JVL statement on EHRC investigation of the Labour Party

3rd June 2019

The decision of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to investigate the Labour Party for potential failings in the way its officials and procedures have handled complaints of antisemitism is a response to large numbers of accusations made against the Party over many months.  It has faced a wave of allegations of antisemitism and other inappropriate behaviour laid against members since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015.

Jewish Voice for Labour hopes that this investigation will clear the air and demonstrate the lack of substance behind many of these repeated allegations.

The Terms of Reference of the investigation make clear that it will not look at the prevalence of antisemitism in the Labour Party. Its focus will be on how complaints have been handled.

Jewish Voice for Labour believes that this will reveal that the Labour Party apparatus under the previous general secretary Iain McNicol, Jennie Formby’s predecessor, failed to deal appropriately with a large increase in the number of disciplinary charges generated against members.

The inquiry will also need to take note of new allegations, now in the public domain, that during McNicol’s tenure:

i)   processing of complaints was deliberately delayed by officials in defiance of decisions of the National Executive Committee;

ii) records were deleted by departing officials to prevent the incoming Formby regime from having knowledge of thousands of allegations;

iii) prior to deletion copies were made by officials (now no longer on the party staff), and that these illegally extracted cases form a substantial element of the evidence submitted by the complainants to the EHRC.

Extremely pertinent to the investigation, officials serving under McNicol seem to have been reluctant to implement recommendations of the Chakrabarti report in 2016 which had the potential to make the complaints procedures more efficient, just and transparent. The failure to implement these reforms, agreed by the NEC, had a range of negative consequences. We understand that there were indeed long delays in dealing with some members who were guilty of antisemitism, with the result that those who had complained of wrongful treatment or behaviour were not satisfied that their cases had been appropriately handled. Conversely, members against whom the allegations were flimsy or worse were subjected to painful accusations, long drawn-out investigations and disruption to their personal and political lives, without any redress.

The EHRC investigation will be welcome if it reveals

a) the extent of unfairness and lack of transparency which appears to have characterised the party’s disciplinary procedures before Jennie Formby’s appointment as General Secretary in 2018, and

b) the extent to which, since the appointment of Jennie Formby, the Party has worked hard to deal with and evaluate carefully complaints of antisemitism in a genuine attempt to deal with all cases fairly and effectively.

JVL intends to contribute to the inquiry a body of evidence from many Jewish members of the Labour Party, demonstrating that they have not experienced any discrimination or discomfort as Jews in the Labour Party.

For more information contact:

Jenny Manson
Leah Levane