Shami Chakrabarti has said she is confident that her inquiry into antisemitism within Labour will be independent, despite revealing that she joined the party last month.
Unveiling details at a press conference this morning of how the probe will be conducted, Ms Chakrabarti announced that she had joined Labour on the day she was appointed to chair the inquiry – April 29 – because she wanted to reassure party members that she was not looking to cause a political row.
She said: “I want to be honest. I consider myself to be independent. I’m not less independent for showing I share the values of Labour’s constitution."
The inquiry was launched by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn following a series of suspensions of activists and members for alleged Jew-hate in recent months.
Ms Chakrabarti said: “This inquiry has come into existence because of particular allegations. There’s no running away from that. They were the trigger.
“However the Labour party and its leader have been clear that antisemitism, like all forms of racism, is wrong.”
Ms Chakrabarti, who said she expected to report by the end of June, also announced that Baroness Royall would be joining the inquiry as a vice-chair.
Baroness Royall had already been investigating allegations of antisemitism among Oxford University Labour Club members. The results of her Oxford investigation are due to be delivered to the party’s National Executive Committee tomorrow and then made public.
The other vice-chair, Professor David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism in the inquiry, also attended the press conference.
The academic’s role has been criticised as he s a signatory to Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), a group which had released a statement claiming the allegations of antisemitism in Labour were in some cases “baseless and disingenuous”.
Prof Feldman later said the IJV statement did not reflect the views of every group member and said he hoped the inquiry would ease the turmoil in the Labour party.
Ms Chakrabarti read to the press conference a pre-written statement and reiterated that Prof Feldman did not agree with parts of the IJV statement. She said she was “confident he approaches this with an open mind”.
The JC revealed on Friday that the inquiry’s terms of reference would set out principles on how to recognise and deal with Jew-hatred among its members.
A document, leaked to the JC ahead of today’s press conference, outlined its key principles.
Ms Chakrabarti told the press conference: “Someone has to take responsibility. It’s my hope and belief that everyone will agree with my recommendations. I have to have that hope but someone has to be responsible and that is me.”
Evidence can be submitted to the inquiry by individuals and groups, with a deadline of June 10.
Ms Chakrabarti said some evidence given to the inquiry may remain private and confirmed that party members who have been suspended amid antisemitism allegations will be allowed to give evidence.
She said she hoped Mr Corbyn would also provide comments for her to consider but that she would “not solicit” evidence from former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, who is currently under investigation for claiming Hitler was a Zionist.
It is understood that Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis will give evidence.
The news that Baroness Royall was joining the inquiry was welcomed by Joan Ryan MP, chair of Labour Friends of Israel.
In a statement, she said: "It is now obvious that the virulently anti-israel discourse which exists among a minority within the Labour party cannot be separated from the issue of anti-semitism.
"I have made this clear in my discussions thus far with Shami Chakrabarti and LFI will be working to ensure this is at the top of her agenda."
Ms Ryan added: "We will judge the success of this inquiry on its willingness to make the case that while there is nothing illegitimate about criticising the actions of the Israeli government, this must not be allowed to cross the red line into denying the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and thus the existence of the state of Israel."