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.”
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