The EHRC have  issued their report into Antisemitism in the Labour Party, they say that Labour needs to rebuild trust & confidence in the antisemitism complaints handling process, reform and provide education & training, most importantly to complaints handling staff, and monitor and evaluate the changes. Everyone has committed to doing this and the proposals are not controversial. They also found that unlawful acts under the Equalities Act had occurred and therefore served an unlawful act notice on the Party. The Labour Party is now legally obliged to draft an action plan by Thursday 10 December 2020 to tackle the unlawful act findings that were made in the report. The action plan should be based on the EHRC recommendations to avoid such acts from happening again. With good will, this should be possible, but with the remaining actions taken that day, we have to question if the Labour Party actually wants to move on.

The report makes clear that the Labour Party’s responsibility/duty to not be antisemitic is broad and certainly covers all persons who could be deemed to speak on its behalf, thus including MPs, NEC members, councillors and other role holders. It also makes clear that the European Convention’s free speech protections (A10) applies to all members. The report states that,

Article 10 will protect Labour Party members who, for example, make legitimate criticisms of the Israeli government, or express their opinions on internal Party matters, such as the scale of antisemitism within the Party, based on their own experience and within the law. It does not protect criticism of Israel that is antisemitic.

EHRC – Antisemitism in the Labour Party (P27)

The Commission  was critical of a lack of policy regulating the complaints handling and investigation processes and record keeping in the conduct of investigations into anti-semitism and that there was illegal political interference. These failings taken together are the key facts that have damaged confidence in the complaints process and contributed to their finding that the Labour Party had broken the law.

On record keeping and policy they say it is required to,

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.

EHRC – Antisemitism in the Labour Party (P13)

On political interference, they say,

We found that this political interference was not part of the Labour Party’s formal complaints process, so it was not a legitimate approach to determining complaints. We concluded that this was indirectly discriminatory and unlawful, and that the Labour Party was legally responsible for it.

EHRC – Antisemitism in the Labour Party (P9)

Their proposed remedy is to,

Acknowledge, through its leadership, the effect that political interference has had on the handling of antisemitism complaints, and implement clear rules and guidance that prohibit and sanction political interference in the complaints process.

EHRC – Antisemitism in the Labour Party (P13)

However, the latter recommendation seems to be honoured in the breach; the morning of the report Jeremy Corbyn posted his response on Facebook, where among other things welcoming the report, he said,

One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media. That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated.

Jeremey Corbyn, on facebook

This preceded the publication of Keir Starmer’s response, reported here in the Guardian, which included the following

“But I’ve said a moment ago, and I’ll say it again: those who deny there is a problem are part of the problem. Those who pretend it is exaggerated or factional are part of the problem.”

Keir Starmer

Hours later Corbyn is administratively suspended; it is unclear how since the decision to administratively suspend belongs to the NEC not the Leader, nor the GS, although some claim it is a delegated power and has been so delegated, while others argue they can’t delegate this power to the GS.

Chakrabarti’s Report, which is quoted approvingly several times by the EHRC, was clear on the subject of administrative suspension,

Once you understand these basic natural justice principles, you realise that administrative suspension from the Labour Party need not be employed every (or nearly every) time a complaint (however credible) is made against a member.

The Chakrabarti Inquiry (P18)

And Corbyn’s comments are protected, his offence would seem, from the outside, to be embarrassing the Leader.

The Labour Party will not fix the problem of anti-semitism or other appalling behaviour whether it be based on a protected characteristic or just straight forward bullying and cheating, until it recognises the corruption of the disciplinary process caused by factionalism. This diversion i.e. the suspension of Corbyn will make the task of making the Party a welcoming place for all who wish to join much harder. I have signed the petition that he should be reinstated, and the CLPD have published a solidarity motion to put to CLPs and Union Branches.

The EHRC report, whose recommendations I support is an opportunity, it must not be missed and compliance is a legal duty, but then so much of our rules is a legal duty anyway and they haven’t helped.

On the EHRC report
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One thought on “On the EHRC report

  • 16th November 2020 at 12:35 pm

    Later that day, Labour’s Governance & Legal Unit published ‘guidance’ on what could be said, and where responses to the report could be discussed. The General Secretary also issued a reminder that disciplinary investigations and cases were not to be discussed by unauthorised bodies. This started a third debate on censorship in the party which for the careless, engages ECHR Article 10.

    This blog took me time to write, and time to decide to publish, and so I have backdated it to the time I should have finished it. (I may write something on my response to the LP’s management tactics, but getting the response to the EHRC report should be everyone’s priority.)

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