Labour antisemitism report: Jeremy Corbyn says complaints 'overstated' as party found to have broken law

·4-min read

Jeremy Corbyn's future in the Labour Party is in question after the former leader reacted to a damning report into antisemitism by saying complaints made during his tenure were "overstated".

The Labour Party was found to have broken the law in its failure to handle antisemitism complaints and there were "serious failings" by its leadership, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has concluded.

An investigation into antisemitism in the party by the commission found it responsible for "unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination" - and said there was political interference into complaints.

It said Labour broke the law in three areas:

  • Political interference in antisemitism complaints

  • Failure to provide adequate training to those handling antisemitism complaints

  • Harassment of those who complained

An unlawful act notice has been served to the party following the report's findings, which means the commission can recommend any necessary action to avoid the actions being repeated or continued.

The investigation found evidence of 23 instances of "political interference" by Mr Corbyn's office and others in the antisemitism complaints process, out of the 70 files the watchdog looked at.

Mr Corbyn, who was party leader during the period investigated and was dogged by questions about antisemitism throughout his tenure, accepted the report but said the scale of the problem was not as large as stated.

He said Jewish Labour members were right to expect the party to deal with antisemitism, and that "I regret that it took longer to deliver that change than it should".

But, he added: "The scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party."

Sky's Kate McCann asked current leader Sir Keir Starmer if this meant Mr Corbyn should remain a Labour member.

He did not reply directly, but said: "Those that deny there's a problem are part of the problem. Those that pretend it's exaggerated or factional are part of the problem."

Labour has until 10 December to draft an action plan to implement the report's recommendations, which is legally enforceable by the courts if not fulfilled.

EHRC lead investigator Alasdair Henderson said the blame cannot be placed on one person, adding that "it went beyond the role of Jeremy Corbyn", but he acknowledged the period they looked at "was of course during the time when Jeremy Corbyn was leader".

"And as leader of the party, and with evidence of political interference from within his office, he does have a responsibility ultimately for those failings," he said.

Mr Henderson added that there were "two specific unlawful acts" and 18 more in the sample given to the EHRC, adding "that's the tip of the iceberg".

The watchdog highlighted the actions of former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who referenced social media posts by MP Naz Shah, including a graphic suggesting Israel should be relocated to the US with the caption "problem solved", and a post in which she appeared to liken Israeli policies to Hitler's.

Mr Livingstone repeatedly denied they were antisemitic.

Rossendale Labour councillor Pam Bromley was also highlighted for her Facebook post saying "fake accusations of antisemitism to undermine Labour just aren't working", and another post saying Mr Corbyn has failed "to repel the fake accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party".

Caroline Waters, interim chair of the EHRC, said the failures were "inexcusable and appeared to be a result of a lack of willingness to tackle antisemitism rather than an inability to do so".

The report has been welcomed by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, which initially complained to the EHRC about antisemitism within the Labour Party, with its chair, Gideon Falter, calling it "ground-breaking".

"It is the first ever finding by the EHRC of unlawful acts. It heavily criticises the Labour Party's former leadership," he said.

"The EHRC's report utterly vindicates Britain's Jews who were accused of lying and exaggerating, acting as agents of another country and using their religion to 'smear' the Labour Party."

He added that the report shows under Mr Corbyn's leadership "the Labour Party became institutionally antisemitic" and said it "drove almost half of British Jews to consider leaving the country".

The current Labour leader, who served in Mr Corbyn's shadow cabinet, called the report "thoroughly professional" and said its conclusions are "clear and stark", adding that he will implement all recommendations "in full".

Sir Keir said he found the report "hard to read" and said it was "a day of shame for the Labour Party".

"I am truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused to Jewish people, JLM, to the people driven out of our party, and those driven out of parliament - Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger, we are sorry.

"I can promise you this, I will act. Never again will Labour let you down, never again will we fail to tackle antisemitism.

"And if - after all the pain, all the grief, and all the evidence in this report, there are still those who think there's no problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party. That it's all exaggerated, or a factional attack.

"Then, frankly, you are part of the problem too. And you should be nowhere near the Labour Party either."

He said a zero tolerance policy to antisemitism "really does mean that" under his leadership.

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