Former Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has said party leader Jeremy Corbyn “does not set out to be antisemitic but that’s where he ends up.”
“I am a Labour Party member but I am ashamed of the way in which Labour has handled the antisemitism issue in the last year,” Balls said on Thursday evening.
The former politician married to Yvette Cooper MP warned the party would remain “stuck on the issue” until Corbyn realises he has said “antisemitic things”.
Speaking at Finchley Progressive Shul’s fundraising gala, Balls was interviewed on the bimah by CNN journalist Richard Greene.
“To be fair to Jeremy Corbyn, he has been absolutely consistent in very many of his views for a very long time,” Balls joked, citing Corbyn’s views on the European Union, state of Israel and American foreign policy.
“He sees himself as a champion of tackling racism and promoting equality but I think his anti-Americanism, his anti-imperialism and his anti-capitalism and his anti-Israel rhetoric takes him to a place where he ends up saying things which are antisemitic,” he said.
“There’s no excuse for that which can be dressed up in language about America or Israel and so it’s a shameful thing,” he added.
Sat next to the Conservatives’ Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer, the former Labour MP appeared to be in good spirits throughout the evening.
Balls helped draw the evening’s raffle, prompting laughter from the audience when he read aloud the personal phone numbers of raffle participants.
He also took part in an auction, bidding £450 for a signed lyrics sheet by James Bond composer Don Black – but lost a bidding war to another guest.
The former politician was asked to speak at the gala by his sister-in-law Erica Wax, who lived with Finchley Progressive rabbi Rebecca Birk while at Harvard University.
Balls, who lost his seat to Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns in 2015, also spoke about his experiences on Strictly Come Dancing and of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
“If you had said to me when I lost my seat in May 2015,” he said, “that four years on at this synagogue, I would be talking about my experience climbing Kilimanjaro, my experiences as a now retired former professional dancer, I would not have believed you.”
“On the other hand, if you had told me that in the same period Jeremy Corbyn would be elected leader of the Labour party twice, that we would lose the Euro referendum, George Osborne would become editor of the Evening Standard, and that Theresa May would become prime minister and then lose an election, and that Donald Trump would become president of the US, I wouldn’t have believed you either.”
“As Yvette said to me, it’s one thing to go from politics to reality TV and embarrass your children, it’s another thing to go from reality TV to become president of the US and embarrass your country again and again and again,” he added.
Labour has been approached for comment.