Complaint Letter to Keir Starmer and David Evens

Antisemitism in the Labor Party

Dear Sir Keir and Mr Evans,

ANTISEMITISM IN THE LABOUR PARTY

Campaign Against Antisemitism was the originating complainant in the statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (the ‘Commission’), whose report has been published this morning. You may be aware that we first contacted the Commission in 2017 and have worked with its investigators over the years since to make the case that has today been vindicated.

The Commission, in its report, has concluded that the Labour Party and a number of named officials and members committed unlawful acts in breach of the Equality Act 2010, in that they unlawfully discriminated against Jewish members of the Labour Party on the ground of their (or others) being Jewish. The Commission showed that the unlawful acts were of a systemic rather than an isolated character. It found that the disciplinary process lacked independence and was unfit for purpose. It found that the culture in the Labour Party and the acts and omissions of its leadership served to foster an environment within the Party that was hostile to Jewish people.

Institutional antisemitism is at the heart of the Commission’s findings and conclusions.

That your Party became institutionally racist against Jews, causing more than two in five British Jews to consider leaving the country and necessitating the investigation that has now concluded, is an indelible stain on Labour and on those within your Party who stood by and let antisemitism take hold. The individuals responsible must at last be held to account.

A number of officers and members of the Labour Party were directly involved in antisemitic conduct. Some participated in creating a culture that was hostile to Jews. Others enabled antisemitism through their own conduct or through their passivity or silent acquiescence. Many Jewish people, whose political home had been in Labour, often over generations, found themselves politically homeless. Many still do. It is shameful that antisemitism was allowed to take root so deeply, particularly in a party which had previously prided itself on its commitment to equality, anti-racism, and the protection of minorities.

CAA originally approached the Commission because our complaints about antisemitic conduct by members of the Labour Party, including its former leader, Jeremy Corbyn, were not treated seriously under the Party’s existing disciplinary processes and, in some cases, were simply ignored.

It became clear to us that the Party’s disciplinary processes were unfit for purpose and that its culture was inhospitable to Jews. For that reason, after the failure to take our initial complaints seriously, we held back making further complaints or pressing existing complaints to the Labour Party while the Commission’s investigation took place.

Following publication of the Commission’s report and its recommendations, including for a reformed disciplinary process that is independent and fit for purpose, there is a renewed opportunity to deal fairly and effectively with antisemitic conduct that has not been properly addressed so far.

In anticipation of establishment of an independent disciplinary process, we are submitting two types of complaint for consideration under that new process.

• First, we will be resubmitting our pre-existing complaints against Jeremy Corbyn. We request that this complaint should be dealt with under the new disciplinary process. The original complaint has been supplemented with further supporting evidence which was unavailable when the complaint was originally submitted, including Mr Corbyn’s statement this morning and, in any event, the historic elements of the complaints were plainly not dealt with appropriately or objectively. The complaint and the evidence in support are set out in Appendix A to this letter.

• Second, we will be submitting a new set of complaints. The new complaints are against the following sitting and former Labour Party Members of Parliament, parliamentary candidates fielded at the last General Election, and peers, including Diane Abbott, Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon, Barry Gardiner, Afzal Khan and Zarah Sultana (the “Respondents”). CAA contends that each of the Respondents breached the Party’s Conditions of Membership as set out in Chapter 2, Clause I (8) of the Party’s Rule Book by committing acts that are grossly detrimental to the Party in that they repeatedly contended that complaints about antisemitism in the Labour Party were (and are) simply “a smear”, victimised those making allegations of antisemitism within the Party, or engaged in antisemitic acts themselves. This conduct fostered a culture of discrimination, harassment and victimisation, contrary to Chapter I, Clause IV (2) (B) of the Party’s Constitutional Rules contained in the Party’s Rule Book. These complaints and the supporting evidence are set out in Appendix B to this letter.

We note that the Labour Party has formally adopted the International Definition of Antisemitism (“the Definition”). In addition to breaching the Labour Party’s Rules on the grounds of causing gross detriment to the Party, the conduct about which we complain also falls within that Definition. All of the incidents cited in the Appendix are followed by an analysis demonstrating why they constitute either a direct breach of — or active support for — a breach of the Definition by the respondents. We would be willing to provide further evidence or analysis, should it be required.

Further, we point out that it remains open to the Leader of the Labour Party to remove Shadow Ministers from the Shadow Cabinet or to withdraw the Labour whip from MPs, as a matter of discretion, independently of the Party’s disciplinary process, as was the case with Rebecca Long-Bailey.

While there are encouraging signs that the Labour Party under your leadership is now inclined to be less tolerant of the promotion of antisemitic tropes, the respondents against whom we have made complaints have, in our view, committed more serious breaches, yet no action has been taken against them so far, at least not to our knowledge.

Parties are judged by the conduct of those elected to high office and by how they respond when the conduct of those office holders falls so dismally short. In the eyes of the overwhelming majority of Britain’s Jews and all decent people in our country, Labour under Mr Corbyn was severely wanting. An independent statutory body whose very brief is to protect equality and human rights has now confirmed the correctness of that view.

Whether Labour under its new leadership has turned a corner will be judged by how it deals with complaints, including those we have made, going forward. In our view, action on our complaints is a necessary step for the Labour Party towards regaining the values that it lost and to begin restoring the trust of the Jewish community.

In light of the grim history of the past five years and in order to ensure that all complaints can now be properly investigated, we request confirmation that no prescriptive period will be applied in order to preclude complaints related to past incidents. We note that the Labour Party’s rules contain no such prescriptive period, despite the same being a recommendation in the Chakrabarti Report which did so much to whitewash antisemitism within the Party.

Further, in order to restore confidence in the disciplinary process, the secrecy in relation to disciplinary processes ushered in following the Charkrabarti Report must end. There must be transparency concerning the outcome of disciplinary complaints. In particular, we ask that the outcomes of disciplinary investigations and panel hearings be made known to us, as complainants and, unless there are exceptional and compelling reasons to the contrary in a particular case, that the outcomes be made known to the general public as well.

In conclusion, we request that you introduce the new independent disciplinary process, and ensure that the misconduct alleged in our complaints is investigated and decided only through that new independent process, no later than six months from the date of this letter, namely 29th April 2021.

CAA referred Labour to the Commission because the Party failed to deal with our disciplinary complaints over antisemitism within its ranks, culminating in the Party’s refusal even to investigate our complaints against Mr Corbyn. Sir Keir, you have pledged to tear out antisemitism “by its roots”, and in order to do so you must ensure that the complaints appended hereto are investigated fairly, efficiently and transparently.

Justice delayed is justice denied, and it has been delayed by too many years already.