What does the Labour anti-Semitism report say?

What does the Labour anti-Semitism report say?

Labour has been plagued with allegations of anti-Semitism since 2016, leading to fractious rows within the party.

In May 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced it would be investigating the party over its handling of the claims.

On Thursday, the long-awaited report was published.

But what did the report say?

The watchdog said its analysis “points to a culture within the party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent anti-Semitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it”.

The interim chair of the EHRC, Caroline Waters, released a statement alongside the report, saying the investigation had “highlighted multiple areas” where the party’s “approach and leadership to tackling anti-Semitism was insufficient”.

“This is inexcusable,” she added, “and appeared to be a result of a lack of willingness to tackle anti-Semitism rather than an inability to do so.”

But what about the law?

Here, the EHRC found Labour responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act: political interference in anti-Semitism complaints, failure to provide adequate training to those handling anti-Semitism complaints and harassment, including the use of anti-Semitic tropes and suggesting that complaints of anti-Semitism were fake or smears.

The first breach was of political interference by the leader’s office – led, at the time, by Jeremy Corbyn – when dealing with complaints of anti-Semitism.

The investigation found evidence of 23 instances of “inappropriate involvement” by Mr Corbyn’s office out of the 70 files it looked at.

This included staff influencing decisions on suspensions or whether to investigate a claim.

One incident reportedly saw the party leader’s staff advising a complaint against Mr Corbyn himself – for allegedly supporting an anti-Semitic mural – should be dismissed.

Some decisions, said the watchdog, were also made because of “likely press interest rather than any formal criteria”, and the party “adopted a practice of political interference”, making the EHRC believe it occurred more regularly in anti-Semitism cases.

This, it said, was “indirectly discriminatory and unlawful” and put the person making the complaint at a disadvantage.

The next breach the EHRC found was around the party’s complaints process and training in handling complaints.

The investigation found the system to be “inconsistent and lacking in transparency”.

One example was the email inbox for complaints, which had been “largely left unmonitored for a number of years”, with “no action taken on the majority of complaints forwarded to it”.

And of those 70 files the watchdog looked at, 62 of them had records missing.

The report did say there had been recent improvements to the procedures, but the system was still “under-resourced and those responsible for it are not trained to the necessary standard” – contributing to “a lack of trust and confidence”.

The EHRC added: “We find that this failure indirectly discriminated against Jewish Labour Party members up until August 2020.

“The Labour Party has now formally committed to provide proper training for those handling anti-Semitism complaints and we recommend that this should be mandatory and fully implemented within the next six months.”

The final breach of the law concerned harassment.

The report said Labour was responsible for two cases of unlawful harassment, where anti-Semitic tropes were used and complaints about them were branded as fake or smears.

The EHRC named former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and a local councillor, Pam Bromley, but said these two cases were “only the tip of the iceberg”, and a further 18 borderline cases were found.

Mr Livingstone later released a statement, he was “deeply hurt” by the accusations and “fully rejects” them, calling himself a “life-long anti-racist”.

The report called the party to “instil a culture that encourages members to challenge inappropriate behaviour and to report anti-Semitism complaints”.

The watchdog concluded its report with a list of recommendations for the party.

They including setting up an independent complaints process, and ensuring it was audited.

It also said Labour needed to acknowledge the political interference that had already taken place and set out clear guidance to stop it happening again.

The EHRC served the party with an unlawful act notice, which gives them until 10 December to draft an action plan to implement the recommendations.

If Labour fails to do so, it is legally enforceable by a court.

Ms Waters said the new leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, had committed to implementing the recommendations in full, which was “encouraging”.

But, she added: “If the party truly wants to rebuild trust with its members and the Jewish community, it must acknowledge the impact that numerous investigations and years of failure to tackle anti-Semitism has had on Jewish people, and take swift, sincere action to improve.”

And the chair of the EHRC gave one final warning to all political parties.

“Politicians on all sides have a responsibility to set standards for our public life and to lead the way in challenging racism in all its forms,” she said.

“There have been recent examples of behaviour from politicians of various parties that fall well below the standards we would expect.

“While freedom of expression is essential to proper political debate, politicians must recognise the power of their language to sow division.

“Our recommendations provide a foundation for leaders to make sure that they adhere to equality law and demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion through their words and actions.”

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