Video clips from Launch of ‘How the EHRC got it So Wrong’

JVL, in association with the Haldane Society and Verso Books, held a Zoom launch of How the EHRC got it So Wrong on 13 May. This page showcases short clips of the presentations from each of the eight speakers to complement the two hour video of the whole event.

How the EHRC got it So Wrong is available to download as a free ebook from Verso

 

Jenny Manson, Co-Chair JVL

“This is a very sombre time, a terrifying escalation of violence, reflecting an escalating assault on the rights of Palestinians over decades. It’s a strange evening to be discussing the EHRC. But behind the politics of this evening’s discussion there’s been an attempt to silence knowledgeable critics of Israel’s policies, and supporters of Palestinian rights, including within Israel itself. The EHRC report was published in October 2020. It was held up as an authoritative vindication of the political allegations against Labour. But what our study shows is this is not actually true. They did NOT go along with those allegations. To begin with, the report was far more limited than the political charges against Labour. There were NO findings against former leader Jeremy Corbyn. Nor any findings that antisemitism was widespread in the Party. Nor that Labour had victimised anyone. Nor that the Labour Party had directly discriminated against any member (i.e. treated any member less favourably because of their religion or race). Rather, the EHRC determined that two individuals in a party of over half a million members, described as ‘agents’, had harassed Jews; that Labour did not adequately train its complaints staff; and that Labour officials intervened in politically sensitive complaints.

But the EHRC’s own findings, and other external evidence, suggests leadership intervention favoured antisemitic complainers, and sped-up decision making. In other words, Jeremy Corbyn and his office were telling the investigators to get on with it! And even the EHRC’s limited conclusions are both empirically and legally dubious. For example, its harassment determinations misrepresent evidence and deviate from legal precedent that protects freedom of speech in matters of political controversy”

Michael Mansfield QC

“The original report and its findings are highly questioned, but there has been, in fact, no real debate. Particularly within the Labour Party, it has been virtually prohibited. And that the findings of this original report by the Commission has been directed to be accepted unchallenged, and therefore it has had a detrimental effect on democratic debate and free speech. People have found themselves, as it were, stifled from speaking about perfectly legitimate issues, lest it be embraced by the findings of the Equality Commission Report. So, the report itself has had immense repercussions for people who are concerned about issues in the Middle East, and of course those issues are on the forefront of all our minds at this moment, as to what is going on there. And, although we have come together tonight not to discuss that, but the report, nevertheless it’s the backcloth against which we speak. ”

Liz Fekete, director of the Institute of Race Relations

“As an educational charity we don’t have any involvement in the Labour Party, we aren’t party political. Having said that, it’s impossible for a charity that very much speaks to the anti-racist tradition in this country, to the principles of anti-racism forged in struggle by communities opposing racism to not have an opinion on this issue. We gave evidence to the Chakrabarti inquiry because of that long history, standing up for an anti-racism which is by nature international, compatible with free speech, for an anti-racism which is not punitive, which is not about punishing individuals, which is not about personalising racism, that distinguishes between personal attitudes and racist acts, between words that cause offence and words that are racist. This flawed report by the EHRC and indeed, the Labour Party and other political parties, by failing to make these distinctions, have set back the anti-racist fight in this country considerably. I think the JVL report is brilliant, not only because of its defence of rational thought but because of its clear and calm tone. It sets a benchmark for us all about how we should discuss these issues. It is educative, and if we are to educate against racism and antisemitism, we have to bring people along with us. And if we are to do that, we have to create an open and tolerant political culture, one in which we neither seek to give offence gratuitously or cancel each other out.”

Peter Oborne

“You can see the Conservative Party tilting towards really quite obscurantist Islamophobic discourse from about the last seven or eight years. The canary in the mine was when Sayeeda Warsi resigned from the Government at the time of the Gaza invasion in 2014. But it really got going in 2016 with Zak Goldsmith’s campaign to be Mayor of London, where it was based very largely, on smearing, or very significantly on smearing, the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan as a Muslim extremist or a man who was associated with Muslim extremists. The worst moment, which I really still find hard to be believe ever happened, was when David Cameron, then Prime Minister, stood up on the floor of the House of Commons and named, named an Imam in South London as being IS, Islamic State supporter. I watched, I was watching PMQs, it was really quite astonishing. There was no evidence, I then researched the evidence, there wasn’t any. Downing Street was impossible to deal with, it took a long time to get a proper apology. This was the nastiest political campaign, really, since that awful person Griffiths won, ran that racist campaign for the Conservatives in the early 60s.”

Geoffrey Bindman

“There is a finding by an important public body with statutory powers, that the Labour Party has committed unlawful acts of discrimination and harassment, and there’s no challenge by the Labour Party itself. There’s no analysis, there’s no examination by any outside body. And yet, those findings, as the report, which we’re here to talk about, examines in detail and demonstrates are highly questionable. I would say they are plain wrong, but that’s my personal opinion, and it’s frankly disgraceful that the Labour Party left the situation to exist in which these, very serious findings, very serious accusations against the Labour Party, which have led to serious harm to a number of Labour Party members, several of whom were suspended or expelled for questioning this process, are left in limbo. There’s no accountability for this situation. And you know, the potential damage to the Labour Party is very great. I am a Labour Party member of over 60 years’ membership, and I am concerned at the reputation of the Labour Party and the effect of this kind of conduct, by my Party, on the public. ”

Daniel Finn

Interpretation of the evidence is stronger than the evidence itself would warrant. There are many things we could say on that point but the most striking one for me is the finding of unlawful harassment. It relies upon a rather tortuous chain of logic beginning with the Labour MP Naz Shah, the EHRC refers to comments that Naz Shah made before she was an MP on social media and asserts that these comments were against the law and in fact, they were so egregiously unlawful that Ken Livingstone in turn broke the law merely by defending Naz Shah in media comments in 2016 and then in the final link in this chain of logic, the Labour Party itself is collectively responsible for the actions of Ken Livingstone. The EHRC quotes, for example, Naz Shah appeared to compare Israel to Nazi Germany, which shows how weak and how tendentious the case is if they can’t even say that Naz Shah did compare Israel to Nazi Germany.  You can imagine a judge in a court of law demanding to know well did she compare it to Nazi Germany or not? And saying she appeared to compare Israel to Nazi Germany is a really extraordinary formulation in a public body with Government enshrined statutory power. Well let’s say for the sake of argument that she did compare Israel to Nazi Germany, there is no basis in British law or international law for saying that is illegal.

You might very well say that it was in poor taste, that it was foolish, insensitive, inaccurate, that she was right to apologise. In any case, they are not a matter for the criminal law and there is no room for discussion on that. So, the entire chain of logic collapses as soon as you go back to its original source and there are other points in the Report that match that description again. And it’s really impossible, on reading it closely, to avoid the thought that the people who produced the report started off with a desire to find the Labour Party guilty of breaking the law in some fashion and constructed the chain backwards from that point.”

Naomi Wayne

“It [The EHRC] had two options. Basically, the first was to provide advice and support, as Geoffrey [Bindman] actually said in his introduction to the JVL report and there it could have treated its legal framework flexibly and it did that insofar as it talked about Chakrabarti’s work. But the alternative was that it could do a competent legal investigatory job, i.e. applying the law.

Essentially, the EHRC decided not to use the first approach, and it failed spectacularly on the second. In fact, from the moment it launched an investigation into, and I quote, “antisemitism in the Labour Party”, it was pretty much doomed. Why? Now, I’m at danger of turning into a one-trick pony here, but I have to repeat, over and over and over again because the exercise was built on a concept with neither legal meaning nor even an agreed popular or academic understanding. We now have three modern competing definitions of antisemitism: the IHRA; Nexus, which I’ll bet most of you have not heard of; and the Jerusalem Declaration.

The key thing is none have any legal status. Even if, you, me, the Board of Deputies, Uncle Tom Cobley and all, think that a particular image is antisemitic, it still might not constitute evidence of a prohibited act and hence be unlawful under the Equality Act. And what we need to remember is, that’s the Law the EHRC was supposed to be enforcing.

Following this foundational problem, it was it was not surprising to see the Commission’s joyful embrace of the Equality Act harassment clauses. And I want to say something very important here These are frighteningly broad. Again, if we ever get another left government which is left of this one, I think it should be our priority to take another look at those clauses because they really are, in the wrong hands, like the EHRC’s, a serious threat to free speech. ”

Ammar Kazmi

“As we know, the EHRC report made absurd findings of both indirect discrimination and harassment by the Labour Party in respect of the handling of antisemitism complaints. Now because those findings of unlawful conduct were made against the Labour Party rather than any particular individual, only the party had a legal statutory right in the Equality Act (2006) to appeal the EHRC’s findings. But of course, by that time, Keir Starmer, Angela Raynor and David Evans had come to lead the Labour Party and they obviously didn’t exercise that right, I think, unsurprisingly. And I believe that if the party had done so, the report would have been substantially different and much more refined, and I don’t think the EHRC would have been able to substantiate much of its monumentally flawed legal analysis, and I don’t believe that any findings of unlawful conduct would have been sustained either.

It’s reasonable to surmise that the EHRC knew that their report wouldn’t be subject to an appeal because of the change in leadership which gave them pretty much a carte blanche to say whatever they wanted and so what we effectively had was a hostile leadership of the Labour Party colluding in a quasi-legal process designed to produce findings that could be used for political ends against the previous leadership and its supporters.

So, unfortunately there is now no opportunity as Geoffrey Bindman QC mentioned in his foreword to the report to directly appeal the EHRC report. So the only mechanism that can be used, now to challenge the report is a judicial review, and, to my knowledge, there’s only one judicial review, which is being brought by Ken Livingstone and Pam Bromley, who were both unfairly named in the report and they filed papers in January earlier this year.”

Comments (4)

  • Jack T says:

    This is a terrific but at the same time terrifying account of how those within and without the Labour Party who at all costs did not want a Corbyn Government were able with little or no evidence, to steer the narrative in such a way as to get a statutory body, the EHRC, to produce a report which is so full of errors, it is not worth the paper it’s written on.

    One of the consequences is we lost the possibility of having a truly inclusive government with the needs of all citizens at heart. Instead, we now have a government led by an inveterate, degenerate liar which lines the pockets of its friends in a healthcare scandal which has needlessly cost the lives of tens of thousands of people.

    Another consequence has shown that our major public broadcaster the BBC, to which we all pay our licence fee, has not only been complicit in covering this up by omitting any meaningful reporting of it, it has actively conspired in encouraging the false narrative by producing such programmes as the John Ware Panorama ‘investigation’ which deliberately set out to give publicity to those who were active in the conspiracy to destroy any possibility of a Corbyn led Labour Government.

  • Huw says:

    Daniel Finn’s very eloquent video clip has the wrong transcript attached.

  • Simon Hinds says:

    I have a limited understanding of law and the Equality Act. Nonetheless, I cannot see how EHRC’s legal judgements can be valid. What is telling is that no legal precedent is relied upon to make their judgements and it is difficult to see that there would ever be case law to support their contentions. It is notable that the EHRC cannot give an opinion the extent of antisemitism in the Party and cannot present any case of direct or indirect discrimination against a Jewish member. The EHRC’s judgements are more political than legall.

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