Luciana Berger says she has “no faith in the objectivity of the process” of dealing with anti-Semitism in Labour, after questions were raised about the track record of a lawyer appointed to oversee disciplinary cases.
The MP for Liverpool Wavertree took to Twitter to call for Labour’s National Executive Committee to “urgently review” the appointment of Gordon Nardell QC as the party’s in-house counsel, responsible for dealing with a backlog of anti-Semitism cases.
The parliamentarian said she “and others raised concerns directly” about Nardell, who “had made worrying statements on social media and was identifiably connected to organisations and individuals that seek to deny the antisemitism problem.”
“We were ignored.”
She added, that “he is now the internal arbiter of Labour anti-Semitism cases means I have no faith in the objectivity of the process.
The NEC should urgently review his appointment”.
This comes after new research by pro-Israel blogger David Collier purportedly uncovering past comments and ‘likes’ from Gordon Nardell on social media – since deleted – which gave Jewish community leaders cause for concern on Friday.
Collier said Nardell, who is Jewish and whose left-wing views are well-known, had commented on some high-profile cases to come before Labour’s internal disciplinary panels, the legal aspects of which he will now be advising on.
Among those on whom Nardell appeared to express an opinion were disgraced former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who resigned before his latest hearing, and Jackie Walker, the former vice-chair of grassroots group Momentum. Both are alleged to have made anti-Semitic comments.
On Livingstone, who said Hitler once supported Zionism, Nardell appeared to support a bid to vote down a motion condemning Labour’s decision not to expel the former mayor following his first hearing, in 2017.
The screen-grab shows Nardell saying: “Good luck to all in BOS CLP (Bermondsey & Old Southwark Labour Party) defeating this anti-Labour nonsense.”
He added: “The problem with characterising Ken’s rather crass and ill-judged comments as anti-Semitism is that it debases the coin – we no longer recognise real anti-Jewish racism when we see it and we undermine the Party’s ability to tackle it.”
Earlier this week it was reported that Nardell had said, in a letter to a member accused of making anti-Semitic comments, that there was no clear legal definition of anti-Semitism, while in a Facebook comment shared by Collier on Thursday, Nardell said he had complained to the BBC about the unchallenged claims of historian Sir Simon Schama that anti-Zionism had incorporated old forms of anti-Semitism.
Nardell said this was “a very serious accusation,” adding: “I don’t think we can allow this sort of casual attack on the Opposition party, as a unique place on the political spectrum where anti-Jewish racism somehow flourishes or is tolerated, to stand, especially when it emanates from an ‘authoritative’ source like Schama.”
Separately, Nardell appeared to ‘like’ a post which claimed that the aim of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), which is a Labour Party affiliate, was to “prevent Jewish members and others criticising Israeli policies”. Luciana Berger is parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement.
A Board of Deputies spokesperson said: “Before our meeting with Jeremy Corbyn we called for greater transparency and an independent ombudsman to give greater confidence about a disciplinary process which is widely seen to be politicised and give political allies of Mr Corbyn an easy ride on serious matters like anti-Semitism.
“We are concerned by the widespread suggestion that Gordon Nardell’s affiliations and friendships would cast serious doubt on his ability to be independent.
Labour has been approached for comment following the latest allegations, but earlier this week reassured the community of Nardell’s independence, a Labour source saying: “Gordon Nardell is an eminent and highly respected QC, who specialises in constitutional, public and human rights law. He will continue to be bound by his professional standards and all of the obligations of the Bar Standards Board Code of Conduct.”
Speaking on LBC on Friday, however, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Semitism, Labour’s John Mann MP, said he would be raising concerns about Nardell’s independence within the party.
Listen to the latest episode of the Jewish Views: