Labour peers pile pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to stamp out 'endemic' anti-semitism problem

Posted On: 
15th July 2019

Labour peers have demanded Jeremy Corbyn set up an independent process for handling complaints as they called on him to do more to tackle the party's "endemic" anti-semitism problem.

Jeremy Corbyn is coming under increasing pressure to tackle Labour anti-semitism.
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In a hard-hitting letter to their leader, they condemned the party's decision to attack former Labour staff who took part in a Panorama programme on racism against Jewish people.

They also echoed Tom Watson's call for Labour's evidence to the Equality and Human Rights Commission - which is probing alleged discrimination against Jews by the party - to be made public.

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Tom Watson accuses Labour leadership of 'smearing' ex-staff in anti-semitism row

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And they attacked Labour's decision to make staff sign gagging orders, known as Non Disclosure Agreements, when they stop working for the party.

The letter was signed by four senior Labour peers, including Baroness Smith, the party's leader in the Lords, and chief whip Lord McAvoy.

It said: "As the months have passed, the reports and accounts and anti-semitism in our party have grown. It is now a toxic and endemic problem that we have failed to eradicate.

"Whatever action has been taken has failed to give confidence to Jewish and non-Jewish members alike that there is an absolute determined will to effectively deal with their concerns.

"This failure goes to the core of Labour's values and ideals. How can we be seen to be the party that above all others promotes equality, and that embodies anti-racism and anti-discrimination, if we tolerate anti-semitism?"

The peers said they will carry out their own investigation into the accusations contained in the Panorama programme, which claimed that staff close to Mr Corbyn had interfered in anti-semitism complaints.

In addition, they said they would provide advice on how best to set up an independent complaints procedure in order to ensure "that the Labour party can regain the trust of its members, supporters and the wider public".

They added: "As the leader of our party you have a responsibility to ensure that we do this. In particular, you need to demonstrate decisive leadership that Labour is determined and committed to do everything possible to remove anti-semitism, and those that defend it, from our party.

"Without full openness, this is a cancer that will continue to grown and in hurting us, it will most hurt those that need a Labour government."

BETRAYAL

In a separate development, more than 200 Labour present and former staff, and supporters, have also written to Mr Corbyn accusing the party of trying to "smear" those who spoke out against anti-semitism to Panorama.

"The way the party has threatened and denigrated these whistleblowers is appalling, hypocritical and a total betrayal of Labour's core values," they said.

"Exposing racism and corruption represents Labour values in action and these whistleblowers should be thanked, not demonised."

The signatories added: "As its leader, the moral responsibility for Labour's anti-semitism crisis ultimately sits with you. Own that responsibility or give it away to someone who will."

Meanwhile, the Labour party's GMB branch has also passed a motion condemning its response to Panorama.

It also says Labour staff are facing "a mental health crisis ... caused by the culture, rise in anti-Semitism and unsustainable workloads".

The motion says: "As trade unionists, it is unacceptable for an employee's workload or the culture of an organisation to cause staff to have breakdowns or to contemplate suicide.

"The fact that there is even a suggestion that this culture exists within the Labour party is reprehensible and a source of great shame."

PoliticsHome also revealed that the GMB is offering staff one-to-one legal advice from its employment law experts amid plummeting morale.

A Labour spokesperson said the party's "comprehensive rebuttal of the Panorama programme did not in any way criticise Jewish members who have suffered anti-semitism".

"As we said after the programme aired, we will fully investigate any complaints alleging anti-semitic incidents reported by party members in interviews in the programme. We stand in solidarity with Jewish people, and we’re taking decisive action to root out anti-semitism from our movement and society," said the spokesperson.

"Our response highlighted the Panorama team inventing a quote, editing emails and making no serious attempt to understand the party’s procedures for dealing with anti-semitism.

"This is an important issue in the public interest and it is essential that it be assessed in a balanced and impartial way. Instead, Panorama pre-determined the outcome of its investigation and misrepresented the evidence to present a biased and selective account."

They added: "A number of claims made in the Panorama programme by former staff members are inaccurate and some of the individuals have a clear record of political opposition or hostility to the Labour leadership. 

"The Party was not informed by Panorama of the mental health issues experienced by former staff members. The Labour party is committed to fulfilling our duty of care to our employees, and all employees of the Labour party have access to an Employee Assistance Programme, which provides 24/7 confidential support to employees, including counselling. This service is widely advertised to employees throughout the organisation."