Sir Keir Starmer says he wants to see Labour’s rulebook changed so that in a clear case of antisemitism a member is automatically expelled.
The shadow Brexit secretary’s comments, which follow a similar call earlier this week from Gordon Brown, come as the party braces itself for Wednesday night’s broadcast of a potentially damaging BBC Panorama investigation into its handling of the issue.
Starmer also said the party should “throw open the books” to the investigation by the equalities watchdog into whether the party has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish.
“We should throw open the books and say you have got access to anything. You have got access to any member of staff,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“We have made some process changes which have improved things but we have still got a problem. Help us through it. Many organisations circle the wagons when they are challenged and that is the wrong approach. We have got to be very, very open.”
Starmer said the party had to take “decisive action”, adding: “Firstly, I would support a rule change that says you expel in clear cases of antisemitism automatically, just as we do for people who support another political party an election,” he said.
“Secondly, be very clear if you deny we’ve got a problem. That’s part of the problem.”
A BBC Panorama programme to be broadcast on Wednesday evening, made by the veteran investigative journalist John Ware, is expected to use leaked documents and interviews with insiders to show that advisers working for Jeremy Corbyn intervened in antisemitism disciplinary cases in such a way as to favour some of those accused.
On Tuesday, three Labour peers resigned over the party’s handling of antisemitism complaints, with the former general secretary David Triesman arguing that the party was “plainly institutionally antisemitic”.
Lord Triesman, who is Jewish and a former chairman of the Football Association, said he was resigning the whip in the House of Lords.
Ara Darzi, a former health minister, and Leslie Turnberg, a former president of the Royal College of Physicians, also told Angela Smith, the party’s leader in the Lords, that they were leaving the Labour benches.
Another prominent Jewish politician, Luciana Berger, resigned in February in protest at the party’s handling of complaints of antisemitism, along with six other Labour MPs.
Triesman said in his resignation letter: “My sad conclusion is that the Labour party is very plainly institutionally antisemitic, and its leader and his circle are antisemitic, having never once made the right judgment call about an issue reflecting deep prejudice. The number of examples is shocking.”
Lord Darzi told the BBC’s Newsnight: “As an Armenian survivor of the Armenian genocide I have zero tolerance to antisemitism, Islamophobia or any other discrimination against religion or race.”