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Former MP rejoins Labour nearly two years after quitting over antisemitism

Written by on 27/09/2021

Former MP Dame Louise Ellman has rejoined Labour nearly two years after she quit the party with an attack on former leader Jeremy Corbyn for allowing antisemitism “to flourish”.

The 75-year-old, who served as MP for Liverpool Riverside between 1997 and 2019, said Mr Corbyn‘s successor, Sir Keir Starmer, was a Labour leader in whom British Jews can “once again” have trust.

Her return to Labour comes after the approval of an independent complaints process – as well as other safeguarding and disciplinary measures – by the party’s conference in Brighton this week.

It followed a critical report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission over Labour’s handling of antisemitism allegations.

Jeremy Corbyn
Image: Jeremy Corbyn quit as Labour leader after the party’s 2019 general election performance

Dame Louise, who is a leading figure in the Jewish community and a former chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, said prior to the 2019 general election that she could “no longer advocate voting Labour when it risks Corbyn becoming prime minister”.

In a statement announcing her decision to quit the party in October 2019, she added that Mr Corbyn was “not fit to serve as our prime minister”.

Dame Louise alleged that, under the Islington North MP’s leadership, antisemitism had become “mainstream in the Labour Party”.

Others need more proof before they take the plunge and also rejoin Labour

By Kate McCann, political correspondent

Dame Louise Ellman rejoining Labour after leaving the party over antisemitism in 2019 is a big moment for Sir Keir Starmer.

In her statement announcing the decision, Dame Louise said she was returning to her political home, having been a member of the party for 55 years before she took the “agonising” decision to leave.

It is another indication that Labour is changing and that control is being wrestled from one faction by another. More than that, it is the beginning of an emotional healing process which for many has been a long time coming.

But it isn’t the end of the story and both Sir Keir and Dame Louise know it. After a conference motion passed earlier this afternoon which was viewed by many as anti-Israeli, both parties said there is more work to do to ensure everyone feels safe within the party.

Dame Louise said Labour cannot win back the trust of the Jewish community “whilst the Jewish state is continually demonised and smeared”.

The rule changes which signal a new disciplinary process have been welcomed by many, but there are others who are yet to rejoin Labour who need more proof before they take the plunge.

On Monday, Dame Louise said she had now rejoined her “political home” of Labour in order to “continue this fight” against antisemitism from inside the party.

“I do so with the reassurance that Keir understands the scale of the challenge we still have to overcome and confident that he is completely committed to doing what is necessary to rid Labour of the ugly stain of antisemitism in all its guises,” she said.

She added: “Keir has shown a willingness to confront both the anti-Jewish racists and the toxic culture which allowed antisemitism to flourish.

“In beginning the process of stamping out the poison of antisemitism, he has demonstrated leadership and, crucially, action. He has my full support.

“The rule changes accepted by conference this week are an important step to ensure the party’s disciplinary processes are fit for purpose, a vital part of tackling antisemitism in the party.”

Britain's Labour Party leader Keir Starmer attends Britain's Labour Party annual conference, in Brighton, Britain, September 26, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Image: Sir Keir Starmer said Dame Louise’s return was a ‘poignant moment’

Sir Keir described the return of Dame Louise to Labour as “a poignant moment”.

“Her courage and dignity in standing up against appalling abuse is testament to her Labour values,” he said.

“I am heartened to know that her faith in our party has been restored enough for her to return to her political home.

“The Labour Party is now relentlessly focused on showing that our credible and ambitious policy programme can change people’s lives.

“I look forward to Louise’s contributions.”

Dame Louise has been listed to speak at a Labour conference reception event in Brighton on Tuesday night.

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