British Labour leader Keir Starmer said on Tuesday that his mission was to “rip out antisemitism out by its roots” in order “make our party fit to serve our country”, the Jewish News reported.
The comment, made during the Labour party’s annual conference, was greeted with a loud and lengthy standing ovation by delegates and MPs.
In a speech that was wide-ranging in the topics it covered, Starmer referred back to the pledge he made as he back leader in April 2020 to tackle anti-Jewish racism in his party.
“I knew when I became leader of this party we had a big task before us. We had to change our party and prepare for power all in one go. Not change for change sake. Change with a purpose, to make our party fit to serve our country. That’s why we had to rip out antisemitism by its roots,” he said.
The Labour party faced a major problem with antisemitism under former leader Jeremy Corbyn, who faced ongoing accusations of antisemitism, 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 antisemitic statements in recent years, while the party has been criticized for its failure to deal with the antisemitism within it.
In the most recent British parliamentary election, Labour recorded its worst performance, in terms of seats, since 1935.
Corbyn eventually stepped down and was later suspended from Labour following the publication of a report which found numerous cases where the party leadership under Corbyn underplayed, belittled or ignored complaints by Jewish members, and sometimes actively interfered to support political allies.
He was reinstated to Labour after appearing to apologize for belittling the report.
Starmer, who became party leader after Corbyn stepped down, apologized shortly after being elected for how the Labour Party has handled antisemitism 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.”