Keir Starmer: This year ‘Never Again’ must be said more defiantly

The Labour Party leader made the remarks in a room of prominent Westminster figures, Holocaust survivors, religious and community leaders


Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the His Majesty's Opposition, speaks to attendees of the Holocaust Education Trust, January 17, 2023 (Credit: Holocaust Education Trust)

Sir Keir Starmer has said ‘Never Again’ must be stated more defiantly this year and that some antisemites “hide” behind the Palestinian cause.

The remarks came during a Holocaust Education Trust reception in parliament on Wednesday evening, which also saw impassioned speeches from Cabinet minister Michael Gove and Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

Before inviting Starmer to the podium, Karen Pollock, chief executive of HET, thanked the leader of the Opposition for his role in removing antisemitism from the Labour Party.

Addressing more than 200 people, Starmer said they had gathered to renew “that solemn vow” of ‘Never Again’.

He said: “But this year of course, I’m afraid we have to say it a little more defiantly. We have to raise our voices and carry that message to new audiences.”
He said he “could not have imagined” that the phrase ‘Never Again’ would be used “in the way that we are today.”

Referencing the Hamas terrorist attack, Starmer continued: “Over a thousand people murdered in the vilest of circumstances for that same reason, because they were Jewish.

“And even since October 7, that we here in this country would see Jewish buildings, businesses, synagogues, schools, Jewish children, targeted by antisemitic hate.

“This year on Holocaust Memorial Day I acknowledge as I always do the work of the Holocaust Education Trust, we reaffirm Labour’s support for that work, and recommit to the fight against antisemitism wherever it lurks in our society, including in my party.”

He concluded, “This year we say something more to the Jewish community, around the world and here in Britain, we see what you see. We see that people who hate Jews are at times hiding behind people who support the just cause of Palestine. And more than that we say, we are here for you, we could never stand in your shoes and fully understand your anxiety, that terrible burden of history, but we can walk alongside you, and we will. We will never let this country or our world become unsafe for you. That is what ‘Never Again’ means.”

Echoing Starmer, Pollock said: “Marking Holocaust Memorial Day now, just over one hundred days after the October 7 massacre, perpetuated by Hamas, who have their own genocidal policy towards Jews, the day takes on new meaning.

“Within hours of the first reports of the appalling attack, we saw celebrations and claims that this was legitimate resistance. Antisemitic incidents have rocketed since. The Holocaust has been politicised and the Jewish State accused of the very crime we are here to remember tonight: genocide. A term coined because of the Holocaust that has a specific legal definition, not an opinion, not a soundbite, and certainly not a stick to beat the Jewish people with.”

Pollock paid tribute to the Holocaust survivors who have passed in the last year, including the “ever charming” Zigi Shipper and Ben Helfgott, a “titan of Holocaust education and remembrance.”

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, said the work of the Holocaust Education Trust was needed “more than ever”.

He said: “Antisemitism starts with discrimination and ends in the ravines of Babyn Yar. It is the oldest and most poisonous form of racism. That’s why, as the Holocaust moves from living history to history, the importance of ‘Never Again’ has never been more important. Yours is a light that will never go out.”

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, speaker of the house, told attendees about a recent trip he took to Israel in which he visited some of the hardest hit communities. He said witnessing the sites of the atrocity would “be with me forever, it will never go away.”

“We must have peace in the Middle East, we must have permanent peace for Israel. Israel has the right to exist, it must be allowed to exist,” he said.

He thanked the survivors of the Shoah for their attendance and added that he was “looking forward” to having a permanent memorial to Holocaust remembrance in Westminster.

Attendees also heard from a member of HET’s young ambassador programme, and from Holocaust survivor Manfred Goldberg.

Goldberg, 93, shared some of his life story with the crowd and paid tribute to “our dear friend” the late Zigi Shipper.

He urged guests to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, but to "carry its warnings onwards. Jews understand remembrance. It is our fertile soil and our compass. It's where we plant and nourish our identities and find our strength to carry on.

“This Holocaust Memorial Day I urge you to be guided by the profundity of remembrance. To be challenged by it, but ultimately to find our mission renewed. If this happens, our fragile hope for a world that has learned the lessons of the Holocaust and challenges antisemitism in all its forms, may stand stronger.”

Goldberg was joined by several other Holocaust survivors, seated in the front row.

Also in attendance on the night was Sir Sajid Javid, Lord Eric Pickles, Lord John Mann, Lord Ian Austin, Sir Gerald Ronson, Penny Mordaunt MP, Tom Tugendhat MP, Sir Ed Davey MP, and Nicola Richards MP who hosted the evening.

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