Labour Faces Fresh Anti-Semitism Row As Party Fails To Publish Full Baroness Royall Inquiry Into Oxford University

Inquiry calls for 'safe space' for Jewish students

17/05/2016 18:28 | Updated 17 May 2016
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Labour is facing a fresh row over anti-semitism after the party failed to publish a full report into claims of misconduct by Oxford University students.

Baroness Royall's inquiry into Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) found no evidence of “institutional anti-semitism”, but she stressed that the party faces “difficulties” in providing a “safe space” for Jewish students.

And the former Cabinet minister made clear in a blog that "there is too often a culture of intolerance where Jews are concerned and there are clear incidents of antisemitism".

In a hint that her own conclusions had been misrepresented by the party, Baroness Royal told the Jewish Labour Movement that she shared its 'disappointment and frustration' that her findings of incidents of anti-semitism were not getting enough attention.

"I am clear that in the OULC there is a cultural problem which means that Jewish students do not always feel welcome.  And we have to take action to change this situation.

"Many students reported that should a Jewish student preface a remark “as a Jew …” they are likely to face ridicule and behaviour that would not be acceptable for someone saying “as a woman …” or “as an Afro-Caribbean”.  This should not be tolerated."

However, the party's ruling National Executive faced a backlash after it decided not to publish the report in full - and details may not now emerge until the wider Chakrabarti Inquiry into party racism is completed in late June.

The Royall report makes a series of recommendations to combat the issue, which has dogged Labour nationally for several months.

Chief among them is that party expulsion for anti-semitism should not automatically be for life - because “people may change their views” and reformed offenders should be allowed to seek readmission.

But the peer also urged the party to consider adopting “a definition of anti-semitic discourse”, rule changes to allow “swifter action” to deal with allegations and a new independent disciplinary panel on Jew-hate.

A further recommendation is a new power to expel anyone for anti-semitic conduct committed at any time, with no ‘statute of limitations’ on previous abusive behaviour.

And a fresh row erupted when it was claimed that Baroness Royall wanted to publish her full report today and was prevented from doing so by the party's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).

Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Ken Livingstone

The full report, presented to the NEC in private, follows weeks of suspensions of Labour councillors, MP Naz Shah and NEC member Ken Livingstone for alleged anti-semitic conduct.

Yesterday, Baroness Royall signalled that her intention was to publish her report on the Labour party website by Tuesday evening.

Jeremy Newmark, a former spokesman for the Chief Rabbi and chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, claimed the peer had been frustrated by the NEC's decision.

Newmark told HuffPost UK: "There is a problem of denial of antisemitism in the party. Failure to publish Royall's full findings risks contributing to that.

"Nevertheless the NEC have today adopted a set of important recommendations that are a first step towards dealing with the problem. The Chakrabarti Inquiry must now work to deliver a fuller solution."

The Board of Deputies of British JewsAnd Simon Johnson, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, added: 

“We would like to express our appreciation to Baroness Royall for her efforts. However, we regard them as incomplete and are disappointed with the NEC's decision to suppress the release of the full inquiry.

"Organisations that do not publish full reports, particularly when they may be critical, tend to lose legitimacy in the eyes of the general public, as was the case when the media were rightly critical when FIFA tried to publish a very sanitised version of the report into the World Cup bidding procedure.

“We are entitled to expect the publishing of the full Royall report along with the Chakrabarti Inquiry. We will continue to support our colleagues in the community with their submissions to that Inquiry.”

Simon Johnson previously served as leader of the England 2018 World Cup bid.

PA/PA Wire
Suspended Labour MP Naz Shah

One party source also told HuffPost UK that Baroness Royall had amended her final report after a discussion with Jeremy Corbyn’s office on Monday evening.

A party spokesman insisted, however: “Jan Royall’s report was wholly her responsibility”. It is understood she made clear to the NEC that it was all her own work.

The peer made 11 recommendations for “immediate and sustained action”, while advising the Chakrabarti Inquiry of a further seven recommendations.

Baroness Royall stressed today that any documented evidence of misconduct within the Oxford study body would be passed to party General Secretary Iain McNicol and investigated “in line with normal procedures” for disciplinary action.

The probe was sparked earlier this year when student Alex Chalmers resigned as OULC co-chair, claiming some of his colleagues “have some kind of problem with Jews”.

Peter Adams
Oxford University

The allegations are understood to have included Jewish students feeling harassed, taunted with the phrase ‘Zio’ and the singing of a pro-Hamas song about rockets fired over Tel Aviv.

In the executive summary of her report, Baroness Royall does not make clear whether the allegations were unfounded or true.

But she recommends that Oxford University Labour Club, and all student Labour clubs, should “examine the culture of their club and take action to ensure that all those who wish to participate in meetings feel that there is a safe space in order to discuss and debate without discrimination”.

Some of those involved in the row insist that they have only ever been vociferous in attacking Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, rather than Jews as a race.

The peer made 11 recommendations for “immediate and sustained action”, while advising the Chakrabarti Inquiry of a further seven recommendations.

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Former leader of the Lords Baroness Royall

Among the recommendations are training for officers of all Labour clubs in dealing with antisemitism, led by the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Students.

A “clear line of reporting” of incidents is suggested, as well as the ability for individual students to report allegations directly to the party’s national Executive Director of Governance.

The party’s national complaints unit must also be “properly resourced so that it may deal effectively with complaints of antisemitism”, Baroness Royall said.

Labour should also consider adopting the 'Macpherson Principle' - drafted by the inquiry into Stephen Lawrence's racist murder - that an 'anti-semitic incident' is any incident 'perceived' to be so by 'the victim or any other person'.

She also said that the Chakrabarti Inquiry should work with Jeremy Corbyn and deputy Tom Watson to make online debate more “welcoming and productive”.

No form of antisemitism or racism should be allowed “including being used as a factional political tool”.

Shami Chakrabarti, former head of civil liberties group Liberty, revealed on Monday that she would fast-track her own inquiry so that it was concluded by the end of June.

She has called for evidence of any other anti-semitic or racist conduct by party members, other than the Oxford University allegations.

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