Friday, 30 October 2020

The Labour Party and antisemitism

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) was created by the Equality Act 2006 and has extensive powers to conduct investigations relating to equality and diversity and also human rights - Equality Act 2006 s.16. The framework for an investigation is set out in section 20 and Schedule 2 of the 2006 Act. The Commission is empowered to issue Unlawful Act Notices - section 21.

On Thursday 29 October, the Commission issued a report - Investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party - finding unlawful acts of discrimination and harassment. The Commission's website stated -

"The Labour Party has been served with an unlawful act notice after an investigation into antisemitism by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found it responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.


initial complaints from Campaign Against Antisemitism, and further complaints from the Jewish Labour Movement, the EHRC launched its investigation in May 2019.

The investigation has identified serious failings in the Labour Party leadership in addressing antisemitism and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints."

The EHRC looked at:

  • whether the Labour Party had committed unlawful acts, through the actions of its employees or agents
  • whether the Party had handled antisemitism complaints in a lawful, efficient and effective way
  • whether the Rule Book and the Party’s complaint handling processes enabled or could enable it to deal with antisemitism complaints efficiently and effectively, including whether appropriate sanctions have been or could be applied
  • the steps taken by the Party to implement the recommendations made in the Chakrabarti, Royall and Home Affairs Select Committee reports

Annex 3 (Legal Annex) to the report is important. Amongst other things this points to the fact that in 2016, the Government adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) non-legally binding ‘Working Definition of Antisemitism’: Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."

The IHRA provided illustrative and contemporary examples of antisemitism. Some concerns have been raised about aspects of the IHRA approach. The Home Affairs Select Committee stated that it is not antisemitic to hold the Israeli government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, to criticise the Israeli government or to take a particular interest in the Israeli government's policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.

The IHRA definition is not legally binding. To identify any unlawful acts by the Labour Party the EHRC needed to apply the definitions in the Equality Act 2010. The Commission was satisfied that the unwanted conduct identified and set out in Anne 2 met the definition of harassment without reference to the IHRA definition and examples. However, the Commission was also satisfie that it would mee that definition and examples.

Other reports:

Parliament - Home Affairs Select Committee Report 2016 and Government response.

Baroness Chakrabarti Report - 2016 -  On 29 April 2016, Jeremy Corbyn MP the Leader of the Labour Party, appointed the former Liberty Director, Shami Chakrabarti, as Chair of an inquiry into antisemitism and other forms of racism including islamophobia, within the party. The inquiry report was published on 30 June 2016.


The reaction of Sir Keir Starmer QC MP (Leader of the Labour Party) is discussed at The Guardian 29 October 2020. Keir Starmer has kept open the possibility of disciplinary action against Jeremy Corbyn after saying a report that found Labour responsible for unlawful acts of antisemitism amounted to “a day of shame” for the party.

Former Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn MP  was suspended from the Labour Party. His reaction is set out at Sky News 30 October 2020.  Mr Corbyn reacted by saying he tried to make the process for investigating and acting on complaints quicker, but admitted: "I regret that it took longer to deliver that change than it should." He also added that "the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons".

30 October 2020

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