The EHRC probe into Labour is a stain on the party and those who defend it

Campaign Against Antisemitism Chairman Gideon Falter: It gives our community hope at last that Labour will be forced to face justice

June 04, 2019 15:29

Most weeks since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition, the newspapers have featured extensive coverage of the antisemitism gushing in torrents from Labour.

In the JC’s YouGov poll last week, we saw that merely 19 per cent of the electorate believes that neither Jeremy Corbyn nor Labour are antisemitic, and more than 60 per cent believe that they have been dishonest or incompetent in their approach to the issue.

Four fifths had heard about Labour’s antisemitism crisis in the media.

But for Campaign Against Antisemitism, media campaigning alone is not enough, and many will have wondered when someone was going to hold Labour to account, not just in the media, but in a way that Mr Corbyn and his acolytes could not deflect or avoid.

The answer came on Tuesday when the telephone rang with a call I had been hoping to receive since 2017: the Equality and Human Rights Commission had agreed to act on our referral and launch its statutory investigation into antisemitism in Labour. At 11:30am, the Commission made the official announcement.

Campaign Against Antisemitism first contacted the Commission during the Labour Party Conference in 2017, when fringe activists demanded the right to debate “Holocaust: yes or no” and senior figures like Len McCluskey claimed that antisemitism allegations were mere “mood music”.

In July 2018, we referred the Party to the Commission, and by November we had begun submitting legal arguments and dossiers of evidence.

Now, with last week's announcement, the Labour Party will finally be held accountable for the way it has emboldened antisemites and institutionalised racism against Jews.

By launching a full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party under section 20 of the Equality Act 2006, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has activated its full range of legal powers.

It can compel Labour to reveal details of its handling of antisemitism in recent years, including demanding witness testimony and compelling the production of internal communications such as WhatsApp messages and e-mails. The Commission can also seek court injunctions against Labour to prevent further antisemitic acts.

The Commission has set terms of reference for its investigation which closely follow our recommendations for a root-and-branch examination of antisemitism in Labour, as well as how the Party’s processes and decisions have contributed to its rise. The Commission will even refer to the International Definition of Antisemitism that Jeremy Corbyn struggled so hard to avoid adopting.

The investigation will take about a year, during which time, as complainant, Campaign Against Antisemitism will engage continually with the Commission.

Whereas many regulators merely have powers to issue reports or fines, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has real teeth. Ironically - though Jeremy Corbyn believes that we “Zionists” are baffled by irony - the Commission was forged in 2006 by Labour itself, in days when it was still a fiercely anti-racist organisation. Its powers include the ability to impose an action plan on Labour and enforce compliance through the courts.

The Commission is the last line of defence against brazen racists and institutional failures to deal with them. We did not seek this investigation lightly: our volunteers and staff have devoted many hundreds of hours to securing this intervention, and now that statutory investigation has begun.

That this investigation is needed is an indelible stain on the Labour Party and those who defend it, but for our community it gives us hope at last that Labour will be forced to face the penetrating light of British justice.

June 04, 2019 15:29

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