Labour accused of ‘undermining’ anti-semitism probe over plan to reform EHRC
Labour has been accused of attempting to “undermine” an investigation into anti-semitism in the party after unveiling plans to reform the organisation carrying it out.
The move to make the Equality and Human Rights Commission "truly independent" is part of Labour’s new race and faith manifesto.
Earlier this year, the watchdog launched an investigation into claims of anti-Jewish racism in the party. It is expected to publish its findings in the New Year.
Labour said that if it wins the election, it will "enhance the powers and functions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, making it truly independent, to ensure it can support people to effectively challenge any discrimination they may face".
Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel, said the suggestion that the EHRC was not independent was “extremely worrying”.
She said: "Labour has good reason to fear the outcome of the EHRC investigation into anti-semitism in the party.
"This apparent attempt to smear, threaten and undermine the EHRC before it concludes this important probe is straight out of Donald Trump's playbook."
A spokesman for the Jewish Labour Movement said: "We're so through the looking-glass when Labour says it will create a 'truly independent' EHRC.
"There's nothing wrong with the EHRC; but there is with a party which is being formally investigated for institutional anti-Jewish racism, only the second inquiry of its kind.
"Where we need independence is in the party itself. JLM and the Jewish community have been calling for independent processes for 18 months. Until the party listens and complies, it forfeits the right to talk about equalities."
Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Anti-semitism, said: "As a result of our legal representations, the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn became the first party to face a full statutory investigation since the Equality Act 2006 was brought into law.
"As the complainant in the investigation, we consider it to be sinister in the extreme that the Labour Party is now threatening to restructure the very body that is investigating its racism against Jews.
"This threat by the Labour Party to restructure the Commission should be immediately retracted. If the next government seeks to undermine the Commission’s ability to defend Britain’s Jews from anti-semitism then there can be no doubt whatsoever that we will issue judicial review proceedings to prevent them from doing so."
Elsewhere in its race and faith manifesto, Labour pledges to set up an Emancipation Educational Trust to ensure historical injustice, colonialism and the role of the British empire is taught in schools.
It also proposes extend pay gap reporting to BAME groups to tackle pay discrimination based on race; establish a Race Equality Unit based within the Treasury which will review major spending announcements for its impact on BAME communities; and carry out an independent review of far-right extremism in the UK.
Jeremy Corbyn said the plans showed that "Labour is the party of equality and human rights".
He said: "Whatever your background, wherever you are from, whatever your faith or religious belief, you should have the chance to use your talents to fulfil your potential. Labour will tackle head on the barriers that have unfairly held back so many people and communities.
"Labour is on your side and this election is a once-in-a-generation chance for real change for the many, not the few."
Shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler said: "Only by acknowledging the historical injustices faced by our communities can we work towards a better future that is prosperous for all, that isn’t blighted by austerity and the politics of fear."
But Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "It’s staggering that Corbyn’s Labour see fit to lecture people about race and faith while they are investigated by the EHRC for the rampant anti-semitism in their ranks."