The Action Plan came following the publication of the EHRC’s damning report into antisemitism in the Labour Party, the product of an investigation in which Campaign Against Antisemitism was the complainant. The EHRC found that Labour had unlawfully discriminated against and harassed Jews. Sir Keir Starmer called the publication of the report a “day of shame” for the Party.
A large proportion of the requirements due to be met by this first monitoring date are either proposals or internal policy changes, which will be assessed by the EHRC.
However, a number of items are outward-facing and are therefore available for evaluation.
The Labour Party is required by now, for example, to have engaged with stakeholders in the Jewish community and established an Advisory Board on antisemitism. It is understood that the Party has achieved this, but selectively. As we noted earlier this month, Sir Keir’s repeated refusal to engage with us, despite our being the complainant in the EHRC’s investigation into antisemitism in his Party, and Labour’s failure even to acknowledge our complaints against MPs, do not reflect a leadership wholly willing to address past failures.
The Party was also required, by this stage, to have published “at least one performance report”. The Party discharged this requirement earlier this year in part; the report contained ambiguities that made it difficult to assess. In particular, it referenced case numbers in 2014-2018 but appeared to make no reference to 2019 whatsoever.
By this first monitoring date, the Party was required to have published a Complaints Handling Handbook, which it has done. The handbook made some welcome improvements to the process but was largely a disappointment. In particular, the Handbook was pilloried for including a number of examples of what seemingly purported to be best practice, but which in fact served only to illustrate why Labour’s disciplinary process is unfit for purpose.
In one example, a Labour member “posted and shared several things on social media that were antisemitic; using Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine”. In other words, they breached the International Definition of Antisemitism in at least one and possibly multiple ways. Yet the sanction given in the handbook was merely that the member was given a Formal Warning, which would remain on their record for eighteen months.
These case studies have now, however, been scrubbed from the Handbook entirely.
The Party was also required, by this stage, to have completed antisemitism training for all those officials responsible for disciplinary cases relating to anti-Jewish hatred. However, it recently emerged that a member of Jewish Voice for Labour, an antisemitism-denial group and sham Jewish representative organisation, chaired a Labour disciplinary panel on antisemitism just earlier this month. It is difficult to square that development with the fulfilment of the training requirement.
Labour was also due by now to demonstrate to the EHRC that it has completed its “clearing of the backlog” of antisemitism cases. It is difficult to see, however, how the Party can do so before introducing an independent disciplinary system, which it has said it will not do until later this year. Campaign Against Antisemitism has submitted numerous complaints against MPs and others, which we expect the Party to investigate only once the independent system is in place. But the Party has not acknowledged our complaints, and the only indication that the Party has taken any action whatsoever was a report that our complaint against Deputy Leader Angela Rayner was dismissed out of hand earlier this year.
Reflecting on the milestone, Joe Glasman, Head of Political Investigations at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “This week was intended to be a landmark moment in the Labour Party’s recovery from the institutional antisemitism ushered in by Jeremy Corbyn. However, progress has been marked by inconsistencies, lack of transparency and potential burying of awkward issues, for example our complaints against Labour’s Deputy Leader and numerous other MPs.
“Only in the last few weeks, we have seen perplexing disciplinary outcomes, a member of an antisemitism-denial group chair a disciplinary panel, and now Labour has embarrassingly scrubbed its ‘best practice’ case studies from its Complaints Handling Handbook after we and others highlighted their absurdity.
“At this first major juncture in the Action Plan, we are yet to be reassured that the Party is capable of getting to grips with its antisemitism problem.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer study in 2019 found 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.