‘Truly disgraceful day for the Labour Party’: Anti-Semitism crisis deepens for Corbyn as race watchdog probes claims party ‘acted unlawfully’
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission has launched probe into Labour
- Watchdog will consider whether party discriminated against or harassed Jews
- Another blow for Jeremy Corbyn as he struggles to contain fury over handling
- Deputy Tom Watson said: ‘I feel utter shame that this investigation is necessary’
Labour faced one of the most shameful days in its history yesterday after a formal inquiry was launched into whether it has victimised Jews.
In a potentially explosive intervention, the equalities watchdog said it ‘suspects’ the party has committed ‘unlawful acts’ in its handling of the anti-Semitism crisis.
Last night, Labour rejected claims it was institutionally racist, but leader Jeremy Corbyn remained silent over the probe – even turning away from TV cameras after a reporter questioned him on his doorstep.
Labour former minister Dame Margaret Hodge said it was a ‘disgraceful day’ for the party and accused Mr Corbyn of failing to take the issue seriously
The announcement is another blow for Jeremy Corbyn (pictured at his London home yesterday), who has been struggling to contain fury about the handling of anti-Semitism among activists
Labour MPs described it as a ‘truly disgraceful day’, while deputy party leader Tom Watson spoke of his ‘utter shame’.
Only once before has the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a formal inquiry into a political party – and that was the far-Right BNP. The EHRC will investigate whether Mr Corbyn’s party has ‘unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish’ – and whether senior staff responded properly to anti-Semitism allegations against its members.
If Labour fails to accept its findings, it could be taken to court and be fined.
Alastair Campbell is EXPELLED from Labour after voting for the Liberal Democrats
Alastair Campbell was today expelled from Labour after he admitted he had not voted for the party for first time in his life, in disgust at the party’s stance on Europe
Alastair Campbell was today expelled from Labour after he admitted he had not voted for the party for first time in his life, in disgust at the party’s stance on Europe.
Tony Blair’s former spin doctor said he had cast his votes for the Liberal Democrats at the European elections last Thursday.
Today the Labour leadership threw him out of the party over his decision, and Mr Campbell will appeal saying that Mr Blair chose not to throw Jeremy Corbyn out of the party despite spending years voting against Labour in Parliament.
He tweeted: ‘Sad and disappointed to receive email expelling me from @UKLabour – particularly on a day leadership finally seems to be moving to the right place on Brexit, not least thanks to tactical voting by party members, including MPs, councillors and peers who back a people’s vote.
‘I was not intending to publicise this at this stage, but have had calls from friends in the Party telling me it is now widely known and likely to be leaked. I have been advised by lawyers with expertise in this field I have grounds for appeal against expulsion and shall do so’.
Today Britain’s human rights watchdog has launched a formal investigation into whether the Labour Party ‘unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish’.
Mr Campbell said there was a difference in the swift way his situation had been dealt with compared to ‘the way anti-Semitism cases have been handled’.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge backed him up and said: ‘So it takes 5 days for Labour to expel @campbellclaret but almost 3 years to expel prolific anti-semite Jackie Walker. This is why the EHRC are investigating’.
The watchdog can force the party to hand over emails and texts which could reveal damning evidence of anti-Semitism cases being covered up by senior figures. Jewish groups also expect officials to interview Mr Corbyn and Labour general secretary Jennie Formby on what they know about the alleged failings.
As Labour found itself engulfed by controversy:
- Alastair Campbell was thrown out of the party for voting for the Liberal Democrats in last week’s European elections – sparking claims the news was leaked in a bid to bury the anti-Semitism probe;
- A Labour MP said Tony Blair’s former spin doctor was ‘expelled quicker than a man who threatened to kill me and quicker than a man in my local party who denied the Holocaust’;
- A string of other party figures – including former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth – were also expelled for refusing to vote for Labour over its Brexit stance;
- The party’s chaos over a second referendum continued, with MP Lisa Nandy warning it would be a ‘final breach of trust’.
Last night, Jewish MP Dame Margaret Hodge – who has faced abuse from Corbynites for standing up to the leader over anti-Semitism – lamented ‘a truly disgraceful day for the Labour Party’.
She added: ‘Corbyn has completely failed from day one to take this issue seriously. The consequence is a full statutory investigation. He should hang his head in shame.’
Mr Watson said: ‘I have been warning privately and publicly that we risked a vortex of shame if we didn’t do everything in our power to root out anti-Semitism in our ranks. I feel utter shame that this investigation is necessary.’
Luciana Berger – who blamed ‘institutional’ anti-Semitism when she quit the Labour Party to join Change UK in February – added: ‘For anyone who might look to play this down, the threshold to initiate this process is extremely high. That the Labour Party has even met the evidentiary threshold is damning.’
The EHRC – which was founded by Tony Blair’s government – said it acted after receiving three dossiers showing examples where anti-Semitism was not dealt with properly. They were compiled by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Jewish Labour Movement and the Labour Against Anti-Semitism group.
The dossiers are believed to contain evidence that senior aides of Mr Corbyn intervened to downgrade punishments for anti-Semites.
The EHRC said it was ‘launching a formal investigation to determine whether the Labour Party has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish’.
The watchdog will look at how effectively Labour has responded to a string of complaints about the party’s anti-Semitism problem.
Campaign Against Anti-Semitism said Mr Corbyn had changed Labour into a ‘home for hatred in British politics’, while the Jewish Labour Movement said: ‘For years we have been warning that the Labour Party’s response to anti-Semitism within our ranks has been woeful at best, and institutionally racist at worst.’ Euan Phillips, of Labour Against Anti-Semitism, said the inquiry was a ‘tragedy’.
All you need to know about the EHRC investigation
What is the EHRC?
The Equality and Human Rights Commission was set up by Tony Blair in 2007, taking on the roles of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission. The watchdog investigates public bodies to ensure they are not discriminating people on grounds of age, sexual orientation, race, religion, sex or disability.
What is the probe about?
The EHRC suspects the Labour Party may have committed ‘unlawful acts’ in relation to allegations of anti-Semitism. It told the party in March that it had received complaints, and yesterday it launched a formal investigation into whether the party has ‘unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish’.
What will it look at?
The investigation will have four strands:
- Whether unlawful acts have been committed;
- The steps Labour has taken to implement reports on anti-Semitism by the Commons home affairs select committee, Shami Chakrabarti and Baroness Royall, who looked at anti-Semitism in Oxford University’s Labour student party;
- Whether the party’s investigatory and disciplinary processes deal effectively with complaints of race or religion discrimination, including whether appropriate sanctions have been applied;
- Whether the party has responded to complaints in a ‘lawful, efficient and effective manner’.
How long will it take?
The EHRC said only that it will conclude the probe ‘as quickly as possible’.
Who will be interviewed?
The watchdog said it will interview ‘anyone who we think has relevant information to the investigation’. Jewish groups expect it to speak to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the party’s general secretary Jennie Formby.
What powers does the EHRC have?
This is not a criminal investigation, and investigators will not be considering whether crimes have been committed. But it will be able to force Labour to provide information, documents, emails, texts and oral evidence – and can get a court order if the party doesn’t comply. At the end of the process, the watchdog will publish a report stating whether the party has committed an ‘unlawful act’. It will put forward a series of recommendations and demand an action plan is prepared and carried out. If the party ignores this, the EHRC can take it to court, which can result in an unlimited fine.
Has the watchdog used its powers before?
Only once against a political party – when it took legal action against the far-Right British National Party. The EHRC said the BNP constitution breached discrimination laws because of a clause banning non-white members. The watchdog started court action and the party was forced to rewrite its membership rules.
‘Now probe Tory Islamophobia’ says the Muslim Council of Britain
The Conservative Party should be investigated by a human rights watchdog over allegations of Islamophobia, the Muslim Council of Britain has urged.
In a letter to the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the body’s secretary-general, Harun Khan, said he believed there is ‘sufficient evidence’ to suggest there is a ‘prima facie case to answer of systemic unlawful acts’ by the party.
He claimed there is a ‘tolerance for Islamophobia at the highest levels’ of the party, and an ‘atmosphere of hostility’ towards Muslim members.
Mr Khan said around 150 representatives and members of the party have ‘engaged in Islamophobia’, and accused those responsible for handling complaints of demonstrating a ‘callous attitude’ – and claimed the party has ‘denied’ there is a problem.
‘Any one of these charges should be sufficient to indicate a serious problem,’ he wrote to EHRC chief David Isaac.
‘Taken together, this has led to there being a situation where members of the party, and prospective members from a Muslim background specifically, have felt and publicly stated that there is an institutional problem of Islamophobia, where racism against Muslims is not dealt with other than where there is a media spotlight on the issue.’
He added: ‘Despite the escalation in the number of cases of Islamophobia, there appears to have been no change in the approach taken.
‘The party has thus far failed to sufficiently engage with members of the party who have raised these concerns privately and then publicly (from Baroness Warsi and Lord Sheikh to the Conservative Muslim Forum), or Muslim community groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain.
‘Given this lack of willingness to take any opportunity to tackle this problem once and for all, we are hoping that the EHRC will be able to launch a formal investigation into this presumed breach of the Equality Act, and identify ways to ensure to rectify this serious issue within the governing party of this country.’
Criticism of the Conservative hierarchy’s response has been led by former Tory chairwoman Baroness Warsi, who has called for an independent inquiry into ‘institutional’ Islamophobia in the party.
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