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Fri, 3 July 2020

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By Andrew McQuillan
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Jeremy Corbyn claims Equality and Human Rights Commission is ‘part of government machine’

Jeremy Corbyn claims Equality and Human Rights Commission is ‘part of government machine’

Jeremy Corbyn has claimed the EHRC is 'part of government machine'

3 min read

The Equality and Human Rights Commission - tasked with investigating anti-Semitism in the Labour Party - is ‘part of the government machine’, former leader Jeremy Cobyn has claimed.

In an interview with Middle East Eye – his first since stepping down from Labour’s helm – Mr Corbyn questioned the impartiality of the commission, which is due to publish its findings in the coming weeks.

“I think it's quite significant that the Conservative government has underfunded the Equality and Human Rights Commission… and for some reason, which I don't fully understand… decided to take away its independent status and make it part of the government machine,” he told the London-based online outfit.

Asked if he believed the perceived lack of independence would affect the outcome of the commission’s report, the Islington North MP said: “Let’s see what happens.”

Euan Philipps, spokesman for the Labour Against Anti-Semitism campaign, said Corbyn's comments had brought the party "into disrepute".

“Attempts by Jeremy Corbyn to undermine the authority of the EHRC and its investigation into institutional anti-Jewish racism in the Labour Party are unacceptable," he added in a statement.

The EHRC launched a formal investigation into the Labour Party a year ago after it received a number of complaints about anti-Semitism.

Carried out under section 20 of the Equality Act 2006, it sought to determine:

  • whether unlawful acts had been committed by the Party and/or its employees and/or its agents;
  • whether the Party had responded to complaints of unlawful acts in a lawful, efficient and effective manner.

Classed as a non-departmental public body, the EHRC made 11 staff redundant in 2017 after its funding was cut by the government.  The commission was also reformed during Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary, to “increase its accountability to the Government, Parliament and the public and to improve its effectiveness and value for money”.

A spokesperson for the EHRC told Middle East Eye: “We are an independent regulator and take our impartiality very seriously. We have robust procedures and policies in place to manage conflicts of interests or perceived conflicts of interests.”

Mr Corbyn said if he had become Prime Minister, he would have widened the powers of the organisation and said claims he tolerated anti-Semitism among his supporters were “wrong and extremely unfair”.

Asked about a leaked 860-page dossier on anti-Semitism, the ex-Labour leader refused to comment directly but described the party machine at Southside HQ as “leaden-footed”.

“I always knew that there was a culture in the Labour party that was not a healthy one, of an almost self-perpetuating bureaucracy,” he said.

“All organisations have a degree of self-perpetuating bureaucracy about them.

"I wanted to change the way in which the party operated by changing from being a solely bureaucratic machine that administered the party, disciplined members and observed the rules and so on, into a community-organising base of the party.”

A spokesperson for the Labour Party said: “We fully respect the independence of the EHRC. Keir Starmer has made clear he will cooperate fully with the Commission's inquiry. We will implement, in full, any recommendations made by the EHRC.”

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