Richard Leonard has stopped short of backing the adoption of the international definition of anti-Semitism in full, prompting the Scottish Labour leader to be labelled “lacklustre”.
Quizzed on the row that has embroiled the party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Leonard said Labour needed to win the confidence of Jewish supporters.
But he did not endorse Labour acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition in its entirety despite being pressed on his opinions during an interview with BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland yesterday.
Leonard said: “I am willing to recommend we have further discussion and dialogue with the Jewish community, including the Jewish community in Scotland, which I intend to lead on, because we need to win the confidence of the Jewish community.
“We need to get to a position where not only have we got a very robust code on anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, which we are striving to achieve, but also which allows for freedom of speech, a discourse around Palestine and Israel.”
He added: “There has got to be a way through this, and the way through this may be that we do, in the end, adopt in full all of the working examples in the IHRA code, but I am also determined to make sure that freedom of speech is maintained inside the Labour Party too.”
Tory MP Paul Masterton savaged the response, saying: “Richard Leonard appears as lacklustre as Jeremy Corbyn when it comes to tackling anti-Semitism in Labour. Many within his own party will find it hard to understand why he was unable to endorse the IHRA code under questioning this morning.”
Leonard’s call for “further discussion” came as former transport minister Tom Harris yesterday confirmed he had quit Labour after 34 years – a move critics claimed showed the party was in “chaos”.
Harris, who has been a vocal critic of Corbyn, said the party was “just not the place for me any more”.
“It felt a wee bit like a bereavement,” Harris told a national newspaper. “I felt a bit emotional, but it’s just not the place for me any more. It’s a personal decision.”
Harris represented Glasgow Cathcart then Glasgow South from 2001 to 2015. He served as transport minister from 2006 to 2008.
The decision was confirmed as Corbyn attempted to build bridges with the Jewish community by acknowledging mistakes in the way the party had handled the crisis, saying they had been “too slow in processing disciplinary cases of anti-Semitic abuse”.
But his comments were rebuffed by the Jewish Labour Movement, who said trust had broken down with the party leadership.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism separately lashed out at Corbyn’s failure to apologise for his own conduct.