Jeremy Corbyn is facing claims that “a lack of political leadership” has marred the party’s attempts to tackle anti-semitism as outgoing general secretary Iain McNicol revealed that most of the Chakrabarti review have been implemented.
In an email to the ruling National Executive Committee (NEC), obtained by HuffPost UK, McNicol makes clear that just two recommendations of the inquiry into anti-Jewish abuse have been delayed – and both are the responsibility of the leadership.
He also points out that a raft of new regional ‘governance’ officers – crucial to tackling the huge backlog of disciplinary cases – was advertised this year only for the recruitment process to be halted by the leader’s office.
HuffPost has a copy of the job ads, which state that the new officers would be “primarily responsible for advising and supporting the work of party units on internal complaints and disciplinary procedures”.
“The Governance Officer will conduct training for party units and work with regional colleagues and stakeholders on mediation and informal resolution on complaints. In addition, the Governance Officer will conduct investigations and prepare reports as required for the NEC and NCC [the National Constitutional Committee that conducts investigations].”
In his email, McNicol writes: “In light of recent media reports I wanted to pass on the chart tracking the implementation of the recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report.
“Though not explicitly recommended by the report work has been undergoing to create new posts of ‘regional governance officers’. These posts were advertised earlier this year although the recruitment process was halted.”
The revelations come as Labour continued to be rocked by the anti-semitism scandal, with NEC Disputes Committee chair Christine Shawcroft forced to resign when it emerged she had opposed disciplinary action against a council candidate embroiled in a Holocaust denial row.
Shami Chakrabarti made a series of proposals in 2016 when the issue first ignited, but in recent days Corbyn and others have suggested that continuing problems are down to a failure to implement her findings.
One senior insider told HuffPost that McNicol’s email “rubbishes” the idea that party staff or organisational failures were to blame for the backlog of more than 70 cases of alleged anti-semitic abuse.
“It shows that the real reason is a lack of political leadership. The hard Left on the NEC have also been defending some of those accused. It doesn’t matter what processes you put in place if there is no appetite to get serious on the issue,” the source said.
McNicol’s email included a chart setting out in detail the full progress on implementation, with conference having adopted many of the plans.
On one main recommendation of the appointment of an in-house General Legal Counsel to offer legal advice to the general secretary, the chart states that the job description is with ‘LOTO’ [the Leader of the Opposition’s office].
On the appointment of a standing panel of legal advisers, the chart states: “This would require a rule change as the NCC remains the highest body in the application of the Party’s disciplinary process and their decision on these matters is final.
It adds: “The NCC have access to dedicated professional legal support to advise them on all matters relating to procedural issues both before and during a hearing.”
The chart says that Chakrabarti’s recommendation of more BAME staff is ‘ongoing’. “The Party has taken a number of steps towards this and diversity of party staff has improved over the last 18 months specifically amongst the Black, Chinese & Mixed heritage populations and at a senior management level. In the last 12 months BAME staff representation has increased by 70%.”
Jeremy Corbyn sent out a new email to all half a million party members on Thursday underlining his commitment to tackling the issue.
Our Party was founded on the principles of solidarity and equality. We are proudly anti-racist, and at our best when we work together, uniting people in hope and against fear and division.This week, Jewish leaders wrote to me to express their anger and upset about antisemitism in the Labour Party.I want to assure you that prejudice against, and harassment of, Jewish people have no place whatsoever in our Party.It’s important to develop a deeper understanding of what constitutes antisemitism.Often it takes familiar forms, but newer forms of antisemitism have also appeared, sometimes woven into criticisms of the actions of Israeli governments.Criticism of Israel, and support for the rights of the Palestinians, is entirely legitimate. Support for justice for the Palestinian people should provide no one with the excuse to insult, harass or encourage hatred of Jewish people.And abuse and personal attacks of any kind, on social media or in person, are never acceptable.I am committed to ensuring our Party is a welcoming and secure place for everyone. I offer all Jewish members my assurance that this applies equally to them. I want all of us to hear Jewish voices and Iisten.If you are not Jewish, I want you to better understand the importance of this issue and what we can do together to ensure our Party remains true to our values.Zero tolerance for antisemitism means what it says. We will not accept it.We have to get this right, all of us. Because divided societies cannot achieve justice.As we head into elections in May and look towards the next General Election whenever it might come, let’s take the lead in building a society free from prejudice. One that enables everyone to realise their full potential, and cares for all.Thank you for your support for Labour.Jeremy Corbyn
One Labour source told HuffPost this week that the new regional officer jobs were aimed at areas with local parties in special measures for longer than six months. However no local party is currently in special measures and the job ads are explicitly only for help on disciplinary work.
Party sources said that the leader’s office had not seen the McNicol progress charts until today.
Corbyn and Chakrabarti had constantly called for the appointment of the in-house lawyer over several months, but no progress had been made, they added.
The delays were not due to a lack of political leadership but down to a lack of response from the operational side of the party, sources said.
The job advert for extra staff was unrelated to the Chakrabarti inquiry and had not been signed off by the NEC business board, one insider claimed.
Just 5% of the total disciplinary cases in the last five years were linked to anti-semitism, they said. The arrival of Jennie Formby would prove how new leadership at general secretary level would produce change, the source said.