Anger at Shami Chakrabarti claim of 'overly politicised' anti-Semitism report

Posted On: 
5th December 2016

MPs on a powerful Commons committee have hit back at top Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti after she branded their report into anti-Semitism “overly political”.

Jeremy Corbyn and Shami Chakrabarti at the launch of her report into anti-Semitism in the Labour party
Credit: 
PA Images

One Home Affairs Committee (HAC) member accused the Shadow Attorney General of “perpetuating a culture of denial” about anti-Semitism in Labour and demanded she show “a little humility”.

In her own report earlier this year Baroness Chakrabarti concluded the party was not “overrun” with anti-Semitism, though she made a series of recommendations to toughen up the rules and penalties for dealing with it.

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But the HAC unanimously said in October that her subsequent decision to accept a peerage – and refusal to disclose to the committee when it was offered – left her open to the charge of a whitewash.

It also lamented that she failed to define anti-Semitism in her report, with interim HAC chair at the time Tim Loughton saying her account “wasn’t worth the paper it was written on”.

Former Liberty director Baroness Chakrabarti said this morning: "I believe that that report was overly politicised and I regret the fact that I was not allowed to give evidence to it. But that, if you like, is the heat and the noise of party politics."

But committee member David Burrowes hit back, telling PoliticsHome: “It is a bit rich for Baroness Chakrabarti to criticise the cross party HAC for being politicised when she chaired a Labour party political report which has been roundly criticised for lacking independence.

“A little humility would be in order to recognise her report was lacking not least in a failure to define anti-Semitism."

The Tory MP added: “Unfortunately Baroness Chakrabarti is perpetuating a culture of denial in some parts of the Labour movement when it comes to the problem of anti-Semitism.”

Meanwhile Tory MP and HAC member James Berry told PoliticsHome it was “very disappointing” that Baroness Chakrabarti would “seek to undermine” the HAC’s work.

He added: “The only concern about politicisation here is the fact that someone appointed to chair an ‘independent inquiry’ very soon thereafter joins the Labour party, becomes a Labour peer and is then a member of the inner circle of that party's leader - The very party into whose practices she was appointed to investigate.”

'IN GOOD FAITH'

Appearing on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Baroness Chakrabarti insisted that her month-long inquiry, which has been accused of pulling its punches on the extent of anti-Semitism within Labour, was "done in good faith".

“Part of the report has already been implemented and is going to affect disciplinary outcomes in terms of people’s appropriate language, conduct and behaviour,” she argued.

“There is some more work to be done, there are some things yet to be implemented. But that report was done in good faith and the party is ready to show its solidarity with members of all communities."

Her criticisms of politicisation echo those of Jeremy Corbyn, who accused the MPs' committee of placing a "disproportionate emphasis on Labour" when examining the extent of anti-Semitism in the country.

Among the Labour members on the HAC is former frontbencher Chuka Umunna, who has previously rejected Mr Corbyn's criticisms of its report.

Speaking in October, he said: "For what it's worth, in conducting this inquiry with Committee colleagues I have not shied away from robust questioning of witnesses giving evidence on Labour – I have treated cross examination on this issue just like any other.

“Inevitably I have been criticised for this but I have no regrets - it would have been cowardly to do otherwise because people’s right to freedom from hatred and prejudice is bigger than any one individual or party in my view.

“It is grossly insulting to suggest that those of us who recognise this - Labour Party members or otherwise - do so because of some desire to score political points either between political parties or within them.”