Labour inquiry attacked over cover-up concerns

Probe by students into hate claims goes unpublished as party calls in senior peer


By Marcus Dysch, March 3, 2016

A new investigation ordered by the Labour Party will attempt to resolve claims against left-leaning students at Oxford University.

But Jewish groups have called on the party to ensure the fresh inquiry focuses on allegations of antisemitism, rather than looking into suggestions of an alleged smear campaign against two Labour-supporting students.

The Board of Deputies said it had contacted officials at all levels of the Labour Party, including leader Jeremy Corbyn, to express the community's concerns and "to press strongly for a swift and transparent investigation".

Union of Jewish Students' campaigns director Russell Langer said: "It is important that among all of the internal Labour politics we do not lose sight of the original issue of alleged antisemitism in one of the most prestigious Labour clubs in the country."

Mr Langer said Jewish students had not been contacted by Labour this week.

Joan Ryan, Labour Friends of Israel chair, wrote to party general secretary Iain McNicol on Wednesday. She wrote: "I believe it is highly inappropriate for this inquiry and that into the election of the party's youth rep on the National Executive Committee to be rolled in together. Ideally, two separate inquiries would have been established."

The party has appointed senior peer Baroness Royall to lead the probe into Jew-hate allegations at Oxford University Labour Club (OULC).

A Labour spokeswoman said Baroness Royall would consider "all allegations and all relevant evidence", but did not specify antisemitism. It is not known when she will deliver her findings.

The inquiry was launched after student Alex Chalmers resigned as co-chair of the OULC last month, claiming colleagues had "some kind of problem with Jews".

After his resignation the university's Jewish Society published claims that it said it had been handed about the alleged antisemitic actions of Labour-supporting students.

Two activists aligned to the hard-left Momentum group were said to be the focus of the allegations and investigations. Lawyers acting for Max Shanly and James Elliott said both men "absolutely reject and deny" the claims.

An initial investigation led by the Labour Students group reported back to the party last week, but there were accusations of a cover-up when Labour failed to publish the findings.

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One student claimed the party was attempting to sit on the report until after the Young Labour conference last weekend. Mr Elliott was standing for a role on Labour's national executive committee, but missed out on the position by 0.5 per cent of the vote.

There were reports of bullying, vote-rigging and smears at the conference in Scarborough, leading some Jewish communal sources to question whether the initial accusations of antisemitism had been part of a series of "Machiavellian student plots".

Mr Shanly tweeted in the early hours of Sunday morning: "Well done to those who organised a smear campaign against me, you succeeded in damaging not only my reputation but my mental health."

Last updated: 12:01pm, March 3 2016