Published: 13:04, 29 October 2020
| Updated: 13:12, 29 October 2020
Sir Keir Starmer faces pressure to take action against Jeremy Corbyn after the former Labour leader refused to fully accept the conclusions of a damning report on anti-Semitism within the party.
Mr Corbyn said he did “not accept all” of the findings of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which found the party broke the law on harassment and discrimination under his watch.
And he maintained on Thursday that the extent of the problem had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by opponents and the media.
Shortly after Mr Corbyn’s statement, Sir Keir told a press conference the findings of the equality watchdog marked a “day of shame” and said he was “truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused”.
“If – after all the pain, all the grief, and all the evidence in this report – there are still those who think there’s no problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, that it’s all exaggerated, or a factional attack, then, frankly, you are part of the problem too,” Sir Keir said.
With the slogan “a new leadership” displayed prominently, he added: “And you should be nowhere near the Labour Party either.”
Pressed about his predecessor’s remarks, Sir Keir said that he “would look carefully at what Jeremy Corbyn has said in full”, but added: “Those who deny there’s a problem are part of the problem.
“Under my leadership, we will have zero tolerance of anti-Semitism.”
Sir Keir said he would fully implement the recommendations from the EHRC, which called for an independent process to handle anti-Semitism complaints after finding three breaches of the Equality Act.
The investigation found evidence of “political interference” in the complaints process by then leader Mr Corbyn’s office and criticised a “serious failings in leadership”.
In a statement, Mr Corbyn said his team had “acted to speed up” the process and had made “substantial improvements” in handling complaints.
“One anti-Semite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media. That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated,” he said.
“My sincere hope is that relations with Jewish communities can be rebuilt and those fears overcome. While I do not accept all of its findings, I trust its recommendations will be swiftly implemented to help move on from this period.”
Sir Keir’s spokesman did not immediately respond when asked what action would be taken, with Mr Corbyn’s statement being at odds with the new leader’s warning.
During the press conference, Sir Keir was pressed over whether Mr Corbyn, who he served under as shadow Brexit secretary, was fit to have been leader.
“The report doesn’t make individual findings about Jeremy Corbyn,” Sir Keir said.
But he acknowledged it made “strong findings about leadership”, adding: “We all have to accept the findings in this report, we all have to accept responsibility.”
EHRC lead investigator Alasdair Henderson told reporters that the extent of the problem was greater than Mr Corbyn alone but said that he “does have a responsibility ultimately for those failings”.
Campaign Against Anti-Semitism chief executive Gideon Falter criticised Mr Corbyn’s remarks as a “very sad response”.
Conservative Party co-chair Amanda Milling called on Sir Keir to act.
“It’s time for him to hold those responsible for this sorry period in Labour’s history to account – if Starmer is serious about this, his first act should be to expel Jeremy Corbyn,” she said.