Labour general secretary sparks fury with begging letter to MPs ahead of antisemitism debate

Jennie Formby tries to stave off rebellion before confrontation at PLP meeting


Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby has claimed she is “proud of the progress” made under watch on antisemitism, in a bid to stave off a rebellion by MPs over the failure to tackle the issue.

But her letter to all MPs, sent hours before a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, immediately sparked fury, with Ilford North MP Wes Streeting saying her claim the party had cleared a backlog of antisemitism complaints "stretches the boundaries of credibility".

The message, which was entitled Improving our Complaints and Disputes Procedures, Ms Formby wrote that, since starting the role in April 2018, she had doubled the size of the team handling investigations and disputes involving Jew-hate.

She insisted the party had managed to “clear all of the previously outstanding antisemitism cases from the investigation and disputes panel stages of the process.”

Praising the impact of the new in-house legal counsel Gordon Nardell QC, she also said Labour “has robust safeguarding and member welfare policies which govern how the Party responds – including by disclosing information to the authorities – where material comes to light revealing a threat to a person’s safety.”

This claim appears to be a reference to mounting anger amongst MPs and Jewish communal organisations over the failure of the Party to report a raft of alleged antisemitic threats made by Labour members – including one to Luciana Berger and another to Yvette Cooper, now deemed worthy of a police investigation after being passed to prosecutors by radio station LBC.

Ms Formby added: “I have scheduled a meeting with [Metropolitan Police] Commissoner Cressida Dick’s Office to discuss how we can make sure this process works effectively.

"Outputs from that meeting will feed into the Procedures Working Group which is reviewing policies and procedures affecting member welfare."

Ms Formby said Labour’s disciplinary machine before her appointment was “not fit for purpose… especially in relation to appalling antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories, mostly on social media".

Ms Formby then suggested that Jewish orgainsations now have confidence the party is taking complaints seriously.

She write: "Previously, Jewish communal organisations were reluctant to engage with the Labour Party as they did not feel confident that we were taking their concerns seriously.

“However, the actions I have implemented were as a result of listening to those concerns and I hope that Jewish communal bodies will now feel able to re-engage with us on this issue which is of great importance to us all.

“I am proud of the progress that has been made but I’m not complacent."

She continued: “There is more work to be done to ensure all cases are dealt with quickly and fairly, and to eliminate the evil of antisemitism from our movement once and for all.

"I am personally committed to ensuring that Jewish members feel safe and welcome in our Party, and in reassuring the Jewish community that we stand with them against oppression and prejudice.”

In reference to the growing backlog of complaints involving antisemitism, Ms Formby wrote the National Costitution Committee had been doubled from 11 to 25 members, " "and elections were completed before the end of 2018 to ensure these hearings happen more quickly".

"The NCC is now establishing a greater number of hearing panels to allow cases to be heard and finalised as soon as possible."

She wrote that the NCC needs to hold hearings "more frequently and with fewer delays".

"We have cleared outstanding cases from the other stages of our processes, and the NCC must do the same whilst maintaining complete autonomy of decision-making independently of myself, party staff and the party leadership.

"This work is currently underway and we anticipate changes to procedures will be completed by March.”

Addressing the issue of abuse and attacks on social media, she said: "I wrote to the admins and moderators of a range of Facebook groups (which the Party is not responsible for and which have no official status) with suggestions about how they can effectively moderate those online spaces and requesting that any discriminatory content be reported to the Party’s complaints team to allow us to investigate."

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