JVL Response to the recommendations in the EHRC Report

Download a pdf of this response

JVL has been working on our detailed response to the EHRC Report and will be issuing this document shortly.  Party members have asked us to produce some initial guidance on the recommendations as they attend branch, CLP and union meetings.  This is a crucial moment for the Labour Party and hard thinking is essential, a process to which we want to contribute.

The EHRC requires the Labour Party to produce a response to their recommendations by 10th December and the Leader has promised to implement every recommendation. But we believe blanket agreement without discussion is an unprecedented way to respond to any Report. Whatever the merits or otherwise of the Report and its recommendations, this is a fundamentally undemocratic approach to addressing this, or any, serious issue.

JVL will be addressing all aspects of the report, including what is missing from it; however, the purpose of this present note is to comment specifically on the EHRC’s recommendations.

The Report organises its recommendations under a number of headings (see pp 12 – 15), which we use below. We focus mainly on those proposals on which there can be more than one view.

Living up to a zero-tolerance commitment

  • Engage with Jewish stakeholders to develop and embed clear, accessible and robust principles and practices to tackle antisemitism and to instil confidence for the future

In principle, this should be supported, but this support has to come with the recognition that there is no one Jewish community speaking with a single voice or view. All Jewish communities are strongly opposed to and deeply concerned about rising antisemitism but not all Jews are represented, for example, by the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Labour Movement. The party needs to engage with stakeholders representing all the major strands of opinion. Otherwise the destructive, factional deployment of this issue that has so far bedevilled discussion will continue.

  • Make sure that it has a system and culture that encourages members to challenge inappropriate behaviour and to report antisemitism complaints.

We would warmly welcome a system that enables people to feel confident to flag up what they see as instances of antisemitic behaviour, knowing that this will be treated in a serious, objective and non-partisan way.  There must be awareness of the risks of factionalism in all complaints to ensure this process is fair.

Rebuilding trust and confidence in antisemitism complaint handling

  • In line with its commitment, and as soon as rule changes allow, commission an independent process to handle and determine antisemitism complaints. This should last until trust and confidence in the process is fully restored and should ensure that independent oversight and auditing are permanently embedded in the new process

A properly functioning disciplinary process is crucial to all organisations The Labour Party has not had one during the period covered by the EHRC Report, a point JVL has made consistently.

The EHRC recommendation covers two future time periods. At the start the entire process would be carried out by an independent body; and once trust and confidence is regained control would pass back to the party, but under permanent external oversight.

In either situation, the key requirement to avoid perpetuating discord must be the unchallengeable nature of that body’s independence. It is crucial that the independent body should not have taken a factional position on antisemitism over the recent period, nor be closely associated with an organisation which has done so. It will need to be robust in withstanding the extraordinary pressures that interested parties, accompanied by media fire-storms, will place on it over particular cases, especially those involving high-profile individuals. This body will, therefore, need to be an existing solidly based organisation with its own reputation for integrity to defend and not liable to speedy ‘capture’ by one or other factional interest.

  • Publish a comprehensive policy and procedure, setting out how antisemitism complaints will be handled and how decisions on them 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 antisemitic conduct.

This is entirely appropriate and should be supported. The lack of such transparency has led to manifold injustices both to complainants but mainly, as the Report itself notes, to those complained about (‘respondents’). Its own sample of 70 cases found 46 examples of unfairness to respondents.

  • Develop and implement comprehensive internal guidance for all stages of the antisemitism complaints process on:
    • decision-making criteria
    • robust record-keeping, including recording reasons for decisions
    • timescales, and
    • communication, including regular communication with complainants and clear rules regulating the use of informal methods of communication in the complaints process.

That this should need saying highlights the utter incompetence of GLU during Iain McNicol’s tenure as General Secretary as revealed by the leaked Report. (The EHRC Report itself notes considerable improvements following the appointment of Jennie Formby as General Secretary.) The recommendation should be supported but with an additional requirement of proper communication with ‘respondents’, including specification of explicit charges at the outset, provision of details of the complaint and also of the complainant except where that might expose the latter to any risk.

This last proposal was a clear recommendation of the Chakrabarti Report, commissioned by Jeremy Corbyn early in his Leadership (and buried by the previous General Secretary). When published, the Chakrabarti Report was roundly rejected by organisations such as the Board of Deputies and the Campaign Against Antisemitism, but is praised in the EHRC Report. Despite that the CAA repeated the characterisation of the Chakrabarti Report as “whitewash” on the very day of the EHRC Report’s release.

  • Review and update the ‘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 antisemitic social media content.

This is entirely sensible and should be supported.

  • Make sure that NCC panels are routinely assisted by an external lawyer in the same way that NEC antisemitism panels are

Once again, this was one of the Chakrabarti Report’s recommendations, which should be supported.

Education and training

Three assorted recommendations focus on provision of ‘education and practical training’ for

  • those who operate the complaints/disciplinary process
  • those who have been found to have engaged in antisemitic conduct; and
  • for party staff, officials, and post holders – presumably down to CLP and perhaps branch level.

In all these situations there is a need to ensure education or training takes place in a protected space, where individuals can safely discuss their concerns, uncertainties and even mistakes without fear of naming and shaming, let alone disciplinary action.

We support the recommendation that these programmes be developed “in consultation with Jewish stakeholders”, noting again the importance of recognising the range of perspectives amongst Jewish, as any other, people.  Whether that consultation is genuine and inclusive will be a test of the party’s good faith and commitment to education for development and growth (rather than for indoctrination or even punishment).

Download a pdf of this response

Links to all JVL statements and other articles on the EHRC report

Comments (28)

  • RC says:

    Respondents should be completely exempt from the secrecy (farcically and insultingly presented as ‘confidentiality’) forced upon them by the current procedures. They should be allowed to discuss their situation with, and publicise it to, anyone they wish to. Justice should not only be done but be seen to be done. Racism including AS is an offence against the LP and democratic values; hole-in-corner prosecutions undermine the important public role of such anti-racist procedures as are necessary.
    No charges should be added to any initial charge, especially not the frequent and deceitful practice of replacing ‘bringing the party into disrepute’ when the initial charge of AS is unsustainable.
    Respondents should be given the right to as much legal representation as the prosecuting authority has.
    Administrative (ludicrously, ‘auto’) suspensions have been abused. They have been in effect imposed indefinitely. As the EHRC notes, suspension is itself a punishment.

    These are minimum requirements of natural justice. A party that cannot manage to obey its rules and conventions cannot and should not be trusted to govern the country.

  • Thank you JVL for doing this – it is is extremely clear and will be very helpful to CLPs. But clearly what we need to fight for is a democratic voice in discussing how the recommendation can best be implemented to serve the stated goals of challenging any antisemtism in the party and having processes that are fair to all who get caught up in the complaints process.

  • Helen Marks says:

    I also think there should be some sanctions for people making malicious accusations

  • Benny Ross says:

    One of the key points in dispute is now going to be: Who are the “Jewish stakeholders”? The coverage in most reports so far has completely adhered to the usual wall of silence about the existence of socialist or dissident voices among Jews. We must find ways to make it harder for the media and the party structures to ignore those Jewish stakeholders whose loyalty to socialist principles is an integral part of our Jewish identity.

  • Daniel Morgan says:

    I think this process should be part of an integral process looking at all racism and discrimination.

  • David Cannon says:

    Thanks for this helpful response to EHRC recommendations. Surely; “…published criteria on what conduct will be subject to investigation…” must explicitly rule out any conduct which criticises Israeli policies or actions that involve anti-Palestinian racism

  • Ellie Palmer says:

    Once again thank you JVL. As a retired human rights lawyer I have a paralysing tendency to feel that I ought to be writing the response to the EHRC myself. I appreciate your energy and commitment to justice and will lend support wherever I can.

  • Allan Howard says:

    Yes, Helen, but that would only apply to LP members etc. But in instances where that happens, then the person concerned should be thrown out of the LP and barred for life.

  • Janet. Crosley says:

    I have just left a LP branch zoom meeting . The EHRC report was on the agenda, but we were told that we were not allowed to discuss it.
    New rules from above. What have we come too?

  • Margaret Johnson says:

    I am currently trawling through the report for the third time having had to print out the 130 page document. It is so peculiarly ordered as to make it impossible to understand the reasoning behind some of the statements. The very thing that the LP was criticised for in not providing links in it’s online policy document is present or rather not present in the report making it very difficult where there are references to other Chapters and appendix there is no page number there are huge faults with the document. Yes there are faults within the complaints system that still have to be addressed there are recommendations that should not have been needed to be made. on the other hand there has been more progress since Jeremy took office as Leader than previous to that date.

  • Sanctions against “malicious accusers” as proposed by Helen Marks would mean sanctioning Ruth Smeeth, Margaret Hodge and all those who have used the anonymity of the internet to make unsound claims of antisemitism, whether directed against THEMSELVES or others. Party members who FALSELY allege antisemitism will never be disciplined or curtailed in any way as their narrative (no matter how dishonest) will not be regarded as such by Labour Party policy makers

  • Hugh says:

    Very good commentary. 2 minor points:
    The number in the report is 42 (not 46) out of 70 cases unfair to respondents.
    Not sure that “liking” social media content should be potentially a disciplinary issue; people often “like” posts without reading them in detail.

  • Jack says:

    Giving these recommendations any consideration at all under the framework set by the EHRC is accepting the premise that there was a problem with antiSemitism within the Labour Party. One then enters the argument on the terms set by the accuser.

    The recommendations should be dealt with under the umbrella of ‘racism’ and not under the very narrow heading of antiSemitism.

    If the EHRC is to be taken seriously as an independent body, it’s recommendations should be addressed to ALL political parties and other groups not just to the Labour Party.

  • Andrew Hornung says:

    I agree entirely with RC.
    I might add that members of my CLP have had silence (and thus isolation) imposed on them but no action has been taken against accusing individuals continuing to accuse them on social media and even – we have one case of this – of writing to the accused member’s employer trying to get them sacked.
    The isolation – again a case in my CLP – had a damaging effect on one member but when our CLP Secretary turned to the Safeguarding Officer there was no help just that ridiculous suggestion that they go to the Samaritans.

  • Simon Dewsbury says:

    As I would expect this is calmly impressive. For my part I would hope that the Labour Party leadership would realise that their only successful way forward is to understand that they do not have much of the party membership with them and will have to balance demands from JLM and non Labour Party organisations with what is going to work for the members. If training is is seen to be given by a factional group such as JLM and is based on the discredited i h r a criteria then it will fail. Members will either not go to training sessions or will turn up but with no faith in the content of the training. Any such training sessions are going to be a cause of conflict. I am very concerned that the introduction to the EHRC report refers to an undifferentiated “Jewish community” with no recognition of a multiplicity of views; also that there is ‘denialism’ among the leadership and in the report that any of the allegations might be made with ulterior motives despite the strong evidence otherwise. Calling people conspiracy theorists because they have watched “the lobby ” or are aware of evidence outside the the MSM bubble is not going to lead to anything apart from the party breaking even further into bits. Oh, and I think RH makes a very good point in his comment.

  • John Thatcher says:

    Three excellent responses to a clear and concise article.

  • John Webster says:

    I have no problems with the recommendations in the report but am concerned about vexatious and malicious allegations which are made on the back of an IHRA definition that allows people to equate criticism of Israel with antisemitism. There has to be some kind of mechanism that punishes those people who make repeated groundless allegations. This is especially true when we learn that one complainant made about a third of the total complaints about antisemitism in the Labour Party.In some ways it would be better for the IHRA definition to be a criminal one. If you read it closely, as a court would, it allows criticism of Israel. But it is not used in that way. I have sat through meetings where people have slandered Corbyn as an antisemite financed by Colonal Gaddafi and the Provisional IRA. It’s nonsense and in the past would have been poo-pooed. Not now.

  • Vince Martin says:

    I have found this initial guidance sound and very helpful in preparing me for discussions within my local party. The omission raised in a previous comment of the lack of sanctions against unfounded or malicious accusations is serious, particularly so when prominent party members, office holders or officials repeatedly and publicly make those, to the detriment of the reputation of the accused and the party itself.

  • RC says:

    Helen Marks (I suspect that she has some experience of a malicious accusation – by a then staff member…) is right.
    It is important to note that such accusations are an offence not only against the individual ‘respondent’, but also against wider communities – this practice is AS. (“Fire in a crowded theatre”).
    The systematic unfounded claims (200 from one person, I believe a thousand from another…) of for example AS are also offences against, in this instance, Jews across the country, as the late David Graeber noted. Even when they did not make explicit alliances with overt antisemites from Drumont to Kaminski, Zionists have always had a vested interest in exaggerating – often genuine – fears of antisemitism in order to corral the ‘galut’ into becoming cannon fodder for their colonial settler project.
    Distinguished British Jews such as the late Lucien Wolff and Sir Samuel Montagu made this point over a century ago.

  • Carol Machell says:

    Would JVL support an education programme for all members over and above those involved in disciplinary cases? One that is fair, positive, open and free from bias and condemnation would be welcome I feel, esoecially from non- jewish members.

  • John Wattis says:

    Thank you for a helpful review of the recommendations. I was particularly impressed by the fact that many of the EHRC recommendations had already been made in the Chakrabarti report; but deeply saddened that they had to be made again. One day, when the dust settles, I hope we will see that any ‘failure of leadership’ was at least partly a result of obstruction by those who should have been supporting the elected leader of the Party.

  • Stephen Richards says:

    Another unaccountable external body aka EHRC mk2. Handing power back to the system in a context where the IHRA definition is currency & criteria. Any support for Palestine is anti-Semitic, as is any support for Jeremy Corbyn. Major problem when all 3 candidates for leadership take instruction from Board of Deputies.

  • Allan Howard says:

    Yes John, but the obstruction wasn’t just for the sake of obstructing. The plan was obviously that whilst staff ‘obstructed’, various MPs in the same camp could repeatedly castigate Jeremy and Co for taking so long to deal with cases etc.

    A couple of days ago in another thread I drew attention to the fact that the CAA and JLM made their complaint to the EHRC regarding the LPs handling of (alleged) A/S cases at the end of July 2018, just four months after Jennie Formby began her tenure as GS, AND, just TWO months after she announced that the whole disciplinary process for dealing with (alleged) A/S cases had been completely revamped, at the end of May (which of course both the CAA and JLM would have been well aware of).

    But it was only sometime later that something suddenly occured to me – ie how much coverage did Jennie’s revamp of the disciplinary process receive in the MSM. I mean given that the MSM and the Jewish newspapers and the ‘moderates’ inside the party had all been so critical, one would have thought they would have welcomed such a comprehensive revamp and reform of the process, and the MSM and the Jewish newspapers given it lots of coverage…..

    Anyway, I then did a search to ascertain how much coverage it had received, and the only thing I found was an article in the Huffpost. Needless to say, I was pretty sure that THAT would be the case PRIOR to doing the search, and it WAS – ie that the MSM had completely blanked it, and for the obvious reasons.

    And you can be absolutlely certain that the CAA and JLM were well aware that the MSM et al had completely blanked it and, as such, that very few people were aware of the revamp, and so they then made their complaint to the EHRC, knowing that THAT would get copious coverage by the MSM et al!

    When you own and/or control the media, you have complete and total control of the narrative.

  • Peter Collins says:

    Should there not be some sort of definition of antisemitism? There isn’t one in the report.

  • Peter Collins asked for a definition of antisemitism. Surely we now have all the definition of A.S. that we need? Mr Starmer`s definition is simple and clear cut. It`s just anything that might contradict the British right wing, the B.O.D. the J.C. or the J.L.M. Anything else is just fine!

    [JVL web says: Seriously, though, if you want an intelligent discussion of antisemitism try this:

    What is – and what is not – antisemitic misconduct

    ]

  • DJ says:

    We need to be careful here. Discussion about proper procedures along with education and training avoids the central issue at stake. That central issue of what actually constitutes antisemitism needs to be addressed first. We cannot support any recommendations based on the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

  • DJ says:

    When the EHRC produced these recommendations who did they expect to implement them? Certainly not supporters of justice for the Palestinians and the JVL. Starmer intends to see them implemented by the right and apologists for the rogue state of Israel. We should have no illusions about this.

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