Ed Miliband says Labour leadership ‘completely committed’ to Israel

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Ed Miliband says Labour leadership ‘completely committed’ to Israel

EXCLUSIVE: The former party leader speaks to Jewish News about his relatives in Israel and says he was 'horrified' by 7 October

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Ed Miliband speaks to Jewish News in Chipping Barnet
Ed Miliband speaks to Jewish News in Chipping Barnet

Ed Miliband has told Jewish News that Labour’s leadership is “completely committed”  to the security of the state of Israel.

Speaking at an event in Chipping Barnet to promote the launch of Keir Starmer’s six election pledges, the former Labour leader said the 7 October Hamas terror attacks had left him, like the Jewish community across the world, “horrified.”

But Miliband, who was joined by local parliamentary candidate Dan Tomlinson and a group of party activists at Thursday’s campaign event, added his party did not believe continuing military action was “beneficial now for Israel, or for the people of Gaza.”

Jewish News raised concerns about the tone of several backbench Labour MPs in relation to the debate around Israel’s continued military action in Gaza, and suggested open hostility to the Jewish state could put some voters in the community off from backing Starmer’s party at a general election.

Miliband, the shadow secretary of state for energy security and net zero, replied: “My message to the Jewish community, here in Chipping Barnet, and elsewhere is that nobody should be in any doubt about the determination that Keir has shown to root out the scourge of antisemitism from the party.

“I think he has been absolutely clear and decisive about that. What happened in Israel and Gaza, let me just say the October 7 attack was an appalling terrorist atrocity. I have relatives in Israel, as you know.

“And it was a shocking, traumatic event, which horrified me and I think horrified the world.”We must have the release of the hostages, and I feel so much for all of the families who have relatives of hostages.

“We believe Israel has the right to defend itself. We do believe that the continuing Israeli action in Gaza is not either beneficial now for Israel, or for the people of Gaza, which is why we call for a humanitarian ceasefire.

“And obviously as you know, what we want to see is a two state solution with security for Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state. And I think that is the the only long-term solution.”

Dan Tomlinson, right centre, next to Ed Miliband in Chipping Barnet with Labour’s election pledge card

Pressed again on the rhetoric from some backbench Labour MPs, including the claim by Labour Tooting MP Rosena Allin-Khan that “no the country” is allowed to operate as Israel does, Miliband said:”We in the Labour leadership are completely committed to the security for the people and security for the state of Israel.

“I think nobody can be in any doubt where we stand on this.”

Ed Miliband was photographed meeting his aunt Sarah Ben Zvi at a kibbutz near Tel Aviv in April 2014. Ben Zvi is the cousin of Miliband’s mother, Marion. He met with other relatives during the three day visit to Israel, with his wife Justine.

Art historian and curator Miri Krimolovsky, who lives in Tel Aviv, has previously spoken of being second cousin to Miliband brothers Ed and David.

As Labour leader, he also told a CST dinner event of the importance of supporting Israel and recalled how the country “provided sanctuary” to his grandmother after the Holocaust.

As he spoke to reporters on Thursday Miliband was approached by local Barnet man Daragh Coleman, who said he had previously been a donor to the Tory Party. He said he had now joined Labour in protest at the government’s position on net zero.

Praising the efforts of Eco Judaism – the multi-denominational effort with the community to work for a cleaner world for future generations – Miliband said Labour’s push to ensure green transition was affordable for all.

The Doncaster MP said Labour was working to ensure that the banks provided support and help for those wishing to purchase heat pumps and solar panels.

“The whole premise of this green transition, it’s got to be affordable for people,” he added.

“We know what the dependence on fossil fuels did to people’s family finances. My number one priority is to make this transition, but to make sure that ordinary people can afford it.

“And that’s going to involve the government playing its role with things like the grants for heat pumps. But it’s also got to involve banks that are playing their role.

“We are now in discussions with the banks about how they can play their proper role.”

Miliband also expressed concern over the abuse and threats faced by Tory MP Mike Freer, who is standing down in Finchley and Golders Green at the election.

“I am appalled by the threats to Mike Freer, “he said. “We can disagree in terms of our political parties, but it’s a terrible situation when someone feels they have to stand down from parliament as a result of threats.

“Whoever they are, and whatever background they are from.”

Miliband said that going into the election campaign “the best thing we can do is set an example.”

Daragh Coleman, a former Tory donor, tells Ed Miliband he has joined the Labour Party in protest at the failure of the government on net zero.

Miliband played down suggestions Starmer’s party were heading for a resounding victory at the next election.

But he said after 14 years of Conservative government many people felt the “country has gone backwards when it comes to the NHS, crime, and anti-social behaviour.

“They want to see change in our country,” he added, as he highlighted a a physical and digital pledge card launched earlier by Starmer at an event in Essex, with key promises, such as stabilising the economy, cutting NHS waiting times, setting up Great British Energy, cracking down on antisocial behaviour and recruiting 6,500 new teachers, which are the latest steps in his “national missions”.

But warning against complacency, Miliband told activists the election result was not a “done deal” for Labour, noting that opinion polls had at one stage put him ahead in 2015 before he was defeated.

Miliband ventured to Chipping Barnet, as it is a key battle seat for the party, who are seeking to overturn a 4000 majority for sitting Tory MP Theresa Villiers.

Tomlinson, the local Labour candidate, told Jewish News it would be the “work of my political life to earn back the trust in this constituency of Jewish voters here.”

He added:”It starts now. It starts with me being a candidate that stands with you locally against antisemitism you are experiencing.

“It starts with me saying, I’ve been there to Israel, and I say very clearly Israel has a right to exist and to defend itself.
“I am going to be with you here locally, and internationally.”

Asked about the conduct of backbench Labour MPs who were repeatedly anti-Israel, he added:”I know that since October 7th in particular, Jewish people’s lives in particular have changed.

“The sense of not feeling safe going into central London, a rising awareness of antisemitism, which never goes away. So I know it’s tougher for me here with the history of our party.

“All that makes me do is makes me redouble my efforts to engage with, listen and stand in solidarity with the Jewish community here.”

Earlier Starmer had vowed to deliver stability as the cornerstone for changing Britain as he unveiled his party’s six election pledges amid a fanfare of endorsements from senior public figures.

The Labour leader said “most reasonable, tolerant people” in the country wanted what his party wanted for Britain, before he received an endorsement from Boots’ chief executive, Sebastian James.

Rachel Reeves and Angela Rayner both spoke at the morning event in Thurrock. The shadow cabinet then took Labour’s message to the country including key battleground seats such as Chipping Barnet.

The Conservatives dismissed Labour’s pledges as another “relaunch” for the party.

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