Labour’s catalogue of anti-Semitism errors: racism watchdog outlines Jew-hostile activity by party members and political interference in attempts to take action against perpetrators
The Equality and Human Right Commission today outlined numerous examples of anti-Semitism within Labour ranks and the failure of the party leadership to deal with it.
The 130-page report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found ‘significant failings in the way the Labour Party has handled anti-Semitism complaints over the last four years’ with ‘specific examples of harassment, discrimination and political interference’.
Among the charges levelled at Labour were the fact that out of 70 anti-Semitism complains analysed, 23 showed signs of ‘political interference’ by Mr Corbyn’s office and others.
They also blasted ‘a lack of leadership within the Labour Party on these issues’, which it said was ‘hard to reconcile with its stated commitment to a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism’.
Additionally they broke equalities law over two cases, including one which involved former London mayor Ken Livingstone ‘using antisemitic tropes and suggesting that complaints of anti-Semitism were fake or smears’ in 2016, before he quit the party.
Labour was found to have broken equalities law over two cases, including one which involved former London mayor Ken Livingstone ‘using antisemitic tropes and suggesting that complaints of anti-Semitism were fake or smears’ in 2016, before he quit the party
Among the charges levelled at Labour were the fact that out of 70 anti-Semitism complains analysed, 23 showed signs of ‘political interference’ by Mr Corbyn’s office and others
Some were committed by well-known figure while others were carried out by relatively unknown local officials and councillors.
Some failures were down to logistical and record-keeping failures, but others were caused by direct interference in the party’s complaints procedures by Jeremy Corbyn’s top team.
The report published today highlighted these examples:
Pam Bromley, a councillor on Rossendale Borough Council in Lancashire, posted on Facebook: ‘Had Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party pulled up the drawbridge and nipped the bogus AS (anti-Semitism) accusations in the bud in the first place we would not be where we are now and the fifth column in the LP (Labour Party) would not have managed to get such a foothold.’
‘Fakes and smears’:
In media interviews in April 2016, former London mayor Ken Livingstone, a Labour Party National Executive Committee (NEC) member, made reference to anti-Semitic social media posts made by Bradford MP Naz Shah. He repeatedly denied they were anti-Semitic and alleged there was a smear campaign by ‘the Israel lobby’ to undermine and disrupt the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn MP.
In April 2019, Ms Bromley posted on Facebook about ‘fake accusations of AS to undermine Labour. On 15 December 2019, she posted on Facebook about Jeremy Corbyn mentioning ‘the fake accusations of anti-Semitism in the LP’.
The EHRC said party members told it that Mr Livingstone’s remarks ’caused shock and anger among Jewish Labour Party members. They felt his comments were appalling, highly offensive and very distressing’
They also said Pam Bromley’s conduct, including the Facebook posts above, ‘contributed to a hostile environment in the Labour Party for Jewish and non-Jewish members’.
Political interference in anti-Semitism investigations:
A complaint was made in April 2018 regarding Mr Corbyn’s alleged support for an anti-Semitic mural. In an email to the party’s Governance and Legal Unit (GLU), the leader of the opposition’s office (LOTO) said that the complaint should be dismissed, stating that: ‘the complaint itself seems to fall well below the threshold required for investigation and if so surely the decision to dismiss it can be taken now’. The staff amended and approved the GLU’s written response to the complainant to include details on Jeremy Corbyn’s actions in relation to the mural.
The commission said there was evidence of LOTO staff being directly involved in the decision to investigate the second complaint of anti-Semitism made against Mr Livingstone.
Political interference in anti-Semitism suspensions;
In July 2016, the Labour Party wrote to Mr Livingstone, confirming that he had been suspended from the party ‘after conversations between the Leader of the Labour Party and his staff’.
In March 2018, Christine Shawcroft , the NEC Disputes Panel chairwoman emailed GLU staff, other NEC members and then general-secretary Jennie Formby, seeking to reinstate a member suspended for anti-Semitic social media posts so that they could stand as a candidate in local elections. The NEC had no authority to be involved in administrative suspension decisions by the GLU at that time.
The charges against Labour in damning 130-page report
- Labour breached the Equality Act 2010 by committing ‘unlawful harassment’ in two of the complaints investigated. They included ‘using antisemitic tropes and suggesting that complaints of antisemitism were fake or smears’.
- One of the cases involved Ken Livingstone, who in 2016 defended MP Naz Shah over claims of anti-Semitism by claiming there was a smear campaign by ‘the Israel lobby’ to undermine and disrupt Mr Corbyn’s leadership. He later resigned from the Labour Party after being suspended.
- A further 18 cases were ‘borderline’, involving local councillors, local election candidates and Constituency Labour Party (CLP) officials.
- Analysis of 70 anti-Semitism complaint files found 23 incidences of ‘political interference’ by Mr Corbyn’s office and others. This included ‘clear examples of interference at various stages throughout the complaint handling process, including in decisions on whether to investigate and whether to suspend’ party members.
- The party’s complaints process was ‘inconsistent, poor, and lacking in transparency’.
- In cases where a complaint of anti-Semitism was upheld, it was ‘difficult to draw conclusions on whether the sanctions applied were fair and consistent’.
- Recommendations made by the watchdog include commissioning an independent process to handle anti-Semitism complaints and acknowledging the effect political interference has had and implementing clear rules to stop it happening again.
Political interference in NEC and NCC panel hearings:
Following investigation into a second anti-Semitism complaint about Mr Livingstone, meeting notes show a LOTO staff member referring to the timing of the GLU’s investigation being reported to the NEC in March 2018 as: ‘V difficult timing—lots of politics. Discuss with [initials removed] about tabling it later. Need to discuss in LOTO over timing’.
In June 2016, Labour reopened a probe into Corbynite MP Chris Williamson after he was initially let off with a formal warning after being accused of anti-Semitism, amid a huge political outcry. He successfully challenged the decision to reopen the complaint in the High Court, which ruled: ‘It is not … difficult to infer that the true reason for the decision in this case was that members were influenced by the ferocity of the outcry following the June decision.’
Political interference in complaints as unlawful discrimination
In March 2018, the GLU requested LOTO’s help on a proposal to suspend a member due to alleged anti-Semitism. Mr Corbyn’s team replied that it wanted ‘immediate suspension of [name] and a robust press line to that effect’.
In April 2018, emails show that GLU staff sought ‘the green light’ from LOTO staff on whether Mr Livingstone could be subject to a formal interview. Thomas Gardiner (then seconded to the GSO) and Andrew Murray (former senior political adviser to Jeremy Corbyn) from LOTO confirmed that there was no option but to authorise the interview. A LOTO staff member, Laura Murray, commented: ‘we have let the Ken case drag on for far too long already and, if GLU leak to the press that we have held up this investigation of him, it will look beyond awful’.
Lack of clear and fair process for respondents
In 2016, a member was suspended with no details about the underlying allegations. Despite requesting this information on several occasions, they were not informed about the specific allegations until months later. They won a High Court injunction over the ‘unfair’ timing but were later expelled.
A party member was alleged to have made anti-Semitic comments during a parliamentary candidate selection process and in emails with other members of their Constituency Labour Party. They were never given any details about the allegations and later resigned.
A party member was alleged to have made anti-Semitic comments on social media and at a meeting. The Labour Party did not tell the member which meeting this related to, what they were alleged to have said, or who complained
A member was sent a notice of investigation, which referred to comments they were accused of making that might meet the definition of anti-Semitism. They were not told what those comments were, when they were said to have made them, where, or to whom they were alleged to have been made.
Inconsistent application of suspensions
A complaint was made about a party member in May 2016. The member’s suspension happened around four months later, following a press briefing by the Leader of the Opposition’s Office to the media that an administrative suspension was likely.
Two members were administratively suspended many months after the Labour Party received the complaints about them, one in March 2018 and the other in February 2019. This was in apparent response to social media / media interest, without any new evidence becoming available.
Unclear decision-making by the NEC and NCC
The NCC’s decision, in March 2019, to expel a member did not contain any detail about the decision-making process or the reasons for reaching its decision, dspite going ahead in the accused’s absence after they and their legal team left at the start.
In March 2019, the NEC decided to impose a formal warning, overruling guidance to refer the case upwards to the NCC. They gave no reason.
Inaction and delay
In 2016, a Labour councillor shared an image of Jewish banker, Jacob Rothschild, on their Facebook page along with a caption claiming that the Rothschild family and other institutions, including the City of London and the Vatican, ‘own our News, our Media, our Oil and even our governments’. There is no evidence that it was investigated.
The Labour Party was notified of Pam Bromley’s Facebook activity on May 24 2017. It took no action until April 4 2018, and the NCC hearing did not take place until March 21 2019.
A complaint was made against a member on September 13 2016, but no action was taken on the complaint until April 7 the following year. The NCC did not conclude the case against the member until over a year later.
Failure to provide adequate reasons for punishment
Mr Williamson was accused of making public comments about anti-Semitism smears, supporting members expelled for anti-Semitism, and sharing social media posts relating to others accused of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.
Former MP Chris Williamson was accused of making public comments about anti-Semitism smears, supporting members expelled for anti-Semitism, and sharing social media posts relating to others accused of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.
Labour’s six weeks to get its house in order
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) served Labour with an unlawful act notice following its lengthy investigation into anti-semitism which found the party responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.
What has the watchdog said?
The EHRC has made a series of recommendations which Sir Keir Starmer has committed to accepting in full.
The watchdog said the party must commission an independent process to handle and determine anti-Semitism complains and acknowledge the effect that political interference has had on the handling of previous complaints.
It also called for the party to implement clear rules and guidance that ban any inappropriate interference in the complaints process and to audit its complaint handling process to address any ongoing issues.
What does Labour have to do now?
The Labour Party is now legally obliged to draft an action plan by Thursday December 10 to tackle the findings and address the recommendations made by the watchdog.
That action plan has to be formally agreed with the EHRC.
What happens if Labour fails to meet the requirements set out by the watchdog?
The EHRC is the regulatory body responsible for enforcing the Equality Act 2010. That means a failure to adhere to its demands can result in legal action.
The action plan Labour has to agree with the body will be legally binding and will be enforceable by the courts.
If the party fails to live up to the commitments in the plan then the EHRC will be able to launch legal proceedings against it.
The EHRC could ask a judge to issue a legal order effectively compelling the party to do as it is told.
The GLU report recommended referral to the NCC – which could lead to expulsion – saying he had not demonstrated an understanding of why his conduct amounted to a pattern of behaviour that appeared to demonstrate hostility or prejudice towards Jewish people, and had not shown any understanding of why he should not share platforms with former members expelled due to antisemitism. Instead of referring the case to the NCC, the NEC Disputes Panel imposed a formal warning. It did not provide any reason for its decision.
On April 23 2019, an NEC Disputes Panel imposed a formal warning on a member for anti-Semitism posts on social media, although the GLU recommended that the case should be referred up to the NCC. The social media comments included: ‘How can we not have empathy with the Palestinians when they are up against these murdering, Zionest [sic] b*stards. Their NAZI masters taught them well’. Detailed notes of the NEC Disputes Panel meeting and the reason for the sanction were not kept.
Poor record-keeping, implementation and monitoring of sanctions
The NEC decided that a member should receive a formal warning and delete theiranti-Semitism social media posts. It warned that if they offended again, the complaint would be referred to the NCC. However, the warning letter that was sent did not mention deleting the offending posts.
In January 2019, the NEC imposed a formal warning and a requirement for training on a local councillor. Instead of issuing a formal warning, the GLU mistakenly issued a Reminder of Conduct with no training.
Use of education and training as a sanction
The conduct of a member against another member was deemed anti-Semitism. They expressed no remorse and suggested that the complainant (who was Jewish) should be held responsible for the actions of the Israeli government. In 2018, the NEC gave the member a formal warning and continued their administrative suspension for another year. The member was given the caveat that if they attended training by a ‘recognised provider’, the suspension would be lifted automatically. However, no training was provided.
Anti-Semitic conduct on social media
A member was suspended in 2016 for a range of anti-Semitic tweets of other people’s content. The suspension was lifted despite the member’s wider social media activity revealing shares of Holocaust denial and antisemitic conspiracy theories. The individual remained a member until they resigned two years later.
A member shared a meme in March 2018, which expressed that ‘an anti-Semite is now someone Jews hate’. They had also shared other anti-Semitic content on social media, including a Holocaust denial article. This was not investigated, but the Labour Party said that the member was suspended in 2019 following ‘historical audits’.
In 2018, complaints were made about several retweets of Rothschild conspiracy theories. This was not investigated but, again, following historical audits, the member was put under investigation in 2019.
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