Labour MPs demand answers from leadership on antisemitism

Sienna Rodgers

Labour MPs tonight passed a motion calling on the leadership to tackle cases of antisemitism and answer to the parliamentary party on the handling of disciplinary cases. At the weekly PLP meeting, attended by general secretary Jennie Formby this evening, MPs demanded a report on the matter to be supplied in one week.

The motion, called ‘Action on Antisemitism’, was proposed by Catherine McKinnell and seconded by Ruth Smeeth. It warns that the party risks normalising Labour antisemitism and appearing “institutionally antisemitic” unless it takes adequate action.

11 questions are asked of the leadership, including the numbers of outstanding antisemitism cases and received complaints, the details of the antisemitism guidelines review and any training undertaken by staff members, and how the party plans to exercise a duty of care towards MPs in the future.

Before the meeting took place, Formby sent a message to the PLP setting out what Labour had done so far to improve the complaints and disputes procedures under her watch. In a letter exclusively revealed by LabourList, the general secretary said “significant progress” had already been made “to strengthen and speed up our procedures”.

Formby said “NCC hearings happen more frequently and with fewer delays” and told MPs she wanted to get “world-class education programme on antisemitism” for members “absolutely right”. The Jewish Labour Movement, Labour’s only affiliated Jewish group, issued a response to this point.

“We reject entirely the suggestion, made for the second time by the Labour Party, that it knows better than the Jewish community what counts as “world class” ways to combat antisemitism,” the tweeted JLM statement read.

The general secretary concluded her message: “I am proud of the progress that has been made but I’m not complacent… There is more work to be done to ensure all cases are dealt with quickly and fairly, and to eliminate the evil of antisemitism from our movement once and for all.”

But angry Labour MPs reported from the private meeting tonight that Formby had told them she answered to the national executive committee, not the PLP, and she said that it would be “impossible to eradicate antisemitism”. A Labour source clarified that Formby had told MPs it was impossible to eradicate antisemitism without improved procedures and education.

After the meeting, Dame Margaret Hodge MP commented: “The resolution was unanimously supported by the Parliamentary Labour Party and the general secretary of the Labour Party basically said she wasn’t prepared to give us the information that was required in the resolution.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “Jennie Formby gave a comprehensive update on the significant work that’s been done to strengthen and speed up procedures and addressed the points in the motion.” Explaining why the questions in the motion couldn’t be answered, they said: “Complaints processes are confidential and the party has a responsibility to protect members’ data.”

Below is the full text of the ‘Action on Antisemitism’ motion passed at the PLP meeting tonight.

The PLP notes that 10 months ago the British Jewish community took to Parliament Square for the Enough is Enough demonstration to demand the Labour Party take action against antisemitism; in response the PLP notes that the leader of the Labour Party apologised for the “hurt and pain” caused by instances of antisemitism in the Labour Party and pledged to “redouble my efforts to bring this anxiety to an end”; the PLP acknowledges that on her appointment, the new general secretary to the Labour Party vowed to introduce procedures to deal with complaints and disciplinary cases and said the “stain” of antisemitic attitudes must be “completely eradicated” within the party.

In the months that have followed, the PLP is dismayed that there remains such a backlog of antisemitism cases that are still to be investigated and a decision reached – in particular the high-profile cases that it was promised would be concluded by July 2018. The PLP is very concerned by recent reports that a number of cases of alleged antisemitic activity from high-profile members have been dropped. The PLP calls on the party leadership to adequately tackle cases of antisemitism, as a failure to do so seriously risks antisemitism in the party appearing normalised and the party seeming to be institutionally antisemitic.

The PLP calls on the party leadership to provide a report to the PLP meeting in one weeks’ time detailing:

  1. How many outstanding cases of antisemitism the Labour Party need to a) investigate b) consider at the NEC disputes panel c) prepare charge sheets to submit to the NCC d) await a NCC hearing;
  2. How many complaints about antisemitism have been received and on how many occasions have NEC officers/the general secretary used delegated powers to take no further action about these complaints;
  3. How many FTE staff (not on any kind of long term leave) in GLU a) handle complaints and complainants b) investigate complaints c) process cases through disputes and NCC;
  4. How much has been spent on external legal counsel on behalf of the NEC pursuing disciplinary cases against members;
  5. Which Jewish community organisations have been consulted on the still un-reviewed antisemitism Code of Practice and what is the timetable for when this is set to be complete;
  6. Which individuals/organisation has been commissioned to provide antisemitism training to members who must complete training as a sanction, when this training will be finalised and when this training will be rolled out;
  7. Whether all members of the NEC on the antisemitism Disputes Panel have completed antisemitism training;
  8. How many members who have been through the disciplinary process are waiting to commence antisemitism training;
  9. What is the Labour Party’s maximum timescales for responding to members who report instances of antisemitism;
  10. How the Labour Party is engaging with the targets of antisemitic abuse;
  11. What process the Labour Party is implementing in terms of its duty of care to its elected representatives.

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