UK Labour leader reiterates commitment to 'root out' anti-Semitism

British Labour leader Keir Starmer: We're making progress and we will root out the anti-Semitism that has infected our party.

Elad Benari ,

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer

British Labour leader Keir Starmer reiterated a commitment to “root out” anti-Semitism during his first speech to a Labour conference as leader.

Addressing the party virtually in Doncaster, delivered without an audience due to coronavirus, he was introduced by Jewish former MP Ruth Smeeth, who lost her seat in the December elections.

“As I promised on my first day as leader we will root out the anti-Semitism that has infected our party. We’re making progress – and we will root it out, once and for all,” he said, according to the UK Jewish News.

Starmer stressed that “this is a party under new leadership” and urged voters who had deserted Labour to take a fresh look at it.

“Racial inequality is one of the causes that brought me into politics. And the eradication of structural racism will be a defining cause for the next Labour government,” he added.

Smeeth received a standing ovation in the Commons for a speech detailing the anti-Semitic abuse she received in 2018.

A spokesperson for the Jewish Labour Movement said, according to the Jewish News, “We’re pleased and proud to see Keir Starmer choose Ruth Smeeth to introduce his keynote speech. It’s another clear signal that he means business when he says he wants to tackle Labour’s anti-Semitism problem.”

Starmer, who became party leader in April after Corbyn stepped down, apologized shortly after being elected for how the Labour Party has handled anti-Semitism within its ranks and committed to making change.

He later committed to setting up an independent complaints process for anti-Semitism in the party, saying it is “very important to me to seek to address the disgrace of anti-Semitism in our party as soon as possible.”

Corbyn had faced ongoing accusations of anti-Semitism, both over his history of hostility towards Israel and support for anti-Israel terrorist groups, as well as the rise in anti-Jewish rhetoric within the party.

Dozens of Labour members have been suspended over their anti-Semitic statements in recent years, while the party has been criticized for its failure to deal with the anti-Semitism within it.

In the British parliamentary election this past December, Labour recorded its worst performance, in terms of seats, since 1935.

British Labour MPs who lost their seats in the general election later cited Labour's "unwillingness" to stand up to anti-Semitism as one of the issues that led to the party’s loss in the election.