Sir Keir Starmer said he backed the full definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism outlined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
Labour’s new guidelines have stopped short of signing up to it in full – omitting a number of examples set out by the IHRA.
After the code of conduct was approved on Thursday, Labour described it as “detailed and comprehensive”. However, campaigners and community groups were quick to describe it as “toothless”.
Amid calls for Labour to review its guidelines, Sir Keir said the party should “reflect on what’s been said in the last few days, and if we are not in a position of supporting the full definition we need to get into that position and sharpish”.
The code of conduct has been devised in the wake of a row that saw Jewish groups protest outside parliament.
The guidelines explicitly state that anti-Semitism is racism, adding: “It is unacceptable in our party and in wider society.”
However, they add that criticism of Israel and its policies should not automatically be deemed anti-Semitic.
The code of conduct makes clear that even “contentious” comments “will not be treated as anti-Semitism unless accompanied by specific anti-Semitic content… or by any other evidence of anti-Semitic intent”.
It says: “The party will encourage considered and respectful debate on these difficult topics, but will not tolerate name-calling and abuse.”
The code of conduct has provoked controversy because it does not include four behaviours identified as anti-Semitic by the IHRA:
:: Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country
:: Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour
:: Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations
:: Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis.
Sir Keir, who serves as shadow Brexit secretary, said he supported the “full definition”, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Councils, institutions across the country have accepted the full definition. I think that’s the right position to be in.”
Asked why Labour has not adopted this definition, he said: “There’s some argument as to whether Labour has or hasn’t, but I would urge everybody within the Labour Party to listen to the voices that have come out in recent days and get to a position where we are supporting the full definition.
“I think it’s really important, including the examples. We have to be very clear about our position on this.”
A Labour spokeswoman said: “Labour has adopted the full IHRA definition on anti-Semitism in our Code of Conduct, which covers all the same ground as the IHRA examples.
“But, as a political party, we needed to go further to produce a more thorough and detailed code for members which can actually be put into practice and enforced.”
A Labour source added: “Keir was acknowledging that concerns have been raised by the NEC’s decision and hopes these concerns will be responded to as part of ongoing discussions and dialogue the party is having with Jewish organisations.
“He supports the ongoing work the party is undertaking to root out anti-Semitism.”