Why was Keir Starmer so damningly silent on Jeremy Corbyn for so long, asks Jewish Chronicle editor STEPHEN POLLARD
Jeremy Corbyn has never been a fit person to be a Labour MP – let alone leader of the party.
Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to suspend his predecessor is, in that sense, long overdue.
Even without the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s damning report into Labour anti-Semitism, a man who allies with terrorists and the enemies of the West should only ever have been on the fringes of British politics.
Jeremy Corbyn’s comments prompted Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to suspend him from the party this morning
But Sir Keir removed the whip from him for one specific reason – Corbyn’s assertion in the wake of the EHRC report that Labour anti-Semitism had been ‘dramatically overstated’.
There could hardly be a more striking example of the change that Labour needs to undergo than the removal of the whip from Jeremy Corbyn.
It needs to be followed, of course, by his expulsion. But it is a good start. And a surprisingly clear start, because while Sir Keir has always managed to come up with stirring generalities attacking anti-Semitism, when it comes to specific action he has until now been almost entirely useless.
Worse, he sat round the Shadow Cabinet table with Corbyn and campaigned vigorously to make him prime minister in December. He did, on a small number of occasions, speak in public about Labour anti-Semitism. He also says he spoke out in the Shadow Cabinet – and we must take his word on that.
One would expect Sir Keir to understand the importance of the issue given that his wife, Victoria, is Jewish. Indeed, he has spoken of how his father-in-law says Jewish prayers at Friday night dinners.
Speak to MPs and members, however, who were forced out of the party because they are Jewish or could not abide the racism, and they will tell you he did nothing to support them.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) was suspended from his party on Thursday for downplaying a damning report into anti-Semitism
Former Labour MP Luciana Berger, who was subject to obscene abuse and attacks, revealed that before calling her on Wednesday night before the report’s publication, Sir Keir had not spoken to her since September 2018. So much for his unwavering commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism.
Not that he was unusual in that respect. While some brave activists risked their personal safety and mental health by taking on the anti-Semites, many Labour members stood on the sidelines.
Even the ‘decent’ members who were genuinely not anti-Semitic nonetheless aided and abetted the racists by doing nothing to stop them – including, of course, Sir Keir. When the Jewish Chronicle started to shine a light on Labour anti-Semitism, the response was vitriolic. Like the many others who have fought Labour’s racists, I have been abused, attacked and vilified. So this report, with its forensic and utterly damning findings, was as if a dam had burst. And I have to admit to shedding some tears.
For five years I have treated the abuse and attacks as water off a duck’s back. But, as I realised yesterday, there is a limit.
Jewish Chronicle ediotr Stephen POllard (pictured) said Jeremy Corbyn has never been a fit person to be a Labour MP let alone leader of the party
No more could the Corbynites and their defenders dismiss the accusations of anti-Semitism as ‘smears’ – the usual tactic.
An unimpeachable official report, with impeccable research and judgment, has shown how right we were.
It felt lonely at times. Even within my own Jewish community there were those who wanted us to lay off – who thought it was more sensible to try to reach an accommodation with Labour. Or rather, as I think of that idea, to appease a bunch of racists.
But throughout this saga there have been heroes who put their heads above their parapet when they could have opted for a quiet life – such as the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which made the first formal complaint to the EHRC, and the many activists who took the fight to social media.
Yesterday was a dramatic day. But it is only the beginning.
Now we will see what Sir Keir is really made of.