Dame Louise Ellman has confirmed she will not stand for re-election, after 22 years in Parliament.
The 73-year-old quit the Labour Party two weeks ago, saying Jeremy Corbyn was “not fit” to be prime minister and could not bring herself to advocate for him to enter Downing Street. At that point, she left open the possibility of fighting the next election as an independent.
But with great sadness, Dame Louise told the Jewish News: “I don’t want to be an MP without a political party behind me”. Labour, she said, had left her rather than the other way around, and though she would not say what she would do next, she still hoped to return to the party, of which she had been a member for 55 years, if there were a change of leadership.
Dame Louise, who was a long-time chair of the Commons Transport Select Committee, is also a former chair of the Jewish Labour Movement and consistently one of the most reliable supporters of Israel in the chamber.
In a wide-ranging interview to be published in the Jewish News’ Life magazine next month, the MP also revealed that a few months ago Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had invited her to speak to him about antisemitism in the party.
Dame Louise said: “I didn’t hear from him when I resigned from Labour. But he did ask me to come and see him a few months ago. I went reluctantly: I didn’t particularly want to talk to him because I never thought there would be any point in it. But I went: I told him how I felt, that he wasn’t acting on antisemitism, that I was appalled at what was happening to the Labour Party, that the Jewish connection to the Labour Party had always been a very strong one, but that now very few mainstream Jewish people wanted to be connected with it.”
Corbyn, she said, “listened, was very polite, but barely responded. Then he told me about a member of his party who was Jewish, who’d been there for many years, and felt very comfortable. To me, him telling me that in response only reinforced his lack of understanding — or lack of wanting to understand.”
She said she thought Corbyn had asked to see her — and the Labour MP Margaret Hodge — as “an exercise, so that he could say he had spoken to MPs who expressed concerns about antisemitism. But I wasn’t interested in talking to him, I wanted something done. He kept repeating that he was against all forms of racism and antisemitism. So I said, well, what are you going to do differently? But I didn’t get any answers”.
She said he “listened” but didn’t provide any answers when pressed on what further action he would take to crack down on the scourge.