A senior aide to Jeremy Corbyn has been appointed as head of Labour’s complaints unit - just weeks after she was embroiled in a row over anti-Semitism.
Laura Murray, who worked as ‘stakeholder manager’ for the Labour leader, was last week confirmed in the hugely important post after impressing party officials, HuffPost UK has been told.
Murray was transferred seven weeks ago to the party’s HQ to provide “administrative” support for the team dealing with disciplinary cases against activists.
The 30-year-old aide, who has both allies and critics within the Jewish community, has now been given the permanent post of head of complaints. Party sources said the post was subject to an open recruitment process.
Murray was named in a string of leaked emails that revealed she had acted on behalf of the leader’s office in a series of anti-Semitism cases.
In one email passed to the Sunday Times, she said that an activist should be investigated but not suspended over tweets which drew on anti-Israel conspiracy theories. She argued that the tweets made “no mention of Jews or Jewishness”.
The activist in question, Patricia Sheerin, was one of three party members later questioned by Scotland Yard for “publishing or distributing material likely to stir up racial hatred”.
In another email in the Times, Murray suggested that a party member from Devon should not be suspended over endorsement of an anti-Semitic mural, unless there was further evidence about her anti-Jewish views.
She argued that the woman who defended the mural had shown her ignorance of anti-semitic tropes and if she refused to see the problem then suspension would be an option.
In both cases, the aide used the word “we” to suggest that she was not acting individually and was relaying the views of the leader’s office itself.
Defenders of Murray say that the emails have been selectively leaked and that in other anti-Semitism cases - including one where a Peterborough council candidate was suspended - she has recommended tougher action than that suggested by party officials.
Murray is the daughter of Andrew Murray, a senior Unite official and adviser to Corbyn who has also given advice on some anti-Semitism cases.
Jeremy Newmark, the former head of the Jewish Labour Movement, has said that Murray has always been “responsible and fair” and defended her against what he felt was “bullying”.
Momentum founder Jon Lansman, who is also Jewish, offered his support when she was subjected to abuse over her role.
However, Labour MPs and several other members of the Jewish community have been heavily critical of the idea that someone from the leader’s office should play such a key role in the independent complaints unit.
One senior party Jewish figure said that Murray was not the right person for the job because of her close links to the leader’s office. “I firmly believe the party should appoint someone unfactional and apolitical to the role,” they said.
The Jewish Labour Movement, which considered disaffiliating from the party recently, said that the appointment would not be enough to reform a “broken” system of complaints.
A JLM spokesman said: “If Labour was really interested in building trust with its Jewish members and voters and tackling anti-Jewish racism, it wouldn’t have gone for this shoddy quick-fix.
“It would have agreed to what JLM and the Jewish community has been demanding - a fully independent, properly resourced system.
“Without taking such a clean break from the current failed system, it is hard to see how Labour and Jeremy Corbyn will tackle the institutionalised crisis of anti-semitism in the party.”
Murray is also facing possible legal action from TV presenter and anti-Semitism campaigner Rachel Riley over tweets posted in the wake of Corbyn being hit with an egg by a Brexiteer protestor.
Murray, who has since deleted her Twitter account, wrote: “Rachel Riley tweets that Corbyn deserves to be violently attacked because he is a Nazi. This woman is as dangerous as she is stupid. Nobody should engage with her. Ever.” Riley strongly disputes the claim.
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on staffing matters.”
But a party source said: “Our recruitment processes are open, fair and designed to find the best person for the job, and that’s what happened in this case.”
Allies of Murray stress that the process of asking the Leaders’ Office for their views on cases was initiated by a former employee, during the period between former general secretary Iain McNicol leaving and his replacement by Jennie Formby.
In her previous role, Murray worked closely with Jewish organisations and equalities groups, they say.
A Labour spokesman said after the Sunday Times story: “Any suggestion that staff in the leader’s office overturned recommendations on individual cases is categorically untrue.”