Labour fails to consult community leaders before debate on antisemitism rules

Labour fails to consult community leaders before debate on antisemitism rules

Party said the proposal to speed up action against racists would be 'further developed' over the summer, but critics say they are the 'polar opposite of independence'

Jeremy Corbyn  (Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)
Jeremy Corbyn (Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

New rules that Jeremy Corbyn claims will speed up action against antisemites in Labour are set to be debated by the party’s ruling body today – but community organisations have yet to be consulted two months after they were first proposed.

Amid mounting over the party’s disciplinary processes and evidence of interference from allies of the leadership, Corbyn proposed to give Labour’s general secretary and a group of NEC officers new powers to summarily expel members guilty of flagrant antisemitism. Currently only the National Constitutional Committee have such powers, with a backlog of cases yet to be concluded.

Labour said in July that the proposals would be “further developed” over the summer before returning to the NEC today, ahead of an expecting Jewish News understands the proposals are due to return to the NEC this afternoon despite the absence of any engagement with major communal bodies.

The proposals were condemned at the time by MP Wes Streeting, who said they bore “very little resemblance” to the independent process that community leaders and fellow MPs have been demanding for over a year. It is not yet clear if proposals for “independent oversight” that Labour sources promised will be brought to today’s meeting.

Speaking ahead of the NEC gathering, a source close to JLM said: “Four years into the crisis, and amidst a statutory investigation by the (Equalities and Human Rights Commission) EHRC, it’s outrageous that the Labour Party are bringing forward new rule changes on antisemitism without even bothering to ask JLM and the Jewish community if they’ll do any good. They won’t. They hand power to a politburo of apparatchiks who can be told what to do by Corbyn and those around him. It won’t speed up kicking out anti-Semites. It’ll just speed up the party letting them off.

“The EHRC are looking squarely at the political manipulation that has caused antisemitism to get worse and worse. This just amplifies the problem, with the same issue being dealt with by an even small number of nodding heads.”

A communal source told Jewish News the original proposals that were backed by the NEC in July “were the polar opposite of independence” and could be used “to target political opponents”.

It’s understood that the same NEC officers group that are being suggested to tackle anti-Semites voted against copies of the party’s response to the EHRC being made available to themselves and others members of the governing body, despite calls from Tom Watson. Watson’s proposal to the last NEC for an independent body to appoint someone to oversee the disciplinary process was withdrawn amid a lack of support.

A Labour spokesman wouldn’t comment ahead of the meeting but said in July: “The NEC endorsed Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal to reform our procedures to allow fast-track expulsions in the most serious cases. This proposal will be further developed so that the NEC can finalise the details of a rule change that is fair and legally robust, ahead of Conference. Changes to the Party’s rules must be agreed at Annual Conference, the Party’s sovereign, democratic decision making body.

“The Party is taking decisive and robust action against antisemitism and the rate at which antisemitism cases are dealt with has increased more than four-fold since Jennie Formby became General Secretary.”

The equalities watchdog is investigating whether Labour has breached discriminations laws, which is strongly denies. It is not expected to report until next year.

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