Lord Falconer concerned about ‘useful idiot’ tag in antisemitism probe
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Lord Falconer concerned about ‘useful idiot’ tag in antisemitism probe

'There are members of the Jewish community who will not speak to me, for fear of being criticised for speaking to somebody associated with Corbyn,' says former Lord Chancellor

Lord Falconer
Lord Falconer

Lord Falconer has said he is concerned about being seen as “a useful idiot” by Jewish friends after it emerged that he was in discussions with the Labour Party about helping it deal with its antisemitism backlog.

It emerged that the former Lord Chancellor and flatmate of Tony Blair was considering the role during a parliamentary debate on antisemitism on 20 February, but he expressed his doubts in an interview with The Times over the weekend.

Falconer, who is Jewish, told the paper he agreed to help in part because he was staggered by how long cases were taking, saying: “It can’t take a year and a half to fix a date for a hearing about whether a tweet is antisemitic or not.”

The peer, who became a QC in 1991, is a keen Labour supporter and said he wanted a Labour government with Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister, but that talk of him helping had led to Jewish friends distancing themselves from him.

“There are significant members of the Jewish community who will not speak to me, for fear of being criticised for speaking to somebody who has an association with Corbyn,” he said, adding that they felt he may be “a useful idiot” for the leadership.

Falconer told The Times that he would like a greater remit, including his ability to speak to staff that had since left on Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) which legally restrict what they can say about internal processes.

“I’d have to speak to former employees without any fear that there wouldn’t be any NDA kickback,” he said, adding that he had to have “full access to all documents and all people” if he were to fulfil the role as independent reviewer of complaints.

Crucially, Falconer is arguing that he should also have the ability to open closed cases where he felt that appropriate action wasn’t taken at the time. “If there are stone cold cases where nothing has been done, they would need to be looked at again,” he said. “There are hundreds of complaints that need to be dealt with.”

The peer added that he had “no idea” whether he would succeed but was “absolutely determined to try,” adding: “You need a system that is fast, consistent, where you are treated the same, whether you are a friend or not.”

Last year Labour appointed Gordon Nardell, another esteemed Jewish QC, to offer legal advice as in-house counsel, at a time when the party’s problems with antisemitism were again under the spotlight.

Nardell arrived shortly after Jennie Formby became Labour’s general-secretary with a remit to get on top of the backlog of complaints. Iain McNicol, her predecessor, had left in March, 21 months after Baroness Chakrabarti made her recommendations, most of which had remained largely unfulfilled.

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