MPs and the Board of Deputies have added their voice to growing concern about the independence of an eminent QC appointed by Labour to help clear a backlog of disciplinary cases, many of which relate to claims of anti-Semitism.
It follows 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.”
Collier said Nardell ‘liked’ a poster showing Walker’s one-woman show, called ‘The Lynching,’ in which she alleges that she was the victim of a smear campaign. Among other things, Walker has previously said Jews financed the slave trade, that Holocaust Memorial Day doesn’t include other genocides (it does) and that there was no definition of anti-Semitism that she could “work with”.
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”.
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. If the Labour Party is to prove itself capable of dispensing justice, it needs to give the confidence that disciplinary cases will be looked at in an objective way.
“The Chakrabarti report, widely regarded as weak in our community, called for an independent legal counsel. If Labour is failing even its own test, that hardly inspires confidence.”
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.
“You can’t be going in with the conclusions to issues without having looked at them and analysed them so I need to know – and I think others will want to know – what is his role,” he said. “Is his role on technicalities, or is he actually going to be trying to define things, which clearly would be inappropriate.”
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