How the EHRC Got It So Wrong: Antisemitism and the Labour Party – an e-book launch

Media Notice

E-book launch via Zoom – register here

5.30 – 7.30 pm Thursday May 13

 

How the EHRC Got It So Wrong: Antisemitism and the Labour Party

  • New study shows Labour’s Antisemitism Action Plan based on false premises
  • No justification for Equality and Human Rights Commission finding that Labour broke the law
  • EHRC found no evidence of widespread antisemitism in Labour Party, nor did it demonstrate direct discrimination or victimisation
  • Complaints processes were inadequate, but no evidence Corbyn or his office were responsible for this
  • Evidence shows Corbyn leadership interventions focused on speeding up antisemitism investigations
  • Aspects of EHRC report show dangerous disregard for free speech. 

 

Launch event chaired by Michael Mansfield QC features:

  • Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC: Visiting Professor of Law, University College London and London South Bank University
  • Liz Fekete: Director, the Institute of Race Relations
  • Daniel Finn: Features Editor, Jacobin magazine
  • Peter Oborne: Author, The Assault on Truth: Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and the Emergence of a New Moral Barbarism

The Labour leadership has pinned its “Action Plan for Driving Out Antisemitism” on the conclusions of a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

A major new study published by Verso shows that “the EHRC investigation did not remotely uphold the dominant public accusations against Labour, while even those limited findings it did make cannot withstand factual or legal scrutiny.”
The study, to be launched on Thursday May 13 at an event hosted by the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and chaired by its president, Michael Mansfield QC, is the work of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), with contributions by a number of expert researchers and lawyers.

In his foreword, Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC writes:

“… the new Party leadership, eager to wash its hands of an embarrassment that could be blamed on its predecessors, lamely accepted without challenge and in its entirety, even with perverse enthusiasm, the flawed package delivered by the Commission. A judicial ruling on its findings may thus now be out of reach. That makes the persuasive analysis of the Commission’s report presented here especially valuable.”

Discussion of the EHRC report has been explicitly banned within Labour by order of the General Secretary. The crackdown on debate about this and other issues has led to a wave of suspension of members who supported and participated in the Corbyn project, Jews among them.

The authors of the JVL study make recommendations for a return to the full, frequent and fearless discussion which must be the lifeblood of any democratic organisation.

Full text of the study is available on the website of publishers Verso.

Click here to register for the launch.

For further information and to arrange interviews with panellists, contact [email protected]

 

Notes for Editors

1.  How the EHRC Got It So Wrong: Antisemitism and the Labour Party is a study by Jewish Voice for Labour with contributions from a collective of researchers and lawyers. JVL is a group that has been at the forefront of opposition to attempts to ban discussion within the party of issues related to Israel, Palestine and defining antisemitism. It has stood up strongly against attempts to brand legitimate criticism of Israel as antisemitic.

Publishers Verso describe the study as follows:

Labour and the Antisemitism Question: What Next?

The controversy around alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party was unprecedented in its protracted ferocity. It contributed to Labour’s electoral defeat in 2019 and tarnished the reputation of the movement that propelled Jeremy Corbyn to Party leader. The EHRC investigated these allegations and, in September 2020, delivered its report. Those groups which had spearheaded the campaign against Labour on this issue heralded the EHRC’s findings as a vindication of claims that Labour under Corbyn was institutionally antisemitic. The Party directed members to accept the findings without question. Yet this ebook report shows that the EHRC’s investigation did not remotely uphold the dominant public accusations against Labour, while even those limited findings it did make cannot withstand factual or legal scrutiny.

The study examines the EHRC’s conclusions and finds:

• no evidence of widespread antisemitism, direct discrimination or victimisation in the Labour Party

• no evidence that Corbyn or his office were responsible for the Party’s poor handling of complaints

• no evidence that Corbyn or his office sought systematically to undermine antisemitism complainants or protected those accused

• a dangerous disregard by the EHRC for the elementary democratic as well as legal principle of free speech.
Labour’s new leadership has used the EHRC report as justification for an ongoing crack-down on debate within the Party. Among the dissidents stifled are Jewish members who supported and participated in the Corbyn project. The authors make recommendations for a return to the full, frequent and fearless discussion which must be the lifeblood of any democratic organization.
 
2. Full text of foreword from Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC: 

Section 20 and Schedule 2 of the Equality Act 2006 give the Equality and Human Rights Commission power to conduct an investigation when it suspects that a ‘person’ has committed an unlawful act of discrimination or victimisation or harassment. The decision to use this power against the Labour Party was surprising. This is because the grievance which prompted it was not discrimination or victimisation or harassment by the Party but the failure of the Party’s own disciplinary processes to deal effectively under the Party’s rules with complaints of antisemitic behaviour by certain members. According to the Commission, the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Jewish Labour Movement had submitted ‘information about more than 220 allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party, dating back to 2011. Complaints focused mainly on the use of social media by members, but also included political discourse in the mainstream media and behaviour at events and meetings’. The claim was that these complaints had not been properly investigated.  

Instead of responding by setting up an inquiry into the way the Party was handling, or mishandling, complaints, the Commission saddled itself with the needless task of finding illegal conduct; not by those who made the offending statements but by the Party itself. It claimed to have found the law had been broken in only two cases of harassment and two of indirect discrimination, all of which findings, as the following analysis demonstrates, were highly disputable. Predictably, what hit the headlines, when the report was published, was the humiliating conclusion — by the Commission Labour had itself created — that the Party had broken the law.  

This outcome, and much of the confusion revealed by the analysis that follows, was evidently influenced by two factors that were arguably beyond the Commission’s chosen terms of reference but essential background: a bitter struggle between political factions within the Party, and an equally acrimonious conflict both within and outside the Party, over the meaning of antisemitism and its application to the Israel-Palestine dispute. The Commission failed to reconcile these competing pressures with the legal constraints imposed on it. It declined to demand and take proper account of a detailed report and documentary evidence prepared by Labour Party officials on ‘The Work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in Relation to Antisemitism’. Its failures distorted the Commission’s perception and its conclusions. Following publication by the Commission, a new Party leadership, eager to wash its hands of an embarrassment that could be blamed on its predecessors, lamely accepted without challenge and in its entirety, even with perverse enthusiasm, the flawed package delivered by the Commission. A judicial ruling on its findings may thus now be out of reach. That makes the persuasive analysis of the Commission’s report presented here especially valuable.   

Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC
4 March 2021

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