The new shadow education secretary has said it became “untenable” not to open up about her Jewish background as the row over alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party intensified.
Kate Green, who succeeded Labour’s Rebecca Long Bailey after her removal from the front bench, made the comment during an interview with Peter Mason, the national secretary of the party’s Jewish affiliate, at the weekend.
The talk was held over Zoom on Sunday, as part of Limmud Together UK Summer, a virtual day-long festival.
The MP’s late father was Jewish but she said she wasn’t aware of her heritage for a “long time” and declined to elaborate.
“It’s not my story. It’s my parents’ story. It’s very painful,” she said.
But she said that she was “not surprised” by the discovery, which came around ten years ago, having had her own suspicions.
“For a long time, I didn’t talk about it, partly because it was private. It wasn’t my story. My parents hadn’t talked about it. I felt I had to protect their privacy.”
But it eventually became “more and more hard [sic] for me not to talk about the fact that it was personal for me too” amid growing concerns about alleged antisemitism in the party.
She said that “it felt like I was either trying to cover it up, you know I couldn’t take the abuse that others were taking, or that I just wasn’t quite being honest about why I was saying some of the things I was saying.”
“As a result of now knowing what happened in my family, I’ve got to know my Jewish extended family, my Jewish cousins. That’s given me tremendous pleasure. I hope it’s given them pleasure. I also felt for them it was important to speak out, to say ‘I’m not ashamed of being part of this family’,” she said.
Elsewhere in the interview, the MP for Stretford and Urmston said she had spoken to constituents with children in Jewish schools that were forced to employ security staff and take additional safety precautions.
“I find it absolutely abominable that children and young people should not feel safe and confident in school. That should be a really safe place for them to be,” she said.
“I think it’s really a symptom of a wider set of concerns about the way in which discrimination, stigma and abuse are becoming mainstreamed in some parts of our country and our society, but i think it’s particularly shameful and dismaying when you see it happening in schools,” she later added.
On faith schools, Green expressed her “personal preference” for a secular education system but insisted she was not “in the business of unscrambling school structures”, saying the current landscape is “here to stay.”
But she also said many faith schools are doing an “excellent job of educating our children and young people” and “offering a very positive experience for their students, helping to mould their students’ character.”