Corbyn: Anti-Semitism report has disproportionate focus on Labour

Corbyn: Anti-Semitism report has disproportionate focus on Labour

The Labour leader criticised the publication as using the issue of anti-Semitism "as a weapon" to attack the party

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the Home Affairs Select Committee
Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the Home Affairs Select Committee

Jeremy Corbyn has suggested a damning report which criticises his efforts to tackle anti-Semitic abuse in Labour is biased against the party and uses the issue “as a weapon”.

Mr Corbyn went on the offensive in response to the cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee report, saying its “political framing and disproportionate emphasis” on Labour risks undermining it.

He said it “unfairly” criticises Baroness Chakrabarti, who was made a Labour peer after heading up an internal party inquiry into anti-Semitism, which the report described as “clearly lacking”.

The Labour leader also said the committee “violated natural justice” by rejecting Lady Chakrabarti and the Jewish Labour Movement’s requests to appear and give evidence to it.

He also claimed the MPs’ recommendations “echoed” much of Lady Chakrabarti’s own report.

The inquiry has questioned whether Mr Corbyn “fully appreciates” the nature of post-war anti-Semitism.

It accused Labour of “incompetence” over its handling of high-profile allegations of anti-Semitism, including those involving former London mayor Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker, who was recently removed as vice-chairwoman of the Corbyn-supporting Momentum group.

The committee’s strongly worded report was agreed in full by the two Labour MPs on the panel – Chuka Umunna and David Winnick.

A third Labour member of the committee, Naz Shah, took no part in the inquiry after she was suspended from the party over anti-Semitic social media posts before later having the whip reinstated after apologising.

But in a lengthy response, Mr Corbyn said: “The report’s political framing and disproportionate emphasis on Labour risks undermining the positive and welcome recommendations made in it.

“Although the committee heard evidence that 75% of anti-Semitic incidents come from far-right sources, and the report states there is no reliable evidence to suggest anti-Semitism is greater in Labour than other parties, much of the report focuses on the Labour Party.

“As the report rightly acknowledges, politicising anti-Semitism – or using it as a weapon in controversies between and within political parties – does the struggle against it a disservice.

“Under my leadership, Labour has taken greater action against anti-Semitism than any other party, and will implement the measures recommended by the Chakrabarti report to ensure Labour is a welcoming environment for members of all our communities.”

Mr Corbyn said Lady Chakrabarti was only appointed to the Lords after she had completed her “unprecedented” report on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

“The report unfairly criticises Shami Chakrabarti for not being sufficiently independent,” the Labour leader said.

“This fails to acknowledge public statements that the offer to appoint Chakrabarti to the House of Lords came after completion of her report, and was based on her extensive legal and campaigning experience.”

He went on: “The (Chakrabarti) inquiry, which included Baroness Jan Royall, former leader of the House of Lords, and David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute for the Study of anti-Semitism on its panel, was praised by a number of bodies, including the Jewish Labour Movement, and by John Mann, the chair of the all parliamentary party group against anti-Semitism.

“I am proud that Labour is the only party that has specific protections in place to ensure a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism.

“I am also concerned by some other aspects of the committee’s report.

“The committee heard evidence from too narrow a pool of opinion, and its then-chair rejected both Chakrabarti’s and the Jewish Labour Movement’s requests to appear and give evidence before it.

“Not a single woman was called to give oral evidence in public, and the report violates natural justice by criticising individuals without giving them a right to be heard.”

In its introduction, the committee said: “This report focuses to some extent on the Labour Party, because it has been the main source of recent allegations of anti-Semitism associated with political parties.”

Mr Corbyn said he welcomed some of its recommendations, including on strengthening anti-hate crime systems, demanding stronger action from social media companies against trolls, and support for Jewish communal security.

He said he will write to both Twitter and Facebook to request urgent meetings to tackle online abuse, a problem faced by some Jewish Labour MPs, as highlighted in the report.

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