Anger as Labour member's claim 'Jewish community planning to attack party' met with no action

Posted On: 
16th February 2019

Labour has come under fire after it emerged that a member's claim that the "Jewish community plans to attack" the party was not deemed to have been anti-semitic under its complaints process.

The party has faced claims it has been too slow to act on cases of anti-Jewish abuse.
Credit: 
PA

MPs and campaigners hit out at the party's "appalling" handling of complaints against Sir Duncan Michael over remarks he made at a meeting of the Wimbledon Constituency Labour Party last August.

According to Sky News - which has obtained a recording of the meeting - Sir Duncan described the row over the party's handling of anti-Jewish racism as a "storm that started straight after we elected Jeremy".

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And he added: "Attacking Corbyn failed. He passed three democratic tests and so the Jewish community plans to attack our party."

He is also said to have told the meeting that the furore over anti-semitism in Labour was being led by a "very undemocratic elite from within our party" because of Mr Corbyn's "kindly" position on Palestine.

Following the meeting, several formal complaints were lodged against Sir Duncan by those present.

However, Sky News reports that the case was dismissed by Labour's London regional office, who said the party "does not believe this is an incident of anti-semitism and will not be taken further".

'OLDEST ANTI-SEMITIC TROPES'

That decision drew fresh anger from Mike Katz, vice chair of the Jewish Labour Movement.

"Talking about an 'undemocratic elite', talking about the Jews acting as a whole community to attack the Labour Party, that really plays into some of the oldest anti-semitic tropes - about Jews being conspiratorial, about acting in secrecy as some sort of cult to try and influence politics," he told Sky News.

"It's really worrying that people in the Labour Party compliance, when they see these remarks which people at the meeting itself very clearly understood to be anti-semitic, don't say that these are anti-semitic - they don't uphold the complaints."

Labour MP Wes Streeting said the case showed the party was not serious about tackling anti-semitism.

 

 

The move was also blasted by anti-racist campaign group Hope Not Hate, who said the report was "extremely alarming".

The group added: "The comments reported are clearly anti-semitic. Political parties should have a zero tolerance approach. Labour has to rethink this appalling decision."

Sir Duncan'scomments meanwhile drew audible groans from the room at the time, according to Sky, with the chair intervening to say members were "not here to blame the Jewish people for anything", while Glyn Secker of the the pro-Corbyn Jewish Voice For Labour branded the remarks "ill-informed" and "careless".

'EXTREMELY SERIOUSLY'

A Labour spokesperson said the party would not comment on individual cases.

But they added: "The Labour Party takes all complaints of anti-semitism extremely seriously and we are committed to challenging and campaigning against it in all its forms.

"All complaints about anti-semitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken."

A party source meanwhile told Sky that the email sent to the London Regional Office informing complainants no further action would be taken may have been sent in error and suggested that Sir Duncan was still under investigation.

The report comes just days after Labour's General Secretary Jennie Formby revealed that the party had expelled 12 members for anti-semitism after considering hundreds of complaints.

In an email to MPs and peers - who had urged the party to shed more light on efforts to tackle the problem - Ms Formby confirmed that the party had received 673 accusations of anti-Jewish abuse between April last year and January this year.

Of those, 96 members were immediately suspended, 146 received a written warning, 220 cases were dismissed because of a lack of evidence, and 211 were issued with a "Notice of Investigation".

A total of 42 party members were referred to Labour's quasi-judicial National Constitutional Committee, with five leaving before their case was heard.

Of the 18 NCC decisions which have been made so far, 12 members have been expelled, six were sanctioned and the rest are waiting a decision.