Seven days to act: Labour MPs demand answers on outstanding hate cases

Seven days to act: Labour MPs demand answers on outstanding hate cases

Labour MPs table motion demanding answers to 11 questions and warn the party risks 'seeming institutionally antisemitic' unless it does more to tackle hate

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Labour MPs are pushing for a deadline to be set for Labour’s leadership to disclose how many outstanding cases of antisemitism need to be investigated and how many members are awaiting training on Jew-hatred.

These questions are among 11 put forward in a motion set to be debated at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party next Monday, with MPs warning the party it risks seeming to be institutionally anti-Semitic” if urgent action is not taken against hate.

The motion, proposed by Catherine McKinnell and seconded by Ruth Smeeth, comes amid growing anger over the party’s approach to disciplinary cases and the speedy lifting of suspensions of at least three members in recent days.

Among them was former MP Jim Sheridan, who said he no longer respected the Jewish community because of their work with “Blairite plotters”. He apologised and his suspension was lifted last week, but at the same time he claimed his accusers had “over-reacted”. Welsh Assembly member Jenny Rathbone was also readmitted after a two-month suspension for suggesting the security concerns of Jewish worshippers at a heavily-guarded Cardiff synagogue could be “in their own heads”.

Noting Jeremy Corbyn’s apology 10 months ago for the pain caused by antisemitism within his own party and General Secretary’s pledge to introduce new procedures to tackle the issue , the motion said: “In the months that have followed the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) is dismayed that there remains such a backlog of antisemitism cases that are still to be investigated and a decision reached – in particular the high-profile cases that it was promised would be concluded by July 2018. The PLP is very concerned by reports that a number of cases of alleged antisemitism activity from high-profile members have been dropped.

“The PLP calls on the party leadership to adequately tackle cases of antisemitism, as a failure to do so seriously risks antisemitism in the party appearing normalised and the party seeming to be institutionally antisemitic.”

The motion calls for a report by the leadership to be delivered to the PLP meeting the following week providing answers to questions including how many antisemitism complaints have been received and how many times the general secretary and officers of the party’s governing body have ensured no further action is taken. The proposers also ask how many staff are investigating complaints, how much has been spent on legal fees to pursue cases, which organisations have been commissioned to provide antisemitism training and what is the maximum timescales for responding to antisemitism complaints.

The motion also demands to know which Jewish community organisations have been consulted on the antisemitism code of practise.

After it is debated next week, a simple majority will be enough to carry the motion by a show of hands. Only if a majority call for a secret ballot will it be held the following day.

Ruth Smeeth MP said: “Despite the promises to stamp out antisemitism in the Labour Party, I am gravely concerned that words are still not translating into action.

The backlog of unresolved complaints is completely unacceptable, as are recent cases of people apparently being quietly let back into the Party without any further disciplinary action. 10 months on from the unprecedented sight of British Jews protesting against racism within our party, it still isn’t clear what concrete steps are being taken to stamp out the cancer of antisemitism.

You cannot claim to oppose all forms of racism while continuing to allow some forms of racism to go unchecked in your own ranks. Last year I welcomed the leaderships strong words on antisemitism, but unless those words are matched in deeds, how can anyone believe them?”

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said: “We fully support the Labour MPs in calling the leadership to account on their record on tackling antisemitism within the party. Since the Enough is Enough campaign was launched we have continually pressed for answers on how Labour’s promises to tackle the situation are being put into action. The Jewish community deserves to see action rather than empty words from Labour.”

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