Parts of Labour Party treated antisemitism as 'factional weapon', long-awaited report finds

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Opposition groups within the Labour Party treated antisemitism as a "factional weapon" and there was an "intellectual smugness" that dismissed the problem, a long-awaited report has found.

Barrister Martin Forde QC, a former independent adviser to the Windrush compensation scheme, was looking into the "circumstances, contents and release" of a leaked internal document on the issue in 2020.

That 860-page dossier found "no evidence" of antisemitism being handled differently from other complaints and blamed "factional opposition" towards former leader Jeremy Corbyn for hampering efforts to tackle the issue.

Mr Corbyn's allies used the document to claim parts of the Labour Party undermined his leadership.

But the 138-page Forde Report, published on Tuesday afternoon, said: "The evidence clearly demonstrated that a vociferous faction in the party sees any issues regarding antisemitism as exaggerated by the right to embarrass the left.

"It was of course also true that some opponents of Jeremy Corbyn saw the issue of antisemitism as a means of attacking him.

"Thus, rather than confront the paramount need to deal with the profoundly serious issue of antisemitism in the party, both factions treated it as a factional weapon."

It also said the investigation found the Labour Party's disciplinary process was "not fit for purpose" and "potentially prone to factional interference".

"For example, there was a complete lack of any auditable database of cases, which meant the party could not, at any given moment, collate accurate information on the number of complaints which were then pending, or which had been disposed of, and the stage that the live matters had reached," it said.

But, the report added "many aspects of the party's recent reforms of disciplinary procedures" were positive and the changes were "generally steps in the right direction".

Read more: 12 shocking claims of abuse in leaked Labour antisemitism dossier

The Jewish Labour Movement said the report "once again vindicated" the experiences of Jewish Labour members and confirms the party had a "serious problem with antisemitism and its denial and downplaying".

It welcomed Sir Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner's "determination" to tackle antisemitism and said their "commitment to make Labour a welcoming space for its Jewish members cannot be in doubt". It added the issue "is still a work in progress".

The Campaign Against Antisemitism accused the Forde Report of "taking even-handedness to an absurd extreme" as it said it both criticised and defended "sides" and "failed to grasp this elemental truth" that one side "was filled with antisemites and their enablers".

"The report offers neither explanations nor remedies. Until we see our complaints addressed, we are unable to have confidence in the party's leaders and processes, let alone its culture," it added.

Mr Corbyn reacted to the report by saying "powerful groups" in Labour found his leadership victory "hard to come to terms with" and said Mr Forde was right to call out "repulsive racism and sexism shown to Diane Abbott and others".

However, he failed to mention the word "antisemitism" as he called on Labour to decide "what it is for and who decides that".

Culture of intellectual smugness

The report's foreword called for "constructive engagement" with its findings.

"There is a culture of intellectual smugness which exists at the extremes of the political spectrum the party represents," it said.

"In the past, this has led to the dismissal of valid, albeit sometimes uncomfortable, views. It must now come to an end."

There was a "toxic" atmosphere in the Labour Party fuelled by factionalism, the report said.

"We understand the intensity of anger amongst many of the membership at the contents of, in particular, the WhatsApp messages cited in the leaked report. Our focus, though, is on how such a toxic situation arose and (more importantly) how it can be avoided in the future.

"One of the tragedies of this period for the party is that so many have lost sight of the humanity of those who they see as being in an opposing faction, which is perhaps easier than ever in an age where so much of our communication takes place at arms-length through a screen."

People need to treat each other better

Another report called Labour Together found the party has "spent substantial periods of the last five years in conflict with itself".

The Forde Report backed that and added: "We believe there is a clear need for individuals to see and treat each other better, regardless of their political views."

A Labour spokesman said: "The Forde Report details a party that was out of control.

"Keir Starmer is now in control and has made real progress in ridding the party of the destructive factionalism and unacceptable culture that did so much damage previously and contributed to our defeat in 2019."

The report was meant to be delivered in July 2020 but it has taken two years to come to a conclusion.

Labour's general secretary confirmed the report had been received on Tuesday and was due to be taken to a meeting of the party's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).

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