Labour drops Rayner antisemitism complaints probe

Complaints were made to party last October over comments made by Angela Rayner under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership


GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 15: Angela Rayner speaking at the Labour Party deputy leadership hustings on the stage at SEC in Glasgow on February 15, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. Ian Murray, Angela Rayner, Richard Burgon, Rosena Allin-Khan and Dawn Butler are vying to become Labour’s deputy leader following the departure of Tom Watson, who stood down in November last year. (Photo by Robert Perry/Getty Images)

Labour has quietly dropped an investigation into a series of antisemitism complaints made against the party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner.

The complaints relate to past remarks by Ms Rayner including a comment that Norman Finkelstein’s
controversial book The Holocaust Industry was “seminal”, and a 2018 Twitter post in which she wrote that opponents of Jeremy Corbyn required a “bigger smear” to damage Labour.

The JC has learned that the complaints, which regard Ms Rayner’s conduct when she was a member of Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, were examined by Labour’s disputes team but have not been considered for possible disciplinary action.

They were submitted to the party immediately after the publication of the EHRC investigation into Labour’s handling of antisemitism complaints last October.

But party insiders have now told the JC it was decided that the allegations had already been dealt with.

Last October, Labour sources confirmed to the Telegraph that complaints submitted by the Campaign Against Antisemitism into Ms Rayner, former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and the former shadow education secretary Rebecca-Long Bailey, would be “considered and taken seriously.”

But the JC has learned that a separate complaint was also lodged against Ms Rayner by a Labour member regarding a tweet she had posted in September 2018, while she was shadow education secretary.

After sharing the latest political party membership statistics on her social media profile, Ms Rayner had written that opponents of Mr Corbyn required a “bigger smear” to damage Labour.

At the time, Ms Rayner’s post was criticised as an apparent reference to accusations of antisemitism within the party.

The tweet used Commons library figures to show Labour’s 540,000 membership at the time and included the wording: “We’re going to need a bigger smear.” She deleted the post and then wrote: “It was smears against Labour Party in general, no mention of antisemitism smears? Our membership continues to grow despite hostility from sections of the MSM.”

The QC David Wolfson, now Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, wrote back saying: “In which case — why have you deleted it?”

Labour received further complaints relating to Ms Rayner last October, including one which referred to an
article she had written for the Morning Star newspaper in which she described a visit to Auschwitz
and referenced Norman Finkelstein’s controversial work The Holocaust Industry.

Ms Rayner praised the book — which accused US Jewish figures of exploiting the Shoah — as “seminal”.

The MP has since said she regretted the choice of words and apologised for the “genuine misunderstanding”.

In another Facebook post made by Ms Rayner she commented on her visits to the Nazi death camps saying: “My previous visit was in 2003 and I couldn’t help but notice the increased commercialism and tourism related to the Holocaust era in the Kracow region.”

The JC understands that none of the complaints about Ms Rayner have been passed on to the party’s disputes panel.

Since her appointment as deputy leader, Ms Rayner has been outspoken in her attempts to tackle antisemitism within the party.

She also said Mr Corbyn had an “absolute blind spot” over issues relating to antisemitism.

In November, Ms Rayner told Jewish Labour members of her concern that antisemitism had not been properly addressed in the party, saying : “We should have a bit of humility, humbleness, and we should be listening and we should be aware of how hurt and upset people are. I feel really, really angry actually that there’s been scenes like that in our CLP meetings. And if I have to suspend thousands and thousands of members, we will do that."

Labour sources confirmed to the JC that all complaints relating to allegations of antisemitism were taken seriously.

Gideon Falter, Chief Executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “It is still business as usual for the Labour Party when it comes to antisemitism. It is hard to see how the handling of this complaint by Labour under Sir Keir Starmer has been any different to how it would have been handled under Jeremy Corbyn.

“Our complaint against Angela Rayner was never acknowledged by Labour. The Party also did not confirm that it was investigating, and now it has tried to drop the investigation without a word. The EHRC found Labour’s disciplinary processes unfit precisely because the Party tries to sneak through exonerations without due process. Our complaint demanded that any investigation be delayed until an independent process is installed, which Labour has publicly confirmed cannot happen until the autumn, therefore as far as we are concerned, our complaint remains open.

“The investigation of our complaint against Angela Rayner has been a sham and we will be re-introducing the complaint to the independent disciplinary panel when it is set up. British Jews should be under no illusion that despite Sir Keir’s promises, under his leadership the skulduggery apparently continues at Labour Headquarters.”

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