I am proud of my record as an anti-racist and a leading campaigner against the far-right and their hate, from when I joined the Labour Party in 1969, through my life since, including serving as a local councillor, Greater London Council member, MP, Mayor of London and Labour National Executive Committee member.
I have always implacably opposed anti-Semitism. As a life-long anti-racist, I am deeply hurt by – and fully reject – the accusations again being circulated across parts of the media and by political opponents that I am anything but 100 per cent committed to fighting all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.
To state my views clearly, I believe that racism is a uniquely reactionary ideology, used to justify the greatest crimes in history. It is an ideology that starts by declaring one human being inferior and ends with the horror of Auschwitz. I totally reject such views of Jews, Muslims, black people or any other group. I believe that the Holocaust was the greatest racist crime of the 20th Century.
The contribution of Jewish people to human civilisation and culture is immense 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.
I have taken real action to tackle anti-Semitism, and all other forms of racism, 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.
This was part of a wider strategy of, in order to promote understanding, respect and interaction between these diverse cultures and communities, we promoted public, free, celebrations and commemorations of all the main faith and secular cultural festivals and anniversaries observed by London’s communities.
The purpose of such events is twofold: on the one hand to celebrate the cultural and social contribution of London’s diverse communities; and on the other to encourage inter-faith and inter-community awareness to reduce prejudice born of ignorance and promote understanding.
Outside of elected politics, I also helped set up the Unite Against Fascism campaign against the far-right, in order to fully oppose their violent attacks on Jewish, Muslim and other communities.
Unlike many politicians, such as those Tories today who are scapegoating refugees and other communities in order to distract from their own disastrous handling of the Coronavirus crisis, I used my positions in public office to fight for equality and against racism.
I am proud of that record and will always continue to oppose all forms of racism and discrimination.