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Tom Watson raises fears of 'political interference' by Labour officials in anti-semitism disciplinary cases

Emilio Casalicchio

3 min read

Senior Labour party figures pushed back against recommendations to suspend a number of party activists accused of anti-semitism, it has been reported.


The claim sparked fears of “unacceptable political interference” in the disciplinary process, with deputy leader Tom Watson vowing to investigate further.

But Labour said recommendations were changed in only a select number of cases and the process had since been overhauled.

It comes as Labour scrambles to get a grip on the anti-semitism crisis that has engulfed the party and played a role in the eight defections to the Independent Group.

According to leaked emails seen by the Observer, an official acting on behalf of Labour general secretary Jennie Formby opposed calls from the investigations team last year to suspend members.

In May the official said one member should face a warning rather than a suspension after they posted an image of an alien with the Star of David on it covering the face of the Statue of Liberty.

The official also advised against suspensions for a member who claimed a Jewish group had links to the Freemasons, a member who used the term “zio” and one who said Labour contained “Zionist infiltrators”.

Meanwhile, a top adviser to Jeremy Corbyn is said to have argued in March that a member should not be suspended after they were found to have linked Israel to Isis and denied a controversial mural was anti-semitic.

In each case Labour staff switched their recommendation to back the more lenient approach recommended by the officials, the paper said.

Mr Watson, who is already at war with Ms Formby over the anti-semitism crisis, said on Twitter last night: “For too long our processes for dealing with racism and abuse have failed.

“If correct,this story suggests unacceptable political interference in dealing with antisemitism cases. I will be urgently consulting with colleagues before giving a fuller response.”

'HANDFUL OF CASES FROM A YEAR AGO'

In other cases the officials backed the recommendations put forward by staff, and a Labour source said the proposals had been changed on only a small number of occasions.

A party source told the paper: “Seeking advice on cases was a hangover from the previous process, which Jennie Formby overhauled when she took up her post.

“Selecting a handful of cases from a year ago, under defunct processes, is seriously misleading.

“This is a deeply unfair attack on staff working in good faith to apply the party rule book to individual cases and get through the backlog of unresolved complaints Formby inherited.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “Since becoming general secretary, Jennie Formby has made procedures for dealing with complaints about anti-semitism more robust.

“Staff in the investigations team have always led on investigations and recommendations on individual cases.

“Any suggestion that staff in the leaders’ office opposed recommendations on individual cases is categorically untrue.”

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