Keir Starmer to take 'personal responsibility' for ridding Labour of anti-Semitism

11 January 2020, 10:27

Sir Keir Starmer claimed he will lead the fight against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party
Sir Keir Starmer claimed he will lead the fight against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to take "personal responsibility" for stamping out anti-Semitism from the Labour Party if he becomes leader.

The shadow Brexit secretary said he would "lead from the top" when tackling anti-Semitism if he wins the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

Sir Keir, who is set to launch his leadership campaign in Manchester later today, said his party had failed to do enough to tackle the issue under Mr Cobyn's tenure.

"We should have done more on anti-Semitism. If you are anti-Semitic you shouldn't be in the Labour Party," he said.

"What I would do is lead from the top and say it's my responsibility to deal with it. I wouldn't say it's for somebody else. I want the files, I want to know the numbers on my desk so that I can monitor this.

"Only when people who have left our party because of anti-Semitism feel that they can return will I be truly satisfied that we have dealt with the problem."

The leadership hopeful will be launching his campaign today in Manchester
The leadership hopeful will be launching his campaign today in Manchester. Picture: PA

The MP for Holborn and St Pancras said "leadership from the top" was needed to rid Labour of anti-Semitism, as well as "personal involvement."

"I never want our activists, our members, our supporters, ever to knock on a door again and to be met with the response: 'I usually vote Labour but I'm not going to do so because of anti-Semitism,'" he continued.

"It seemed to me that if you have been chucked out of the Labour Party for supporting another political party, you should be chucked out for being anti-Semitic.

"I had those conversations around the shadow cabinet table."

The 57-year-old said that he had previously called for tougher action on the issue and pushed for automatic expulsion for anyone found to be anti-Semitic.

Sir Keir already looks likely to replace Mr Corbyn
Sir Keir already looks likely to replace Mr Corbyn. Picture: PA

After being the first of the six leadership hopefuls to amass 22 nominations from fellow MPs - in order to progress to the next stage of the contest - Sir Keir currently looks most likely to replace Mr Corbyn.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, the favourite of left-leaning Labour supporters, and the backbenchers Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips have also passed the threshold.

Emily Thornberry and Clive Lewis appear less favoured by their colleagues, with just 10 and four nominations respectively.

The deadline for securing enough nominations is 2:30pm on Monday, otherwise candidates will be forced to drop out.

Sir Keir refused to personally criticise Mr Corbyn, however he accepted it was right for him to step down following the party's "devastating" defeat in the general election.

"Jeremy Corbyn led us through really difficult times as a Labour Party. He positioned us in the right place on anti-austerity but we lost the election and now he is stepping down," he said.

Ms Long Bailey is the favourite of the left-leaning members and MPs
Ms Long Bailey is the favourite of the left-leaning members and MPs. Picture: PA

"That is the right thing to do.

"I am not going to get into ranking Jeremy Corbyn out of 10. I think it trivialises him. He is a friend and a colleague. I respect him, thank him for what he has done, but we are moving on now."

Ms Long-Bailey rated the current Labour leader's performance as 10/10, while Ms Thornberry gave him zero.

Sir Keir has been keen to show grassroots party members his radical credentials in a bid to obtain the backing of left-wing supporters whose votes will ultimately determine the outcome of the contest.

He rubbished suggestions that he was too "centrist" to succeed.

"I want the Labour Party to be radical in the sense that we need fundamental change. Frankly, I find all the labels just get in the way," he said.

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