Emily Thornberry: I should have done more to tackle antisemitism under Corbyn

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Emily Thornberry: I should have done more to tackle antisemitism under Corbyn

Key member of former leader's shadow cabinet says she regrets not taking more action on antisemitism - but defends trying to get a Corbyn-led Labour government elected in 2019

Emily Thornberry (Photo credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)
Emily Thornberry (Photo credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

Senior Labour politician Emily Thornberry has said she should have done more to tackle antisemitism in the party when serving in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet but defended her efforts to get him into Downing Street.

Speaking on Question Time, the former shadow foreign secretary – who now leads for Labour on international trade – said she was disappointed by Corbyn’s reaction to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHCR) report last month.

“When I began to first see the cancer of antisemitism growing and becoming more apparent in the Labour Party, I thought that I was doing the right things,” said Thornberry, speaking after Corbyn’s suspension was lifted.

“I was calling it out in shadow cabinet, speaking to the leadership, speaking out in public, I put it in a large part of my conference speech… I thought that I was doing all that I could. Then I saw the EHRC report and I was profoundly ashamed.

“Even though I thought I did all that I could in the circumstances, I clearly should have done more. I’m not sure what, but there was clearly more than should have been done, and I think that anybody in the leadership of the Labour Party should have the same reaction.”

She said her feeling of “contrition” and her recognition that Labour should accept everything the EHRC said was “absolutely the right reaction”, adding: “I was very disappointed that Jeremy didn’t seem to have the same reaction.”

Asked if, with hindsight, she was right to promote Corbyn as prime minister, she said: “Absolutely. I’ve known Jeremy for more than 15 years. If he’d been prime minister he would have been radical, profoundly kind, profoundly principled.

“He had shortcomings. One was that he allowed his own personal feelings, where he felt like he was under attack when the issue of antisemitism arose, he wasn’t able to step back, take an objective view of it, and make the proper decisions. That was a profound weakness. He knows what I think because I told him.”

Middle East minister and fellow panellist James Cleverly called Thornberry’s continued defence of Corbyn “absolutely shocking”, asking: “How much evidence do you need? He spent decades associating with 9/11 truthers and Holocaust deniers.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: