Labour’s handling of antisemitism in the party hasn’t been knocked off the news agenda after a meeting was held between Jeremy Corbyn, new general secretary Jennie Formby and Jewish groups yesterday.
It’s been described in unambiguous terms as “really bad” and a “disaster” by attendees. The Jewish Chronicle’s Stephen Pollard has pieced together accounts of the meeting for his write-up, in which he concludes that Corbyn and Formby “gave the game away” by “hiding behind procedural excuses”.
There were two key demands put to the leader and general secretary: first, establish an independent ombudsman (which, as I said yesterday, was always highly unlikely to be met); second, no MP should share a platform with someone expelled or suspended for antisemitism.
A Labour source contends there was “agreement” over the latter demand but it seems this didn’t come across at the meeting. On Radio 4 this morning Barry Gardiner said it’s wrong for Chris Williamson to appear alongside Jackie Walker at a rally next week, but some would like Corbyn himself to say so.
There’s no denying that the outcome falls short of the requests made by the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council, who are deeply disappointed. But progress has been made in a few areas.
The Jewish groups have been invited to help develop training, which will include the key IHRA definition of antisemitism. Labour is looking into the possibility of introducing time limits, although they say this is more complicated than it might seem as subject of complaints can take the party to court causing delays. The party is promising to deal with the “vast majority” of longstanding cases, such as those of Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker, by the end of July.
Corbyn intends to take the lead personally against antisemitism, and his spokesman repeated this afternoon that the leader is unequivocal: concerns about antisemitism should in no way be dismissed smears.