Keir Starmer interview: I will work to eradicate antisemitism ‘from day one’

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Keir Starmer interview: I will work to eradicate antisemitism ‘from day one’

Speaking exclusively to Jewish News, the Labour leadership frontrunner opens up about his Jewish family and plans to visit Israel for the first time with his kids

Jack Mendel is the former Online Editor at the Jewish News.

Sir Keir Starmer speaks during the community's Labour leadership hustings, alongside Lisa Nandy (Credit: Marc Morris)
Sir Keir Starmer speaks during the community's Labour leadership hustings, alongside Lisa Nandy (Credit: Marc Morris)

Labour leadership frontrunner Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to work with the Jewish community “from day one” to eradicate antisemitism if he becomes party leader – and revealed plans for his first family holiday in Israel.

Following the Jewish community’s leadership hustings on Thursday night, the shadow Brexit spokesperson said he was “among the loud voices in the shadow cabinet challenging” on antisemitism, and would take action “on day one”, if he got the top job.

Speaking exclusively to Jewish News, he opened up about his little-known Jewish family ties, saying: “My wife’s family is Jewish. Her dad is Jewish, their family came over from Poland. The extended family live in Israel”, in Tel Aviv.

While he hasn’t yet visited the Jewish state, he said he would “of course” like to go, adding: ”I haven’t been but we’re in regular contact with them and we’ve got various visits planned, basically to take our kids for the first time.”

During this week’s hustings event hosted at Liberal Jewish Synagogue, organised by the Jewish Labour Movement with this paper and Labour Friends of Israel, the leadership hopeful was criticised on Twitter after he declined to call himself a Zionist. Other contenders, Emily Thornberry, Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long- Bailey, did.

Asked why he chose not to, he said: “I do support Zionism. I said that last night. I absolutely support the right of Israel to exist as a homeland.”

“My only concern is that Zionism can mean slightly different things to different people, and as Lisa [Nandy] said, to some extent it has been weaponised. I wouldn’t read too much into that. I said it loud and clear – and meant it – that I support Zionism without qualification.”

Sir Keir Starmer speaks during the community’s Labour leadership hustings (Credit: Marc Morris)

He expanded on comments made during the event, where he said he would take action on antisemitism before the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)’s report into the party is published.

Starmer said he would look to tackle antisemitism by working closely with the community and having dialogue “from day one”, adding that he has doing so in his local Camden constituency for the last five years.

“Quite apart from what I think needs to be done, this has got to be something where I listen to other people. But I think it is very very important for the incoming leader to demonstrate on day one, the difference that new leadership will make on the issue of antisemitism.”

He stressed that he “would obviously speak to the equalities and Human Rights Commission straightaway. But what I don’t want to do is, I don’t want a gap between whenever the e outcome of the leadership race and whenever the EHRC reports, because I don’t think we can leave that gap”.

The politician added that his immediate action would not mean “anything inconsistent with what the report would say”.

Responding to criticism made during the hustings about his vocal opposition to antisemitism in the shadow cabinet, he had no regrets about remaining in Corbyn’s inner circle.

“On this issue as with so many others, we needed voices inside the Shadow Cabinet challenging, and voices outside the shadow cabinet challenging, and I thought, we did challenge within the shadow cabinet.”

Calling rows behind closed doors “pretty legendary”, he refused to go into “a tit-for-tat, who said this or that. All I will say, is that I was among the loud voices in the shadow cabinet challenging” on antisemitism.

If he was to become leader, he would look to work with the EHRC as a way to rebuild trust with the community, giving the commission “access to all of the records and all of the staff, so that they can get as  deep into this issue as they need to.”

On changing culture at the helm of the Labour Party, he said if he was to get the top job, “I’d be very clear that firstly, if you’re antisemitic you shouldn’t be in the Labour Party at all. And secondly if you’re not 100% committed to fighting antisemitism you shouldn’t be in the shadow cabinet”.

“It’s only if the person at the top of an organisation takes a personal interest and has a personal line of sight on issues like antisemitism, that you really change the culture and the values of an organisation”.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: