Rachel Reeves: ‘Keir Starmer hasn’t let the Jewish community down’ fighting antisemitism

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Rachel Reeves: ‘Keir Starmer hasn’t let the Jewish community down’ fighting antisemitism

The shadow chancellor defended Keir Starmer track record on defeating anti-Jewish racism after being asked about Labour's candidate vetting procedures

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Rachel Reeves at press conference
Rachel Reeves at press conference

Rachel Reeves has launched a staunch defence of Keir Starmer’s record on fighting antisemitism in Labour amid accusations of dithering over allegations against two election candidates, saying of her leader; “He hasn’t let the Jewish community down.”

The shadow chancellor held a press conference on Thursday aimed at ramming home her criticism of Rishi Sunak’s economic strategy as it was confirmed that the UK fell into recession in the second half of 2023.

But answering questions from journalists after delivering her speech, Reeves was asked if Labour needed to tighten up its selection processes in the wake of a leaked recording of the Rochdale by-election candidate, Azhar Ali and ex-MP Graham Jones speaking about Israel and Jewish people at a meeting last October.

Reeves said: “Keir Starmer acted swiftly in response to the accusations and the stories that came out about Mr Ali and Mr Jones and that is absolutely right.

“In terms of the vetting procedure, my understanding is that this was a private meeting, not a Labour Party meeting, and the recording was released much later.

“Obviously, if we’d have known about these things, we would have taken action sooner. We can’t see everything everywhere, but when we do see evidence of antisemitism, we act swiftly to ensure the highest standards and rightly so amongst our MPs and among our parliamentary candidates.”

But then, defending the track record of Starmer himself on his pledge to “root out” antisemitism Reeves said:”I only returned to the shadow cabinet because I was sure of Keir Starmer’s commitment to that. And he hasn’t let me down, he hasn’t let the Jewish community down. It is right that both of them have been suspended.”

Labour withdrew support for its Rochdale by-election candidate, Azhar Ali, after the Mail on Sunday revealed he had allegedly blamed “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” for the suspension of Andy McDonald MP.

But there was anger that the party had apparently decided to stand by Ali after he apologised when the leaked recording captured him suggesting that Israel had taken Hamas’ October 7 attack as a pretext to invade Gaza.

Labour later dropped its backing for Jones, the candidate for Hyndburn, after it was reported that he had used the words “f****** Israel” at the same meeting as Ali, and also said British Jews who fought for the IDF should be “locked up.”

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