Trust me, Labour has changed

We’ve come a long way since the dark days of Corbyn’s leadership


LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer addresses charities at the Civil Society Summit on January 22, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

February 16, 2024 15:56

This week has seen dreadful news for the community on the problem of antisemitism in Britain. The CST annual report showed record numbers of antisemitic incidents, with figures spiralling after the 7th October assault. A Conservative Councillor was expelled from the Conservative Party for alleged antisemitism. Labour withdrew support from the Labour candidate in the Rochdale byelection because he claimed Israel ‘deliberately allowed’ the October 7 pogrom. And then the Labour candidate in Hyndburn had to be suspended over alleged anti-Israel comments he made at the same meeting.

Keir Starmer was right to take the unprecedented decision of withdrawing Labour’s support for Azar Ali, even though it was too late to take him off the ballot paper. It was a tough decision – leaving the people of Rochdale without an endorsed Labour candidate and perhaps opening the possibility of George Galloway gaining ground in the constituency.

Galloway’s record is deeply concerning for all of us. The last thing Jews want and need in this climate is Galloway back in the House of Commons.

Throughout my political life, I have fought many battles. I battled against Militant in the 1980s. I defeated the vile racism of the BNP in 2010 in my constituency. And when it came to standing up against antisemites within my party – the party that prides itself on anti-racism – I did not shy away.

But this experience means that I know just how difficult it is to eradicate racism and how determined you need to be. Under Corbyn, antisemitism moved from the fringes to the mainstream and I thought it would take a long time to eradicate that anti-Jew racism.

I am genuinely relieved and delighted by how far we’ve come in such a short period of time. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Equality and Human Rights Commission giving the Labour Party a clean bill of health following its highly critical report into Labour in October 2020.

In just three years, we were able to transform a Party that had broken equality law for its treatment of Jewish members into a place where Jews feel welcome and antisemitism is not tolerated. We worked with the Party and leaders across our community to bring in a new, independent complaints system and put a stop to the delays and political interference that plagued the old system.

But throughout all of it, we were clear that changing the Party’s culture would be the longest and hardest battle.

We all long for the day when antisemitism is expelled from all political parties. In the meantime, the most crucial barometer comes from how the Party leadership deals with antisemitism when it occurs. On this, Keir Starmer has been ruthless – making clear that zero tolerance means zero tolerance.

When Keir was first elected Labour’s leader, he said that he would measure success by whether those who left the Labour Party over antisemitism were willing to return. Now, my friends Dame Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger, who were hounded out of Corbyn’s Labour by antisemites, are back in the Party. A huge marker of just how far we have come.

I know the fight is not yet over. But we have always known we can never take our foot off the accelerator. The world’s oldest hatred is also the hardest to eradicate. But the Labour Party of 2024 is unrecognisable from the Party of 2019. I should know.

February 16, 2024 15:56

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