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Starmer pledges to draw upon Christians in the Labour Party

07 April 2020

 Aaron Chown/PA Wire/PA Images

The newly elected Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, arrives at BBC Broadcasting House on Sunday

The newly elected Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, arrives at BBC Broadcasting House on Sunday

THE new leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, has said that he intends to draw upon the work of Christian activists in his party.

In a statement issued on Monday by Christians on the Left, the Labour Party’s Christian affiliate group, Sir Keir, who was elected leader on Saturday, said: “I want to ensure that Christians on the Left’s activism is drawn upon in Labour’s work in opposition.

“In particular, Christians on the Left’s recent campaigns on climate change and poverty, ethical banking, tax evasion or arms sales must also be priority issues for Labour to tackle.”

During the leadership race, members of Christians on the Left nominated Sir Keir to be leader, and Angela Rayner to be deputy leader (News, 14 February). Sir Keir has appointed Ms Rayner as his deputy.

The Christians on the Left statement welcomed Sir Keir’s election as leader. “Labour can now get on with the task of providing a credible Opposition to the government, working with it to help the fight against the coronavirus but fulfilling its constitutional duty to scrutinise and propose alternative ideas,” it said.

“Keir expressed strong support for Christians on the Left in his statement to our members. He recognised that Christian Socialism is a fundamental part of the Labour Party’s history. He welcomed our ‘Love your CLP’ campaign as an example of the type of culture he wants to encourage in the Party and committed to working with Christians on the Left and other faith groups. We welcome his commitment to root out anti-Semitism in the Party.”

On Monday, the Christian MP David Lammy was appointed Shadow Justice Secretary, and the chair of Christians on the Left, Jonathan Reynolds, was appointed Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary.

Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, Sir Keir’s predecessor, the Labour Party was strongly criticised for the anti-Semitism shown by some members. In November, the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, wrote in The Times that a “new poison” had taken hold of the party (News, 29 November 2019).

On the day that he was elected, Sir Keir wrote to the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, “to reiterate my commitment to stamping out antisemitism within the Party and to extend an invitation to meet me to discuss this further”.

Ms van der Zyl said on Saturday: “We were very pleased that he [Sir Keir] and all the other leadership contenders signed up to the Board of Deputies’ Ten Pledges on anti-Semitism. The new deputy leader Angela Rayner also signed up to these pledges. . . Now they must act to rid the party of the awful disease of anti-Jewish racism.”

The chief executive of the pressure group Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Gideon Falter, said: “As the new leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir has no time to lose in making good on his pledge seek out anti-Semitism and ‘tear out this poison by its roots’ and rebuild relations with the Jewish community.”

Sir Keir’s wife, Victoria Alexander, is from a Jewish background, and has family in Tel Aviv. He said that he has attended many events in London synagogues with her family.

On Monday, Sir Keir appointed the Christian MP David Lammy as Shadow Justice Secretary.

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