Paul Waugh’s article on Wednesday on HuffPost, which includes the leaked 13-point recommendations for tackling antisemitism drafted by the party’s antisemitism working group and sent to the NEC last week, offers a first glimpse into how the party plans to deal with what has been described as new General Secretary Jennie Formby’s priority number one.
While Labour Against Antisemitism welcomes some of the proposals in this document, such as increasing the frequency of NCC panel meetings and making cases more anonymous to avoid political bias, it still falls well short of a workable framework that will deliver noticeable reductions in Labour antisemitism.
The proposal, presented by a team including shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti and Momentum founder Jon Lansman (neither of whom have spotless track records in this area), makes no reference to how antisemitism will be understood or defined. Inevitably without this there will remain confusion about how cases are judged as antisemitic or not. Markedly absent is any mention of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, which Labour’s NEC adopted in full in December 2016 but from which Jeremy Corbyn has attempted to backtrack away in recent weeks. The document also says nothing about how decisions will be reached as to whether cases are referred to the NCC panel, or who will make these decisions - except that they will be made in the General Secretary’s Office. Bearing in mind Jennie Formby’s own track record on dealing with antisemitism and the way serious cases of antisemitism have been referred for training rather than for more severe sanction, this is an area of significant concern.
Furthermore, no mention is made of expulsion in the list of possible sanctions. This seems to contradict Jeremy Corbyn’s promise made in December 2017 of zero tolerance for antisemitism in the Labour Party. That is wholly unacceptable. The Labour Party needs to be clear and unequivocal in the message it sends its members: that antisemitism has no part in the Labour movement and that racists will be removed.
Such a half-hearted attempt to get to grips with the antisemitism crisis raises the question of what the actual objective is of this proposal? As the Barnet election results showed there is very little trust or goodwill towards the Labour leadership from the Jewish community and it feels unlikely that there is enough commitment here to address that problem. This proposal certainly goes nowhere near satisfying the demands set out by the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council before their meeting with Mr Corbyn last March. They may accept that these recommendations at least show goodwill, but they should be wary to venture any stronger support.
If Labour wants to avoid a repeat of the defeat in Barnet and of the Enough is Enough and CAA rallies, then they will need to begin proving – through unambiguous actions – that they have listened: and that means member expulsions. It remains to be seen whether Mr Corbyn has the commitment and the integrity to take that step, risking as it will the wrath and fury of his own core support. The decision is his to make, but he should beware that history is rarely kind on those who indulge in, excuse and apologise for racial hatred.
We will be watching.