Labour antisemitism: Equality watchdog threatens enforcement action over ‘unlawful discrimination’ in party

‘Our concerns are sufficient for us to consider using our statutory enforcement powers’

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Thursday 07 March 2019 11:08 GMT
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The move represents a significant blow to party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and comes just weeks after nine MPs quit Labour
The move represents a significant blow to party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and comes just weeks after nine MPs quit Labour (EPA)

The UK’s equality watchdog will consider whether Labour has “unlawfully discriminated” against the Jewish community in the wake of antisemitism row that has engulfed the party.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it will look at whether to use enforcement powers against the party in relation to allegations of anti-Jewish sentiment.

The move comes in response to complaints submitted by the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) and the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), Labour’s only Jewish affiliate, which voted to “stay and fight” after deliberating whether to sever ties with the party.

An EHRC spokesperson said: “Having received a number of complaints regarding antisemitism in the Labour Party, we believe Labour may have unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs.

“Our concerns are sufficient for us to consider using our statutory enforcement powers.

“As set out in our enforcement policy, we are now engaging with the Labour Party to give them an opportunity to respond.”

Once the EHRC’s formal letter is received by Labour, the party will have 14 days to respond. The commission will then take enforcement action, which could include a full-blown investigation.

CAA chairman Gideon Falter said: “It is a sad indictment that the once great anti-racist Labour Party is now being investigated by the equality and human rights regulator it established just a decade ago.”

The move represents a significant blow to Mr Corbyn, and comes just weeks after nine MPs quit Labour, partly in protest at the leadership’s handling of antisemitism complaints.

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It also comes after the JLM opted to remain a part of Labour during emotional meetings in Manchester and London on whether to break away from the party.

National secretary Peter Mason said: “The message from the Jewish Labour Movement this evening was absolutely clear. If the Labour Party fails to show solidarity to us, we will not show solidarity to it.

“That counts for MPs who do not sign their names to letters showing solidarity with us, that counts for members of the Scottish parliament, that counts for councillors.

“But we as a Jewish movement will make it very clear to the party leadership: we are not going anywhere, we are staying, we are standing and we are fighting against the corrupted antisemitism that has gripped our party.”

Responding to the EHRC, a Labour Party spokesperson said: “We completely reject any suggestion the party has acted unlawfully and will be cooperating fully with the EHRC.

“Labour is fully committed to the support, defence and celebration of the Jewish community and its organisations.

“Antisemitism complaints received since April 2018 relate to about 0.1 per cent of our membership, but one antisemite in our party is one too many. We are determined to tackle antisemitism and root it out of our party.”

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