ITV politics presenter Robert Peston has revealed he spoke to Jeremy Corbyn about his failure to tackle the antisemitism crisis within Labour and told him it made him “feel uncomfortable”, adding that he found the leader’s response to the problem “incredibly naïve”.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Mr Peston also said he found Labour’s attempt to rewrite the internationally recognised code on antisemitism “profoundly uncomfortable.”
Mr Peston, who told the audience that he identified as a “secular Jew”, said: “I have been profoundly uncomfortable with how long it took the Labour Party to sign up to the standard IHRA definition and all its examples of antisemitism.
“It has been too slow to take punitive action against those who have said some very disgusting things about Jews.
“I don’t myself think Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic. I think he is genuinely naive. I’ve told him how uncomfortable I was with how slow they were to start dealing with this problem.
“I am concerned about how slow Labour have been to address this.
“People whom I regard as friends and family feel so alienated from Labour at the moment. I think they’re moving in the right direction but I will not believe, because it is such an indictment of our democracy, that the Labour Party is institutionally racist - this is such a horrific thought.”
Discussing his family background, Mr Peston, who is currently ITV’s Political Editor and presenter of the Peston on Wednesday show, said “I’m not a religious Jew, but all my family are Jews. I identify as a secular Jew.”
Mr Peston also used his talk to criticise the BBC, where he used to work, over their failure to understand how to be impartial in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
He said: “I love the BBC but I did feel that during the Brexit campaign they slightly got confused about what impartial journalism meant. It is the role of the journalist to say ‘we’ve got these two contradictory arguments, I’m now going to revise which of these is likely to be closer to the truth’.
“The problem with the BBC was during the campaign it put people on with diametrically-opposed views. It didn’t give any help in assessing which one was the loony and which one was the genius.
“I do think that they went through a period of just not being confident enough. Impartial journalism is not giving equal airtime to two people, one of whom says ‘the world is flat’ and the other says ‘the earth is round’. That is not balanced, impartial journalism.”