'Hyper-factional' Labour staff sabotaged efforts at dealing with antisemitism: Report
The British Labour Party’s handling of antisemitism complaints was hindered by senior party officials who were “working against” party leader Jeremy Corbyn, an extensive internal party investigation has found.
The 860-page report found evidence of a “hyper-factional atmosphere” at the party’s headquarters with regards to Corbyn, who was replaced by former shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer as party leader earlier this month.
First reported by Sky News, the document further suggested that opposition to Corbyn was such that key Labour staff went as far as hampering his 2017 general election campaign.
Those who compiled the dossier insist it was intended to supplement the party’s main submission to an investigation into antisemitism within the party being conducted by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the UK’s equalities watchdog.
However, party officials have said the report, which calls into question the trustworthiness of top party staff, will not be sent to the commission with lawyers informing Labour general secretary Jennie Formby that it could damage its wider case.
The report’s publication comes just after the closure of Corbyn’s four-year tenure as party leader, during which time he and the party came under a chorus of criticism over its failure to rapidly deal with complaints of antisemitism and faced accusations of “institutional racism”.
New leader Starmer has made it a priority to tackle antisemitism in the party and said that he wanted to “acknowledge the pain and hurt” his party had caused the Jewish community in recent years.
But the report, entitled “The work of the Labour Party's Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014-2019”, said there was no evidence that the complaints process had been hindered as a result of current or former staff being “motivated by antisemitic intent”.
The report, which drew on thousands of emails and WhatsApp communications, accused the Labour Party’s former general secretary Iain McNicol, and other senior figures of providing "false and misleading information" to Corbyn's office in relation to the handling of antisemitism complaints, which meant "the scale of the problem was not appreciated" by the leadership.
The report claims McNicol and staff in the governance and legal unit "provided timetables for the resolution of cases that were never met; falsely claimed to have processed all antisemitism complaints; falsely claimed that most complaints received were not about Labour members and provided highly inaccurate statistics of antisemitism complaints".
In response, McNichol said the report was a “petty attempt” to divert attention away from challenging antisemitism in the party.
"I have repeatedly stood by the professional staff of the Labour Party who I worked with over the seven and a half year period I was general secretary, and continue to do so,” he told Sky News.
'There will be a reckoning'
In a review of antisemitism complaints received between November 2016 to February of this year, the report claims that investigations were launched into 34 of the more than 300 complaints received in relation to antisemitism.
"At least half of these warranted action, many of them in relation to very extreme forms of antisemitism, but were ignored,” the report said.
The report concludes that there was a lack of "robust processes, systems, training, education and effective line management" and found "abundant evidence of a hyper-factional atmosphere prevailing in Party HQ" towards Corbyn which "affected the expeditious and resolute handling of disciplinary complaints".
'One way or another, there will be a reckoning for those who allowed antisemitism to exist largely unchecked and then used that fact for their own political purposes'
- Labour Party staff member
The report further claims that private messages show that senior former staff "openly worked against the aims and objectives of the leadership of the party, and in the 2017 general election some key staff even appeared to work against the party's core objective of winning elections."
In a statement, a former Labour staff member who did not want to give their name, said: “I’m shocked by this report’s findings. It seems that some of the people most intimately involved with ignoring shocking examples of antisemitism have been trying to shift the blame for their own shameful incompetence. It’s good these cases are being dealt with now but it’s more than two years too late.
“One way or another, there will be a reckoning for those who allowed antisemitism to exist largely unchecked and then used that fact for their own political purposes.”