The community may trust Keir Starmer to clear up Jeremy Corbyn’s mess on antisemitism, but the clock is ticking and words must start translating into action.
Since being elected, he has been keen to stress that he’s not Jeremy Corbyn.
When he got the job, he apologised, committed to “tear out this poison” of antisemitism, and arranged a call with communal leaders. They said he had “already achieved in four days more than his predecessor in four years”, fighting the scourge.
He has got off on the right foot, and it has bought him trust and time. While there is no point acting hastily ahead of the Equality and Human Rights Commission report later this year, it is important to be decisive.
This week saw his first real test, and truth-be-told, it was a lukewarm response.
A mediocre 6-out-of-ten.
Ex-shadow ministers Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy spoke at a virtual meeting, featuring expelled and suspended activists including Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein.
Walker was kicked out for making comments which were “grossly detrimental” to the party. She previously said “many Jews were chief financiers of the slave trade”, claimed Holocaust Memorial Day only commemorates Jewish victims, and that she hadn’t “heard a definition of antisemitism that I can work with”.
Meanwhile Greenstein was expelled for three breaches of the party’s regulations, including an email in which he mocked the phrase ‘final solution’.
Now, during the election campaign Keir signed up to the Board’s ‘Ten Pledges‘ to root out antisemitism, which included part five, that stated:
“Any MPs, Peers, councillors, members or CLPs who support, 10 campaign or provide a platform for people who have been suspended or expelled in the wake of antisemitic incidents should themselves be suspended from membership.”
A clear and direct breach.
Yet Labour didn’t discipline Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy, let alone suspend them.
The party released a statement condemning remarks of the expelled activists “in the strongest possible terms” that their views are not in line with the party, and MPs involved in the Zoom chat are “being reminded of their responsibilities and obligations.”
Essentially, just words, not action, as promised.
It’s true, Keir’s Labour issued a strong unambiguous statement of condemnation – a far-cry from the platitude-filled nothing releases under Corbyn. But this cannot be the precedent going forward.
Keir is someone the community can work with and trust, and to that end, he has more time to solve antisemitism than Corbyn did.
But it’s not unlimited.
In the back of many people’s minds, is the fact he was in Corbyn’s cabinet.
When speaking to Jewish News before the election, he justified serving in the cabinet by saying “we needed voices inside..challenging.. and I thought, we did challenge within the shadow cabinet.”
So, while Labour’s antisemitism problem is not a mess he created – he certainly has to it clear up.
He has said all the right things, but it’s now incumbent that some action happens on clear-cut breaches, or trust will begin wane.