UK Politics

Sir Keir Starmer: Labour has 'duty' to tackle anti-Semitism

Protest against anti-Semitism in Labour Image copyright Getty Images

Labour has "a duty to do whatever is necessary" to tackle anti-Semitism in the party, says Sir Keir Starmer.

The shadow Brexit secretary said three peers who quit the party on Tuesday over the issue were "not alone".

But he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was up to Labour to make changes so party members "feel they can return with confidence".

A BBC Panorama programme into accusations of anti-Semitism in Labour will be aired tonight on BBC One.

Lord Triesman, Lord Darzi and Lord Turnberg all resigned the whip citing accusations of anti-Semitism within Labour.

Lord Triesman - the general secretary of the Labour Party for two years under Tony Blair - accused the party's leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and "his circle" of being anti-Semitic.

And he said they had "never once made the right judgement call about an issue reflecting deep prejudice".

A Labour spokeswoman said it "completely rejects these false and offensive claims".

She added that, at "all levels", the party was "implacably opposed to anti-Semitism and is determined to root out this social cancer from our movement and society".

Sir Keir said he was sad to see the resignations, but it "reinforces the sense of duty" he has for the party to do everything it can to tackle anti-Semitism within its ranks.

He admitted that it was not just these three peers, but members across the country who were leaving for the same reason.

"It is very easy for people in leadership positions across the shadow cabinet, like me, to try and duck responsibility," he told Today.

"But we have all got a responsibility, a collective responsibility, and I think we have got to take decisive action."

'We have got to be open'

Sir Keir said he backed bringing in an automatic expulsion rule in "clear cases of anti-Semitism" - mirroring what the party does when a member supports another political party at an election.

He also said those who denied there was a problem were "part of the problem".

The party is currently being investigated by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission after a number of complaints about anti-Semitism.

Sir Keir said Labour should "throw open the books, say you have got access to anything [and] access to any members of staff" during the probe, and tell the watchdog: "We have still got a problem, help us through this."

He added: "Many organisations circle the wagons when they are challenged and that is the wrong approach. We have got to be very, very open."