Labour ‘committed unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination’, EHRC anti-Semitism report finds

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was today censured by watchdogs for an “unlawful” failure to tackle the anti-Semitism scandal that mired Labour.

An investigation found that the former party leader’s staff intervened at least 23 times for fanatics accused of anti-Jewish racism.

The report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission concluded that the Labour Party was responsible for “unlawful acts of discrimination and harassment”.

It found three breaches of the Equality Act (2010) by the party, relating to political interference in anti-Semitism complaints; failure to provide adequate training to those handling anti-sSemitism complaints and the harassment of people.

The party has now been served with an unlawful act notice requiring it to tackle the failings.

Jeremy Corbyn leaving home ahead of the report on Thursday morning (Nigel Howard)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he accepted the findings and warned any anti-Semites they should be ‘nowhere near the party’.

Jewish community leaders said it was “a damning verdict” on Mr Corbyn’s leadership and “this sordid, disgraceful chapter” in the party’s history.

Former MP Dame Louse Ellman said the party had endured a “time of shame” and suggested Mr Corbyn should leave. Peer John Mann tweeted: “The moment of greatest shame in the history of the Labour Party.”

Responding to the report, Mr Corbyn said the report clearly showed that Labour’s failings predated his leadership and said he had spent his life fighting racism. He said the claims were “overstated by the media” and did not agree with all the findings.

“One anti-Semitic 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.

“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.”

Key findings in the report include:

* The commission uncovered evidence of political interference in the complaints process. In at least 23 instances, there was “inappropriate involvement by the Leader of the Opposition’s Office (LOTO) and others”. It said: “This included LOTO staff influencing decisions on complaints, especially decisions on suspensions or to investigate a claim. Some decisions were made because of likely press interest rather than any formal criteria.” The interference was more prevalent in cases involving allegations of anti-Semitism than in other areas.

* Evidence was missing in 62 files out of the 70 cases reviewed by the commission. The report identified failings with record-keeping, lengthy delays and communication with complainants. It said: “Those making complaints were poorly served by the Party, and those responding to complaints were often treated unfairly.”

* A complaints inbox was “largely left unmonitored for a number of years” with the result that no action taken on the majority of complaints forwarded to it. The commission said the complaints system had improved but was “under-resourced” and staffed by people with inadequate training.

* The failure to train staff handling anti-Semitism complaints helped create “a lack of trust and confidence” and the report said: “We find that this failure indirectly discriminated against Jewish Labour Party members up until August 2020.” It recommended mandatory training within six months.

* Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, a Corbyn ally, was criticised for anti-Semitic conduct. The report said: “Two individuals are identified whose anti-Semitic conduct the Labour Party are responsible for, resulting in a finding of unlawful harassment. Their conduct included using anti-Semitic tropes and suggesting that complaints of anti-Semitism were fake or smears.” The comments were made Mr Livingston, and a Labour councillor in Rossendale. “As these people were acting as agents of the Labour Party, the Labour Party was legally responsible for their conduct.”

The commission said the cases it investigated in detail were “only the tip of the iceberg” and called for a complete overhaul of party rules and its culture.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust said: “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.

Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer leaves his home on October 29 (Getty Images)

“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.”

A spokesman for the Jewish Labour Movement said the report provided “relief” for Jewish members.

He added: “As set out in forensic detail by the EHRC, the blame for this sordid, disgraceful chapter in the Labour Party’s history lies firmly with those who held positions of leadership – those who possessed both power and influence to prevent the growth of anti-Jewish racism, but failed to act.

“What the report shows is that, worse than simply failing to act, the leadership of the Labour Party actively interfered in the processes relating to anti-Semitism, for political reasons. This failure of leadership amounted to unlawful conduct that facilitated anti-Semitism to become normalised within the Labour Party, a situation that continues to this day, that must be stopped, and must never happen again.”

The investigation was launched in May 2019 after complaints from JLM and Campaign Against Antisemitism.

Labour now has until 10 December to draft an action plan to implement the recommendations, which is legally enforceable by the court if not fulfilled.

Caroline Waters, Interim Chair of the commission, said: “The Labour Party made a commitment to zero tolerance for anti-Semitism. 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 anti-Semitism rather than an inability to do so.”

She said new leader Sir Keir Starmer had made an “encouraging” start.

Key recommendations of the EHRC report

  • Commission an independent process to handle and determine anti-Semitism 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 anti-Semitism 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 anti-Semitism 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 anti-Semitic 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 anti-Semitic social media content.
  • Commission and provide education and practical training for all individuals involved in the anti-Semitism 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 anti-Semitism complaints process.
  • Ensure all members found to have engaged in anti-Semitic conduct undertake an educational course on identifying and tackling anti-Semitism, regardless of the level of sanction applied.
  • Engage with Jewish stakeholders to develop and embed clear, accessible and robust principles and practices to tackle anti-Semitism and to instil confidence for the future.


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