Labour remains in special measures over anti-Semitism

Sir Keir Starmer - Jessica Taylor/UK PARLIAMENT
Sir Keir Starmer - Jessica Taylor/UK PARLIAMENT

Labour remains in special measures over anti-Semitism despite its two-year action plan coming to an end, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

The party was forced to come up with an action plan or face legal action after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) uncovered “serious failings” under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

The action plan’s two-year monitoring period ended in December 2022 and the equalities watchdog is preparing to make a statement to mark its end.

But the EHRC is not yet expected to lift the party out of special measures, suggesting it believes there remain some unresolved issues.

Labour second party to be investigated by EHRC

Labour joined the British National Party (BNP) in becoming only the second political party ever to be investigated by the UK’s human rights watchdog, after it launched an official probe into allegations of anti-Semitism.

The EHRC in 2009 began legal action against the BNP over concerns about ethnic restrictions on its membership.

The EHRC announced in May 2019 that it would conduct a root and branch review of the Labour party’s approach to allegations of anti-Jewish hatred.

The probe set out to determine whether unlawful acts have been committed by the party or its employees and agents, as well as assessing whether Labour’s response to complaints has complied with the law.

The 16-month review into the Labour party concluded by accusing Mr Corbyn of presiding over “serious failings” in the system for handling anti-Semitism complaints.

Labour 'failed to prevent acts of harassment and discrimination'

Its damning report, published in October 2020, ruled that the party had broken the law by failing to prevent “acts of harassment and discrimination” and said Mr Corbyn’s leadership “did not do enough to prevent anti-Semitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it”.

Investigators noted “a lack of leadership within the Labour Party on these issues”, which the report said was “hard to reconcile with its stated commitment to a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism”.

It said: “The Labour Party must live up to this commitment and acknowledge the impact that multiple investigations and years of failing to tackle anti-Semitism has had on Jewish people.”

The report also added that it “uncovered serious failings” in the way complaints were handled until at least 2018.

'Need for vigilance won't end'

A Labour source confirmed that the party is still in special measures but added that they are hopeful they will soon be lifted out of it.

“Even when we are, it wouldn’t mean the need for vigilance is over - that will be there whatever the outcome of the review,” they told The Sunday Telegraph.

“We will sadly continue to discover people in the membership who are anti-Semitic and we will continue to take action against them.”

Sir Keir Starmer used a speech last week at London Labour’s annual Conference to tell members that they must continue “fighting anti-Semitism and changing our party”.

He warned that if they do not, the party would be unelectable, saying: “If we stop for one moment then we forgo the right to change our communities, our cities, our country. That’s what a party fit to serve the country means.”

Earlier this week a Labour MP was forced to apologise after calling the Israeli government “fascist” and referring to the country as an “apartheid state”.

Kim Johnson was criticised by Sir Keir’s spokesman for her comments during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday lunchtime.

It is understood she was summoned by Labour’s chief whip before returning to Parliament later in the day to apologise for the remarks, which came amid a recent surge in violence in Israel and Palestine.

The Labour party and the EHRC declined to comment.