Labour’s response to antisemitism broke the law

The Equality and Human Rights Commission report into allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party, has found it was “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination”.

The investigation was launched in May 2019 after complaints from organisations and individuals, including the Jewish Labour Movement.

The report says the party had committed unlawful acts: political interference in antisemitism complaints; failure to provide adequate training to those handling antisemitism complaints; and harassment.

It identified a lack of leadership within the Labour Party “which is hard to reconcile with its stated commitment to a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism”.

COMMENT

Former leader Jeremy Corbyn posted his response on Facebook. He was subsequently suspended from the party:

“Antisemitism is absolutely abhorrent, wrong and responsible for some of humanity’s greatest crimes . . . Anyone claiming there is no antisemitism in the Labour Party is wrong. Of course there is, as there is throughout society, and sometimes it is voiced by people who think of themselves as on the left.

“Jewish members of our party and the wider community were right to expect us to deal with it, and I regret that it took longer to deliver that change than it should. 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.

“That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated. My sincere hope is that relations with Jewish communities can be rebuilt and those fears overcome. While I do not accept all of its findings, I trust its recommendations will be swiftly implemented to help move on from this period.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s statement in response:

“I found this report hard to read and it is a day of shame for the Labour Party. We have failed Jewish people, our members, our supporters. and the British public. So on behalf of the Labour Party: I am truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused. To Jewish people, our Jewish members, our long-standing Jewish affiliate, JLM.

“To the people driven out of our party, the Jewish members driven out of parliament, including Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger, and to the members of Labour Party staff who spoke out, I want to say this: I know how hard these last few years have been for you. How painful today will be and how hard you have had to fight to have your voices heard. So let me be clear, I hear you. And I can promise you this: I will act.

“Never again will Labour let you down. Never again will we fail to tackle antisemitism. And never again will we lose your trust. The Labour Party I lead accepts this report in full. And without qualification. We will implement all the recommendations. And we will implement them in full. That process starts today . . . We also need a culture change in the Labour Party. It must become, once again, an open and welcoming place for people from all backgrounds, and all communities. Under my leadership, zero-tolerance of antisemitism will mean precisely that.”

Joint statement from Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and Community Security Trust:

“This report is a damning verdict on what Labour did to Jews under Jeremy Corbyn and his allies. It proves why British Jews were so distressed and it disgraces those who attacked us for speaking out against anti-Jewish racism. Our Jewish community never wanted this fight, but we had to defend ourselves and are proud to have done so. We thank all those who stood with us, despite the abuse they received as a result.

“Jeremy Corbyn will rightly be blamed for what he has done to Jews and Labour, but the truth is more disturbing, as he was little more than a figurehead for old and new anti-Jewish attitudes. All of this was enabled by those who deliberately turned a blind eye …”

Marie van der Zyl, president, Board of Deputies of British Jews; Jonathan Goldstein, chair, Jewish Leadership Council; and Mark Gardner, chief executive, Community Security Trust

Jewish Labour movement statement:

“Today’s report provides Jewish Labour members with the relief that they have been seeking from the Labour Party, but which it failed, over five years, to offer … Antisemitism within the Labour Party had serious consequences for many people, causing real emotional pain and despair to those who have given their lives to the Labour Party. As the EHRC points out, it undermines confidence in our politics and the fabric of our democracy. 

“Members have been subjected to persistent levels of abuse that passed criminal thresholds, while Jewish women Members of Parliament such as Luciana Berger and Dame Louise Ellman were left little choice but to resign under extreme duress. Jewish Labour members, our friends and allies have far too often faced the perverse insinuation that we have ‘weaponised’ antisemitism by the very same individuals who have perpetrated it against us, with little if inadequate intervention by those who could have stopped it …”

Hope Not Hate statement:
“… The report documents a catalogue of failings of the utmost seriousness — unlawful conduct, harassment, discrimination, political interference and a lack of leadership.  It should be a matter of shame and regret to the Labour Party that its leadership at the time should have allowed this to occur in a supposedly universal political party in modern Britain. 

“One of the most serious accusations levelled at the leadership was found to be true — that of unlawful political interference from the Leader of the Opposition’s Office, compounded with obstruction of the EHRC  investigation. 

“This is a matter of the utmost concern and the party must now consider the future within the Labour movement for all involved at this level …”

Jemma Levene, deputy director, Matthew McGregor, campaigns director