A leading journalist has revealed that Labour’s antisemitism crisis is so “toxic” that he feels he must declare that he is Jewish before reporting on it.
Robert Peston, ITV’s political editor, made the remark at the annual Cudlipp Lecture, saying that “in the current febrile political climate, it matters – and I say this with regret – that I am Jewish,” as he described the “toxic question of antisemitism in the Labour Party.”
Mr Peston, who is the son of a Labour peer (although he has not been a member of a political party since he was 24 years old) and who recently moderated the Labour leadership hustings of the Party’s Jewish affiliate, describes himself as secular, and explained that “I feel I have to say [that I am Jewish] – because although I strive to be as impartial in covering this issue, as I would a general election, or reporting on a corporate takeover, I cannot shed my Jewish identity in the way that I can cease to be a member of a political party or can dispose of shares in a company.”
He went on to explain that “there is an argument, that because antisemitism is a personal issue for me, I should not report on it,” adding that he is “someone who believes in the importance of impartial journalism.”
According to Mr Peston, Seamus Milne, Jeremy Corbyn’s head of communications, criticised his reporting, saying it had “not been remotely fair or balanced and included a high degree of slanted editorialising.” The “low point” was Mr Peston’s interview with the Chief Rabbi following his courageous intervention in the general election, which Mr Milne cited as a reason not to permit ITV news to interview Mr Corbyn, Mr Peston said. Mr Peston maintains that the interview was “impartial”.
Referring to the Chief Rabbi’s intervention, Mr Peston said that “this alienation of an important part of a British community could not be ignored, which is why I was surprised – to put it mildly – that Milne cited it when disqualifying me as a suitable interviewer of his boss.” He went on to ask: “Would Milne or any of us have qualms about a woman journalist reporting on gender pay inequality or a gay journalist covering gay marriage in the church? I doubt it. In a way it is extraordinary any of this needs saying.”
On 28th May 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.
In the first release of its Antisemitism in Political Parties research, Campaign Against Antisemitism showed that Labour Party candidates for Parliament in the 2019 general election accounted for 82 percent of all incidents of antisemitic discourse by parliamentary candidates.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer 2019 showed that antisemitism on the far-left of British politics has surpassed that of the far-right.
Campaign Against Antisemitism advocates for zero tolerance of antisemitism in public life. To that end we monitor all political parties and strive to ensure that any cases of concern are properly addressed.