Starmer wins vote to bring in new independent complaints process

Move is seen as key step to cracking down on antisemitism in the party


DURHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Sir Keir Starmer, Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union addresses the audience during the Labour Party Leadership hustings at the Radisson Blu Hotel on February 23, 2020 in Durham, England. Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy are vying to replace Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who offered to step down following his party's loss in the December 2019 general election. The final ballot will open to party members and registered and affiliated supporters on February 24. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

The Labour leadership has won a crucial vote to bring in a new independent complaints process as part of is crackdown on antisemitism within the party.

At the annual party conference in Brighton, delegates voted by 73.64 per cent in favour of overhauling the disciplinary process in line with reforms called for by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission following its damning report into Labour’s antisemitism crisis.

The rule change removes any political interference in disciplinary and complaints cases and is due to be up and running by January, 2022.  

It represents a major victory for the Labour leadership which is facing a fightback by the hard left at conference over its crackdown.

Following the vote, Sir Keir Starmer said: “This is a decisive and important day in the history of the Labour party.  I promised to tackle antisemitism in our party.  We’ve now closed the door on a shameful chapter in our history.  I want to acknowledge the courage of all the people who spoke up against it.”

The pro-Corbyn Momentum group had urged its delegates to vote against the change, claiming it represented a “flawed interpretation” of the EHRC report.   Delegates from Unite abstained on the reforms.

Former Labour MP Ruth Smeeth urged delegates to seize the opportunity to bring in changes endorsed by Labour’s ruling NEC earlier this month, even though eight NEC members voted against it.

She told the conference: “If you’re an anti-racist, if you believe in equality and if you want the scourge of antisemitism to be removed from our party, then you have to vote for these rule changes.”

Euan Philipps, spokesman for Labour Against Antisemitism, welcomed the result but warned Sir Keir was “wrong” to say the vote “closed the door” on the antisemitism chapter in Labour.

“There remains a lot of hard work to be done before the Labour Party can expect the Jewish community to place its trust in it once again,” he added.

“These rule changes are just one step, however, and for the Labour Party to fully root out its anti-Jewish racism the changes must be accompanied by significant changes elsewhere.  These include addressing anti-zionist antisemitism, and severing ties with organisations such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, dealing severely with MPs and other senior figures tacitly endorsing antisemitism at extreme Israel/Palestine demonstrations and creating an internal process and anti-antisemitism culture that exceeds the recommendations of the EHRC.

“There must also be an end to the Labour Party’s own denialism and sense of victimhood regarding the antisemitism crisis.”

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said: “We welcome today’s vote and pay tribute to Keir Starmer and the Labour leadership for their work in making this happen.  The result shows that Labour is on its way to banishing the antisemitism spectre that has hung over it for the past two years. 

“While there is clearly still work to do, Labour must continue to demonstrate that it will not allow British Jews to feel marginalised in the party again.”

Labour has decided to bring all complaints under the new system.   A new ‘star chamber’ will replace the current National Constitutional Committee and will be made up of 12 independent people – four lawyers, four HR or regulatory experts and four lay members.  

The Jewish Labour Movement said: “Passing this rule change is a moral, legal and political imperative for Labour.

“An independent disciplinary system was mandated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission following its report that the Party broke equalities law and discriminated against its Jewish members. It’s essential if Labour is to rebuild its relationship with the Jewish community and its wider reputation as a tolerant, anti-racist party.

“From day one Keir Starmer has shown the real leadership Jeremy Corbyn never did, in taking concrete steps to tackle anti-Jewish racism, including supporting JLM in delivering training.

“But passing this rule change alone is not enough to detoxify party culture. The reaction both inside and outside Conference today shows there is still a huge amount of work to do for Labour to become a truly safe and welcome space for Jewish people.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive