As you would have no doubt read by now, after much consideration, I have decided to resign from the Labour Party.
The ongoing issues around my suspension from the Labour Party have become a distraction from the key political issue of our time – which is to replace a Tory government overseeing falling living standards and spiralling poverty, while starving our schools and the NHS of the vital resources they need.
We live in dangerous times and there are many issues I wish to speak up on and contribute my experience from running London to, from the need for real action to tackle climate change, to opposing Trump’s war-mongering, to the need to end austerity and invest in our future here in Britain.
The suspension has made it difficult for me to speak out on a range of issues I care about. Whilst I have no plan to run for elected office, I do wish to continue speaking up for social and international justice, and I believe that taking this course of action will best enable this.
I do not accept the allegation that I have brought the Labour Party into disrepute – nor that I am in any way guilty of antisemitism.
As part of my life struggling against racism, I have always implacably opposed antisemitism. I abhor antisemitism, I have fought it all my life and will continue to do so.
The contribution of Jewish people to human civilisation and culture is unexcelled and extraordinary. You only have to think of giants such as Einstein, Freud and Marx to realise that human civilisation would be unrecognisably diminished without the achievements of the Jewish people.
And I have taken real action to tackle antisemitism when in office.
As Leader of the Greater London Council in the 1980s and as London Mayor in the 2000s, I ensured that London’s government resourced the fight against racism and anti-Semitism, as well as supporting Jewish community organisations and cultural events.
When I was Leader of the Greater London Council (GLC), it funded a number of Jewish community organisations, including: the Jewish Social Responsibility Council, the Jewish Association for the Physically Handicapped, the Jewish Employment Action Group, the Redbridge Jewish Youth Association and Agudas Israel in Hackney.
As London Mayor, I hosted, took part in and promoted events to mark the annual Holocaust Memorial Day. I hosted the Anne Frank exhibition at City Hall and also lighting of the Menorah ceremonies for the Hanukkah festival. I organised, in partnership with Jewish cultural organisations, a Jewish festival in Trafalgar Square – the Simcha on the Square. I also supported the Jewish Museum’s exhibition on multicultural Britain and published several guides to Jewish London.
I am proud of my life-long record of fighting racism, discrimination and the far-right. Unlike many politicians, I have not just given lip service to fighting discrimination and racism, but put the full resources of the administrations I led at the GLC and GLA to this end.
I abhor all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia, and will continue to be a vocal opponent of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy towards migrants, which has fed a rise in racism and hate crime.
I also recognise that the way I made a historical argument has caused offence and upset in the Jewish community. I am truly sorry for that.
Under Labour’s new General Secretary I am sure there will be rapid action to expel anyone who genuinely has antisemitic views.
I am loyal to the Labour party and to Jeremy Corbyn. However any further disciplinary action against me may drag on for months or even years, distracting attention from Jeremy’s policies.
I am therefore, with great sadness, leaving the Labour Party.
We desperately need an end to Tory rule, and a Corbyn-led government to transform Britain and end austerity. I will continue to work to this end, and I thank all those who share this aim and who have supported me in my own political career.
I hope you will continue to read and share my regular pieces in ‘WriteYou.’
First published on WriteYou.