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A day of shame for Labour, when its found to be antisemitic by the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Jeremy Corbyn has been suspended from the Party

By Ricky Browne

The next time a Labour MP refers to the Conservatives as the nasty party, they may want to consider today’s report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which has basically condemned Labour for being antisemitic.

In a 130-page report, the commission found the Labour Party to be responsible for “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” and served the party with an unlawful act notice after its investigation into antisemitism.

Keir Starmer, Leader of the Opposition

While Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has come out and called this “a day of shame”, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has rejected the overall conclusions of the report.

The problem was ‘dramatically overstated for political reasons’ by opponents, Corbyn said.

Suspended former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his house in North London. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA

But the day of shame got even worse for the Labour Party, especially for Corbyn, when the former leader was suspended from the party and removed from the whip shortly after the report came out, and after he made his criticisms.

Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t appear to have come in for any direct criticism by the EHRC. But at least two of his colleagues did, for “antisemitic conduct that the Labour Party is responsible for, resulting in a finding of unlawful harassment. “

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London

“Their conduct included using antisemitic tropes and suggesting that complaints of antisemitism were fake or smears. These comments were made by Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London and a former member of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee, and social media posts made by Pam Bromley, a Labour Party local authority councillor in Rossendale. As these people were acting as agents of the Labour Party, the Labour Party was legally responsible for their conduct,” the EHRC said.

But Corbyn seemed to try and pass the buck as far from himself as possible — mainly onto the media.

Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn

“One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media,” he said.

EHRC lead investigator, Alasdair Henderson, seemed to disagree and said the failure of leadership must ultimately stop with Corbyn.

EHRC lead investigator, Alasdair Henderson

“As the leader of the party at the time, and given the extent of the failings we found in the political interference within the leader of the opposition’s office, Jeremy Corbyn is ultimately accountable and responsible for what happened at that time,” Henderson said.

The EHRC launched its investigation in May 2019 after receiving complaints from Campaign Against Antisemitism, and further complaints from the Jewish Labour Movement — which has identified with the Labour Party for some 100 years.

“The investigation has identified serious failings in the Labour Party leadership in addressing antisemitism and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints,” the EHRC said.

The EHRC said the Labour Party is responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act (2010) relating to:

  • political interference in antisemitism complaints
  • failure to provide adequate training to those handling antisemitism complaints
  • harassment

At best, Labour did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it, the Commission said.

Pam Bromley of the Labour Party

“This is in direct contrast to the comprehensive guidance and training in place to handle sexual harassment complaints that demonstrates the Party’s ability to act decisively when it needs to, indicating that antisemitism could have been tackled more effectively,” the EHRC said.

The investigation states that the Labour Party “needs to instil a culture that encourages members to challenge inappropriate behaviour and to report antisemitism complaints.”

The commission went on to note that the party has a lot of work to do if it is to win back some of its traditional Jewish supporters.

“Despite some recent improvements, the Labour Party must do more if it is going to regain the trust of the Jewish community, the public and many of its members,” the EHRC said.

Caroline Waters, interim chairperson of the EHRC

Caroline Waters, interim chairperson for the EHRC went further in her remarks.

“The Labour Party made a commitment to zero tolerance for antisemitism. Our investigation has highlighted multiple areas where its approach and leadership to tackling antisemitism was insufficient. This is inexcusable and appeared to be a result of a lack of willingness to tackle antisemitism rather than an inability to do so,” she said.

“If the Party truly wants to rebuild trust with its members and the Jewish community, it must acknowledge the impact that numerous investigations and years of failure to tackle antisemitism has had on Jewish people, and take swift, sincere action to improve,” she said.

The commission said it has set out what it says are clear, fair and achievable recommendations to help the Labour Party make positive changes to its policies, processes and culture.

“The new leadership’s public commitment to implement our recommendations is welcome,” the EHRC said.

The Labour Party has until 10 December to create an action plan to implement the EHRC’s recommendations, which are legally enforceable by the court if not fulfilled.  

People hold up placards and Union flags at a demonstration organized by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism outside the head office of the British opposition Labour Party in central London on April 8, 2018. (Photo: AFP/Tolga Akmen)

RECOMMENDATIONS

The EHRC recommendations for the legally binding action plan include:

  • Commission an independent process to handle and determine antisemitism complaints, as soon as rule changes allow. This should last until trust and confidence in the process is fully restored.
  • Acknowledge the effect that political interference has had on the handling of antisemitism complaints.
  • Implement clear rules and guidance that prohibit and sanction any inappropriate interference in the complaints process.
  • Put in place long-term arrangements for independent oversight of the complaint handling process, to make sure that standards are monitored and enforced, and adequate resources are in place.
  • Audit its complaint handling process to address any ongoing issues.
  • Measure staff and stakeholder confidence in the complaint handling process.
  • Publish a comprehensive policy and procedure, setting out how antisemitism complaints will be handled and how decisions will be made. This should include published criteria on what conduct will be subject to investigation and suspension, and what will be considered an appropriate sanction for different types of proven antisemitic conduct.
  • Review and update its ‘Code of Conduct: Social Media Policy’ to make it clear that members may be investigated and subject to disciplinary action if they share or like any antisemitic social media content.
  • Commission and provide education and practical training for all individuals involved in the antisemitism complaints process. This should be implemented fully within six months of publication of this report and, from that date, should be mandatory before any individual is allowed to be involved in any stage of the antisemitism complaints process.
  • Make sure that all members found to have engaged in antisemitic conduct undertake an educational course on identifying and tackling antisemitism, regardless of the level of sanction applied.
  • Engage with Jewish stakeholders to develop and embed clear, accessible and robust principles and practices to tackle antisemitism and to instil confidence for the future.

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