One of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest aides as Labour leader has insisted he personally guided the party’s strategy on the definition of antisemitism.
The party initially refused to adopt all the examples of possible antisemitism accompanying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, provoking widespread condemnation and leading to a new low in relations between Labour and British Jews in summer 2018. Some have speculated this stance was led by senior figures around the then leader.
But in new book Left Out, published this week, Corbyn’s former chief of staff Karie Murphy states: “I did not persuade Jeremy on IHRA. That was his decision and I always respected his decision as leader.”
Labour failed to consult even the main communal leadership bodies before adopting its code of conduct that included the central definition and some examples. Only after condemnation from Jewish leaders and MPs, and appeals from union leaders, did the party’s governing body adopt the full definition with all examples.
The book, by journalists Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire, charts the final years of Corbyn’s leadership.
It also looks at the fallout from another big moment in the antisemitism scandal when footage emerged of Corbyn referring to two pro-Israel hecklers at a speech by the Palestinian envoy as “Zionists” and suggesting they didn’t “understand English irony”. Former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks described the remarks as the most offensive by a British politician since Enoch Powell.
The book says: “Corbyn took it badly. According to his closest aides, he withdrew. ‘He just couldn’t deal with it,’ said one. ‘So he just behaved in a way that made him seem like he didn’t care, and he 100 percent cares – he just looked like he didn’t. It appeared that he had lost sight of his responsibilities as an existential funk set in.”