Watchdog finds Labour guilty of 'inexcusable failure' to tackle anti-semitism
Labour broke equality law in its handling of anti-Semitism, an investigation by the human rights watchdog has concluded.
A damning report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found the party was responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.
The investigation found evidence of "political interference" by then leader Jeremy Corbyn's office in the complaints process, a move likely to add to the party's bitter civil war over the handling of anti-Semitism during his time in charge.
The EHRC's interim chairwoman Caroline Waters said there had been "inexcusable" failures which "appeared to be a result of a lack of willingness to tackle anti-Semitism rather than an inability to do so".
The EHRC identified serious failings in the Labour Party leadership in addressing anti-Semitism and an inadequate process for handling complaints.
The party is responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act (2010) relating to: political interference in complaints, failure to provide adequate training to those handling anti-Semitism cases and harassment.
Ms Waters said: "The Labour Party made a commitment to zero tolerance for anti-Semitism. Our investigation has highlighted multiple areas where its approach and leadership to tackling anti-Semitism was insufficient.
"This is inexcusable and appeared to be a result of a lack of willingness to tackle anti-Semitism rather than an inability to do so."
The party has been served with an unlawful act notice and has been given until December 10 to draft an action plan to implement the report's recommendations, which is legally enforceable by the courts if not fulfilled.
The EHRC found evidence of political interference in the complaints process, with 23 instances of inappropriate involvement by the Leader of the Opposition's Office (LOTO) and others in the 70 files the watchdog looked at.
They included LOTO staff influencing decisions, including on suspensions or whether to investigate claims.
The EHRC found the situation to be indirectly discriminatory and unlawful as it put the person making the complaint at a disadvantage.
The watchdog found that the lack of training for people handling anti-Semitism complaints indirectly discriminated against Jewish members until August 2020, by which time Sir Keir Starmer was leader of the party.
Labour has committed to proper training, with the EHRC recommending it should be mandatory and fully implemented within six months.
The watchdog highlighted the actions of former London mayor Ken Livingstone and Pam Bromley, who was a councillor in Rossendale during the anti-Semitism row, saying Labour was responsible for their anti-Semitic conduct, resulting in a finding of unlawful harassment, because they were acting as agents of the party.
But the report said this was only the tip of the iceberg and a further 18 "borderline" cases were found, involving councillors, local election candidates and constituency party office holders where there was not enough evidence to conclude Labour was legally responsible for their conduct.
Recommendations made include commissioning an independent process to handle anti-Semitism complaints, acknowledging the effect political interference has had and implementing clear rules to stop it happening again.
Ms Waters said: "It is encouraging to see the party's new leadership has committed to implementing our recommendations in full.
"If the party truly wants to rebuild trust with its members and the Jewish community, it must acknowledge the impact that numerous investigations and years of failure to tackle anti-Semitism has had on Jewish people."
The Jewish Labour Movement said blame for the "sordid, disgraceful chapter" in the party's history "lies firmly with those who held positions of leadership".
The Campaign Against Antisemitism's Gideon Falter said: "Jeremy Corbyn and those around him who took part in or enabled the gaslighting, harassment and victimisation of Britain's Jewish minority are shamed for all time.
"Those who defended and stood by them are shown to have made possible the closest flirtation that mainstream British politics has had with anti-Semitism in modern history."
A joint statement from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust said: "This report is a damning verdict on what Labour did to Jews under Jeremy Corbyn and his allies.
"It proves why British Jews were so distressed and it disgraces those who attacked us for speaking out against anti-Jewish racism.”
Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge tweeted: "This is a truly appalling day for the Labour Party. Under Corbyn's leadership, Labour committed unlawful acts of harassment and political interference.
"This should never have been allowed to happen and this report must act as a watershed moment."
The report found evidence that, from at least June 2017 to mid-2018, the Labour Party operated a policy of "not investigating complaints about party members' social media activity if they only liked or shared content without commenting on it".
It said Labour sought to justify this at the time by stating that sharing posts did not necessarily reflect the views of the person who shared them.
The report identified a Labour Party member who was suspended for a range of anti-Semitic tweets of other people's content, but was later reinstated despite other social media activity revealing shares of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Another member was not investigated by the party, despite sharing Holocaust denial content.
The report found Labour's complaints unit did not investigate concerns over likes, retweets and shares "even when it was appropriate to do so, which meant that potentially anti-Semitic conduct went unchallenged".
Labour said its policy on social media posts had since changed, something the EHRC described as "positive".
The report said Labour is "now actively investigating complaints, including complaints against 30 members who shared or liked social media content that appeared to be anti-Semitic".
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