Lord Falconer has become the most senior Labour figure yet to suggest the party’s actions on antisemitism could render it institutionally antisemitic.
The former Lord Chancellor’s stark warning came after the Sunday Times published details of a leaked database suggesting hundreds of complaints of antisemitism have yet to be resolved, amid a process it claimed was “bedevilled by delays, inaction and interference from the leader’s office”. Investigations had yet to be opened in over 200 cases, it alleged, as the three-year antisemitism crisis deepened yet further.
Echoing the Macperson definition of institutional racism, Falconer – who had been poised to take over a review of the party’s disciplinary process – told Jewish News: “Can antisemitism be detected in the party’s processes, attitudes or behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping? Looks frighteningly like it as every day goes by.”
The Equalities and Human Rights Commisson is currently deciding whether to launch a statutory investigation into Labour after saying it may have “unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious belief”. Labour vigorously denied the claims and responded to the EHRC last week.
The Jewish Leadership Council’s Jonathan Goldstein labelled the party institutionally antisemitic last year in the wake of the controversy over the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which Labour only adopted with all its examples after a huge row with MPs and community leaders. The term was repeated by Luciana Berger when she resigned from Labour.
Falconer was in the process of agreeing terms with Labour to conduct a review when the EHRC intervened last month. The peer said at the time the EHRC “may well” move to an official probe – a move he would welcome to shine a “bright light” on how disciplinary complaints have been dealt with.
This comes as Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby wrote to MPs, complaining that a Sunday Times report on the way the party dealt with antisemitism was “selective and misrepresentative”.
In her letter, Formby repeated the now-hackneyed lined that the “Labour Party is clear – we take all complaints of antisemitism extremely seriously and we are committed to rooting it out of our Party.
“All complaints about antisemitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures. For data protection and confidentiality reasons, we do not and cannot comment on individual cases.”
She said the article also identified Labour Party staff members involved in disciplinary cases, “included selective extracts of staff emails relating to live disciplinary cases and false assertions about the involvement of the Leader’s Office”.
Formby added that this caused “considerable distress to staff members who are working hard to stamp out antisemitism in our Party”.