Labour warned anti-Semitism probe must not be 'whitewash'

Posted On: 
16th May 2016

Labour bosses were today warned a probe into anti-Semitism allegations must not be a "whitewash" after it emerged the lawyer leading it joined the party three hours before she got the job.

Shami Chakrabarti is heading a probe into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in Labour
PA Images

Shami Chakrabarti also admitted she would be "working for and in the best interests of the Labour party" when she carries out the inquiry, which will only last three weeks, and is also exploring the extent of Islamophobia and other forms of racism.

Ms Chakrabarti was appointed to the role on 29 April after Labour was hit by a string of anti-Semitism controversies.

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At a press conference in parliament today, the former head of civil liberties group Liberty admitted she had joined the party earlier the same day she got the job - but insisted it would not effect the impartiality of the inquiry.

She said: "It was my judgement as a Labour supporter who had previously not been affiliated to any party, I wanted Labour party members and supporters to trust that while I am independent of any person and group or wing of the party, I am conducting this inquiry with their best interests and values at heart."

Ms Chakrabarti also said she would not be seeking evidence from Ken Livingstone, who was suspended by Labour after he claimed Adolf Hitler was a Zionist "before he went mad and murdered six million Jews".

She said: "I will not positively solicit a submission from him because I don't think it's fair given his position pending an investigation."

But one Labour MP told PoliticsHome: "The inquiry into anti-Semitism mustn't produce a whitewash of a report.

"The leadership have been in denial of the problem and were painfully slow to act. It's vital that this inquiry is seen to be a serious and credible attempt to address the problem."

The closing date for submissions to the inquiry is 10 June, and it will issue its report by 30 June.

Vice-chairs of the inquiry are history professor David Feldman and Labour peer Baroness Royall, who will publish her own inquiry into anti-Semitism in the party tomorrow.


Ms Chakrabarti also took a swipe at the Conservatives, who have been criticised for their conduct during the London mayoral election campaign.

Tory candidate Zac Goldmsith repeatedly tried to link Labour's Sadiq Khan with Islamist terrorists, while David Cameron has also had to apologise to a former imam for wrongly accusing him of supporting IS.

Ms Chakrabarti said: "The difference between a progressive political party and others is that it fights both prejudice and complacency. It sets the highest standards for itself and is prepared to be judged by them.

"In contrast with other individuals and institutions, it will openly look itself in the mirror and constantly strive to realise its ideals of equality and inclusions close to home as well as in the wider world."

Asked by PoliticsHome if she was trying to make political capital out of the situation, she said: "I'm not qualified to currently answer questions on the Warsi inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia in the Conservative party. Is there one? No, there isn't.

"I think it is for other parties to look at their own business, but what I do hope is that this inquiry and its findings set the kind of standard that all democratic parties might seek to follow.

"It's not my vision to create a political row of any kind, but the recommendations that I make will be on the basis for this party, its constitution and its values."