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Labour apologises ‘unreservedly’ to Jewish members as it passes new rules to tackle anti-Semitism

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Jewish Labour members received another unreserved apology from the party tonight as it brought in new rules to tackle anti-Semitism.

The party conference in Brighton voted to bring in a new independent disciplinary system that would take power away from the leader’s office.

The move was a key demand of the Equality and Human Rights Commission when it carried out its bombshell review into anti-Jewish racism in the party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. 

But despite some heckling in the conference hall at the Brighton Centre the measure was passed this evening after a vote of members and unions.

Earlier the conference had heard from Jewish former MP Ruth Smeeth, who said she felt ‘sick’ attending the event, for fear of more abuse from party members.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said the reforms, part of a number of changes to the constitution brought in today, were ‘a major step forward in our efforts to face the public and win the next general election’.

He added: ‘This is a decisive and important day in the history of the Labour Party. I promised to tackle anti-Semitism in our party. 

‘We’ve now closed the door on a shameful chapter in our history. I want to acknowledge the courage of all the people who spoke up against it. 

Earlier the conference had heard from Jewish former MP Ruth Smeeth, who said she felt 'sick' attending the event, for fear of more abuse from parry members.

Earlier the conference had heard from Jewish former MP Ruth Smeeth, who said she felt ‘sick’ attending the event, for fear of more abuse from parry members.

Shabana Mahmood told Labour conference that anti-Semitism in the party was 'shameful' and apologised 'unreservedly' to Jewish Labour members and the wider Jewish community.

Shabana Mahmood told Labour conference that anti-Semitism in the party was ‘shameful’ and apologised ‘unreservedly’ to Jewish Labour members and the wider Jewish community.

Labour's leader Keir Starmer and deputy Angela Rayner were both in the hall as they heard people urging members to pass the new rules.

Labour’s leader Keir Starmer and deputy Angela Rayner were both in the hall as they heard people urging members to pass the new rules.

Shabana Mahmood told Labour conference that anti-Semitism in the party was ‘shameful’ and apologised ‘unreservedly’ to Jewish Labour members and the wider Jewish community.

Ms Mahmood, the Labour Party national campaign co-ordinator, told members at the conference in Brighton: ‘It has been a shameful period in our history, utterly horrifying and today with your support for these rule changes we decisively turn the page on that shameful period in our history.

‘We apologise unreservedly to our Jewish members and to the wider Jewish community and we resolve from this conference floor today that no community will ever go through this pain again.’

 

 

Ms Smeeth, who now represents the Jewish Labour Movement, told delegates: ‘I stand here with mixed emotions.

‘Relief that we can finally turn the page on the blight of anti-Semitism that has infected our party. Anger that it has taken five years to get here.

‘Disbelief that despite the hurt of so many Jewish members, there are people in here today who say it was all a smear. And sorrow that so many wonderful friends were forced to choose between their faith and their politics.’ 

Ms Smeeth said this was her 22nd year at Labour Party conference, adding: ‘And yet I feel sick at the idea of being in Brighton knowing that I will be a target for more racist abuse for being here.

‘But I’m here to help deliver the promise that Keir made when he became leader. He promised the country he would root out the anti-Semitism that has infected our party and end the anti-Jewish hate which undermines the values we were founded to protect.’

Mark Ferguson, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, also apologised for discrimination against all Jewish members and supporters.

As delegates prepare to vote on plans for a new independent complaints process, Mr Ferguson, who is chairing the debate, said: ‘I know many of you will have been shocked by the conclusions of the EHRC report, in particular that we as a party have been found to have unlawfully discriminated against and harassed Jews. A source of real shame for our party.

‘Keir rightly made it a key pledge of his leadership to put this right. The NEC agreed an action plan which, under David’s stewardship, is well on the way to implementation. Wendy will no doubt expand on the details when she moves the set of rule changes.

‘But I want to start, from this chair, on behalf of the whole party to say sorry to our Jewish members. Sorry to our Jewish members, supporters and those in the wider community. Conference, rest assured it will not happen again. I hope that delegates will help us in that objective by backing this set of rule changes, proposed this afternoon.’

Mr Ferguson also rejected those heckling and shouting, adding: ‘We are going to conduct this debate, this serious debate, in the way it was intended. I will not accept heckling, booing or any of other attempts to hassle myself or any other person speaking from this platform, now or any other time for the rest of this session.’



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