and told any members unhappy with his efforts to “leave.”
Opinion polls currently indicate that Starmer is on course to seize power from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives at a general election expected next year, after more than a decade in opposition.
Since 2019, he has restored the party’s standing after taking over from the far-left Jeremy Corbyn — who Starmer confirmed would not be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate at the next election.
The 60-year-old former head of the state prosecution service was speaking as the UK equalities watchdog removed Labour from two years of special supervision, over its past failings on antisemitism.
A landmark October 2020 report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission ruled that Labour under Corbyn had broken the law in its “inexcusable” handling of complaints.
The period saw Jewish members and lawmakers leave the party in droves as criticism of Israel and Zionism veered into toxic antisemitism from Corbyn supporters.
Starmer said he was determined to root out anti-Jewish prejudice from the party.
“Antisemitism is an evil and no political party that cultivates it deserves to hold power,” he said after the EHRC gave Labour the clean bill of health.
“Those who seek to blame others or downplay what happened in our party are, themselves, part of the problem and we will have zero patience or tolerance of that,” Starmer said.
Corbyn was suspended by the party in 2020 after he claimed opponents had exaggerated the scale of antisemitism in Labour for “political reasons.” He had represented Labour in parliament since 1983 and now sits as an independent lawmaker.
“The Labour Party is unrecognizable from 2019 and it will never go back,” Starmer said.
“It will never again be a party captured by narrow interest. It will never again lose sight of its purpose or its morals. And it will never again be brought to its knees by racism or bigotry.”
Starmer added: “If you don’t like that, if you don’t like the changes that we’ve made, I say the door is open and you can leave.”
Corbyn tweeted that Starmer’s move to block him from standing as a Labour MP was a “flagrant attack on the democratic rights of Islington North Labour Party members.”
“It’s up to them — not party leaders — to decide who their candidate should be,” he added.
A general election is due by January 2025 at the latest, but widely expected for next year.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.