Gordon Brown tells packed shul Labour owes community 'unqualified apology'

Ex-PM said apology should be 'starting point in rebuilding trust' as he advocated new procedures


Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said his party "owes the Jewish community an unqualified apology” in an emotional address at Hampstead Synagogue.

In a damning indictment of Labour’s current disciplinary procedures, he argued for the party to automatically expel members for antisemitism if evidence is "irrefutable", as its crisis over Jew-hate among its ranks grows.

Mr Brown said Jeremy Corbyn’s party cannot be "less demanding and less immediate" on antisemitism, given it already automatically expelled people for other issues.

In a speech delivered to a packed audience at the famous shul on Sunday for the 17th annual Isaiah Berlin Lecture, Mr Brown said: “To the Jewish community, we promised ‘never again’. We promised that the crimes of hatred, discrimination and persecution would never recur.

"We promised we would offer support and protection.

“But at a time when attacks on Jewish schools have risen 100 per cent, attacks on or near Jewish synagogues 400 per cent and attacks are carried out on social media thousands of times over, we have not lived up to that promise”.

Mr Brown, who attended the lecture by his wife Sarah and one of his sons, Fraser, said an apology to the Jewish community would only be "a starting point in rebuilding trust", calling for a broad strategy, including better education in schools and stronger laws against racism in all its forms.

He added: "We cannot go on ignoring the consequences of the upsurge in hate and hate speech, all too often in the form of sinister, anonymous and untraceable internet trolling.

"Opposing antisemitism and every manifestation of racism goes to the heart of who we are and what we stand for as Labour. It's about the moral soul of a party, whose most basic goal is a commitment to equality for all - not just for some who suffer oppression - but everyone."

Outlining how the approach to antisemitism cases he advocated, Mr Brown said members should be expelled but be able to appeal to the decision through an independent process once outside the party.

He said: "When an offence is as counter to our core principles as antisemitism, we cannot, in all conscience, be less demanding and less immediate in our response and we should automatically expel – and not just suspend – in cases where there is irrefutable evidence of antisemitism or any kind of racism.

"After all, automatic expulsion is the procedure we adopt when members vote for, or support, other political parties."

He continued: “We should ensure the right to an appeal, but from outside the party not from inside, and the appeal system has to be independent of the Labour Party’s hierarchy with members chosen for their standing and integrity among the public – and after consultation with Jewish and other communities.”

Earlier at a private reception he presented an award on behalf of the synagogue to former Labour MP Ian Austin, who, he said, had done more than any other MP to tackle antisemitism.

Mr Austin resigned the Labour whip in February and now sits as an independent.

Among those attending the lecture were Labour MPs Sir Keir Starmer and Dame Louise Ellman, together with former MP Ann Keen, who was formerly Mr Brown’s Parliamentary Private Secretary.

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