Labour picks Ken Livingstone defender Claudia Webbe as head of disputes panel

Appointment is immediately labelled 'a step backwards'


A left wing activist who defended Ken Livingstone after he likened a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard will now oversee Labour’s disciplinary cases, including ones relating to antisemitism.

Claudia Webbe, an Islington councillor and close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, was elected chair of the party’s disputes panel on Tuesday during a meeting of its national executive committee (NEC) equalities group.

The previous disputes panel chair, Christine Shawcroft, stood down from the NEC after a leaked email revealed she backed a party member who was suspended over alleged Holocaust denial.

Ms Webbe’s own past record on issues involving the Jewish community has already caused concern.

Richard Angell, director of the centrist Labour group  Progress said: “Claudia’s chairing of Labour party conference allowed antisemitic tropes to be uttered unchallenged at last year’s event in Brighton.

“Her chairing of the disputes committee will need to be remarkably different for this appointment to give the Jewish community the confidence it needs in Labour. This feels like a step backwards.”

Ms Webbe, who was tipped to land the new role with the backing of Mr Corbyn’s office, worked as an adviser to Ken Livingstone in 2000 and 2004.

She defended him after, in 2005, he likened journalist Oliver Finegold to a Nazi guard. The former London Mayor was suspended as mayor for four weeks over the incident.

In a letter to The Guardian, Ms Webbe said Mr Livingstone's suspension “smacked in the face of true democracy”. She added: “His history of work in the anti-racist movement is unquestionable.”

Ms Webbe has appeared on the Iranian government-backed Press TV channel. Last year, she spoke at an event in Liverpool alongside Jackie Walker, whom Labour has suspended over allegations of antisemitism.

Labour’s General Secretary Jennie Formby has previously assured groups such as the Jewish Leadership Council and the Jewish Labour Movement, that she planned to resolve the party’s long-running antisemitism crisis, which has seen scores of disciplinary cases left unresolved.

But last month she infuriated community leaders with the appointment of Gordon Nardell QC, a long-time left-wing anti-Zionist, as a new in-house counsel to oversee disciplinary cases.

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