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JLC has made the right decision

The JLC deserves credit for taking the rights steps following the revelation of a scandal that has been buried for too long

    National Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement Jeremy Newmark outside Church House, Westminster, London, for the Ken Livingstone disciplinary hearing who faces a charge of engaging in conduct that was grossly detrimental to the party following his controversial comments about Adolf Hitler.
    National Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement Jeremy Newmark outside Church House, Westminster, London, for the Ken Livingstone disciplinary hearing who faces a charge of engaging in conduct that was grossly detrimental to the party following his controversial comments about Adolf Hitler.

    Two weeks ago, the JC revealed both the findings of an internal Jewish Leadership Council audit into its former CEO, Jeremy Newmark, and the cover-up of that report and its implications by the then trustees of the JLC.

    The reaction was immediate.

    Mr Newmark — who protests his innocence — was forced to resign as chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, which he had used his undoubted political skills to build up from its predecessor, Poale Zion.

    And within days the JLC announced that it was seeking legal and accountancy advice, both into Mr Newmark’s behaviour and into its response to the internal report in 2013. Our leader last week suggested that, welcome as that was, it was not enough. Only a full and independent inquiry would convince the community that the current JLC trustees were committed to the full transparency that they have long trumpeted (and which, in my own dealings with them, they have certainly shown).

    Now we have that inquiry, which is exactly the right response.

    The JLC deserves credit for taking the rights steps following the revelation of a scandal that has been buried for too long. The Charity Commission is already investigating the former trustees’ behaviour — on the face of things, it seems a major oversight that they did not inform the commission of what happened — and the JLC’s own inquiry will soon get underway.

    But there have been mumblings since our story that it was somehow overblown; that the allegations around Mr Newmark are minor and that there was no cover-up.

    This week we publish a series of emails that were sent by the JLC’s trustees in 2013. They show not only that the trustees themselves considered the allegations to be extremely serious — a “critical matter”, in Sir Mick Davis’s words — but also how they went out of their way to keep the matter secret as a “better alternative than a long and messy investigation in the public eye”, as Stephen Pack, the former president of the United Synagogues put it.

    This entire affair is a tragedy.

    Whatever faults we may now know of, Mr Newmark is a hugely skillful political operator. It is not as if our community is overblessed with strategists who are able to look beyond the day-to-day stuff that dominates most organisations.

    And it is a tragedy that individuals of the calibre of Sir Mick and his fellow trustees, who have devoted huge amounts of time — and money — to the community and who have only ever tried to do what they thought best, should now be tarnished by a scandal that need never have touched them.

    Had they dealt properly with the allegations against Mr Newmark at the time, no one would now be focusing on their role.

    But tragic as it is, it is an old, old story — of powerful figures who are used to getting their own way thinking that they can deal with an issue as they see fit.

    However ethical they might have considered their motivation, the days are — rightly — long gone when deference meant that such actions would not be questioned.

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