Labour spark anger by questioning independence of equalities watchdog investigating them over antisemitism

Exclusive: Party vow to make EHRC 'truly independent', as it investigates them for institutional anti-Jewish racism


Labour has sparked renewed controversy after calling into question the independence of the equalities watchdog which is investigating the party over allegations it is institutionally antisemitic.

Ahead of the launch of what the party said was its "ambitious" Race and Faith manifesto on Tuesday, it said it was committed to making the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) "truly independent."

Labour sources insisted the pledge was a repeat of something that appeared in the party's 2017 election manifesto.

But this was before the EHRC announced it was investigating Jeremy Corbyn's party over its failure to tackle widespread antisemitism within its ranks.

The party's Race and Faith manifesto also gives no acknowledgement to the problem of left-wing antisemitism nor how criticism of Israel can stray into anti-Jewish racism.

The new manifesto, set to be launched by Jeremy Corbyn and shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler, in Tottenham, north London on Tuesday, vows Labour will "enhance the powers and functions" of the EHRC "making it truly independent." 

On Monday, Labour said they actually wished to extend the powers of the watchdog and claimed the Conservatives had cut its budget by 70 per cent since 2010.

But a Jewish Labour Movement spokesperson said: "We're through the looking-glass when Labour says it will create a 'truly independent' EHRC. 

"There's nothing wrong with the EHRC; but there is with a party which is being formally investigated for institutional anti-Jewish racism, only the second inquiry of its kind.

"Where we need independence is in the party itself. The Jewish Labour Movement and the Jewish community have been calling for independent disciplinary processes for 18 months. 

"Officials on Labour’s own governing body have called for the EHRC to be abolished showing the disregard they have for the institution. Until the Party listens and complies, it forfeits the right to talk credibly about equalities. ”

Last week, JLM national secretary Peter Mason revealed he had just submitted evidence with thousands of examples of antisemitism from Labour members to the EHRC as part of their probe.

In further measures designed to show the party wished to "ensure the security and wellbeing of the Jewish community", Mr Corbyn will vow to maintain funding "in real terms" for the Community Security Trust.

They also vowed to review the Places of Worship Protective Scheme to ensure that smaller organisations such as Shomrim, the volunteer strictly Orthodox security, also receives adequate funding.

Stressing Labour's commitment to protecting the "Jewish way of life", the party said it would "protect the rights" of the community "to practise their religion, including the wearing of religious dress and symbols and the production of kosher meat."

It also said it would "ensure that coroners services meet the needs of faith communities ... with ‘out of hours’ services to ensure quick burials when required, rather than the 'cab rank' rule which has left some Jewish and Muslim families unable to bury their loved ones in accordance with their religious practice."

In plans to combat the rise of antisemitism abroad, Labour pledged to review the national schools curriculum "to ensure it teaches about racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and black history, and to continue education about the horrors of the Holocaust".

The manifesto also said Labour would work closely "with our partners across Europe to challenge the rise of antisemitic rhetoric, including the use of antisemitic tropes about George Soros in Hungary and legislation in Poland which gives licence to Holocaust revisionism".

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's launch, Mr Corbyn said: “In government, Labour will do everything necessary to guarantee the security of the Jewish community, defend the Jewish way of life and the right to live it freely, and to combat rising antisemitism in our country and across Europe. 

“We will protect the rights of Jewish people to practice their religion and ensure public services meet the needs of Jewish people, from coroners services conducting quick burials to proper provision of religious and culturally sensitive social care and youth services.

“This year we have seen levels of antisemitism continue to rise and Jewish cemeteries in Bury and Kent desecrated. 

"We will change the law to make such attacks on places of worship aggravated offences and continue the real terms funding for the Community and Security Trust, supporting the invaluable work they do to protect the Jewish community. 

"We will review the curriculum so that every child is taught about antisemitism so that they can identify it and fight against it.”  

Amanda Bowman, Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said on Monday night: "It is astonishing that Labour’s pledges in respect of the Jewish community fail to address the antisemitism in its own ranks. 

"While Labour is correct to highlight the spectre of antisemitism on the far right and online, the party cannot credibly take a lead in addressing antisemitism elsewhere if it does not first tackle anti-Jewish racism among its own membership.”

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