This afternoon, an important debate will take place in parliament on the contribution of the Jewish community to the UK. My Labour colleagues and I want to take the opportunity to reaffirm the respect and friendship we feel towards our Jewish neighbours, and I look forward to attending the debate. We know the poisonous damage that antisemitism is causing in our party, and as well as celebrating the achievements and contribution of the Jewish community to our country, the debate offers us a chance to express our determination to put things right.
But actions will be more important than words. This week, Labour’s new MP for Peterborough, Lisa Forbes, took her seat in parliament. A few days before her election, it emerged that she had shared antisemitic material on social media. On her first day in parliament, she apologised, and told her fellow Labour MPs that she intends to undertake training to educate herself about antisemitism.
I campaigned in Peterborough, and I know Jewish members are disappointed and angry that I did so, and are concerned that they can no longer trust me to stand up for them. I feel deep regret that my action has lost me trust among Jewish members and friends. I have been spending time this week speaking to community leaders and parliamentary colleagues about the steps I and the party must take to rebuild the trust we have lost.
Labour’s record on antisemitism is under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission; I’m glad the General Secretary of the party has said we will cooperate fully with their inquiry, and we must commit to take immediate action in response to any actions or rectifications the EHRC recommends. But there is much more we need to do as a party now. That has been the subject of the discussions I’ve attended in parliament this week.
I’m proud to represent a diverse, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic community, and I feel shame that any part of our community should feel that I, or my party, would not speak for them. I’m already beginning to work with faith and community groups locally and nationally to look at how we can break down siloes between different communities in the constituency, and build friendships and trust, and I’d like to invite all party members to support me in this work. It is the Labour party that has always taken the lead in tackling prejudice, discrimination and hate, and we must do so once again, including understanding the role our own behaviours play. If you’d like to work with me on this initiative in Stretford and Urmston, or to share your ideas and thoughts, please do get in touch.
Member of parliament for Stretford and Urmston