Keir Starmer says he is 'not afraid to say sorry' for Labour anti-Semitism on York visit

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Sir Keir Starmer has said he is "not afraid to say sorry" for the way Labour has handled cases of anti-Semitism during a visit to York - less than 24 hours after his leader refused to do so in a BBC interview.

The Shadow Brexit Secretary held a rally for members at the York Railway Institute yesterday and was joined by Rachael Maskell, who is campaigning to hold on to her seat in York Central, and Anna Perrett who is running for the York Outer constituency.

Sir Keir Starmer, pictured in Leeds in May, discussing Brexit at Heart Cafe, Headingley Enterprise & Arts Centre. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Sir Keir Starmer, pictured in Leeds in May, discussing Brexit at Heart Cafe, Headingley Enterprise & Arts Centre. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

And when questioned about an interview between Jeremy Corbyn and Andrew Neil broadcast the evening before the visit, in which Mr Corbyn was asked four times whether he would like to apologise for the way the Labour party deals with anti Semitism claims, Mr Starmer said: “It was a tough interview. Interviews with Andrew Neil are always tough. I thought Jeremy gave really good answers but it was tough – there’s no getting away from that."

During the BBC's The Andrew Neil Interviews on Tuesday evening, Mr Corbyn accused Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis of being wrong about part of his criticism of Labour's handling of anti-Semitism.

The Labour leader was challenged over Rabbi Mirvis's allegation that Labour's claims it is doing everything to tackle anti-Jewish racism was a "mendacious fiction".

"No, he's not right. Because he would have to produce the evidence to say that's mendacious," Mr Corbyn replied.

He insisted he has "developed a much stronger process" and had sanctioned and removed members who have been anti-Semitic.

Mr Corbyn also denied that the blight increased after he took over the party, saying: "It didn't rise after I became leader.

"Anti-Semitism is there in society, there are a very, very small number of people in the Labour Party that have been sanctioned as a result of complaints about their anti-Semitic behaviour."

But he repeatedly refused to apologise when asked by Mr Neil.

However yesterday Sir Keir said: “I’m not afraid to say sorry for the way we’ve handled these cases and I and others will redouble our efforts to make sure that we improve.

“There is no place for anti-Semitism in our party. We need to make sure that anybody who has sadly left the Labour party over anti-Semitism feels they can come back to it.

“What I’m seeing going around the UK is very energised Labour party members and supporters.

“People are genuinely interested in bigger picture stuff – what we’re going to do about the NHS, what we’re going to do about housing, what we’re going to do about public services – because that’s what really matters to them.”

Mr Starmer said the campaign in seats like York Outer – which has been held by Conservative Julian Sturdy since 2010 – is important for the party.

He said: “It’s key and we have an excellent candidate in Anna who’s battling hard. In these key marginals the battle matters and that can really change things.

“We’d love to do really well there and that’s what we’re fighting for and we have started by putting in a really excellent candidate.

“We want to build on the York Central constituency where Rachael has been a fantastic MP and I think people in York and across the country recognise that she’s been a brilliant member of Parliament and we want to get her re-elected so she can continue that great work.”

He took questions from an audience of York Labour supporters about issues including housing, schools, the health service and Brexit.