Momentum co-founder Jon Lansman has exclusively told LabourList that he “wasn’t happy” with the response of suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report.
In a wide-ranging interview to be published in full later, Lansman shared his views on the report and Corbyn’s response, his own experiences of Labour antisemitism, and his thoughts on the future of the party and its left wing.
Corbyn last month reacted to the conclusion of the investigation by describing one antisemite as “too many”, but added that “the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents”.
He was subsequently suspended from the party pending investigation and had the whip withdrawn. A Labour spokesperson said the action was taken due to “his comments” and “failure to retract them subsequently”.
“I wasn’t happy with the words that Jeremy used,” Lansman told LabourList, speaking out after attending his final Labour national executive committee (NEC) meeting as a member of the party’s ruling body.
“He was clearly talking about the number of cases, and of course that is technically right. The public perceptions, which are created by media reporting, don’t match the numbers of cases,” Lansman added.
“But to say that on the day of the EHRC report, when lots of people – I’ve had lots of antisemitic abuse. I am hurt by that. The hurt has not been exaggerated. The hurt is real. So I think Jeremy’s words were not right. I disagree with them.”
The former chair of Labour left group Momentum, which grew out of Corbyn’s 2015 leadership campaign, also revealed in the LabourList interview that he did not agree with the disciplinary action, however.
“I also disagree strongly with his suspension. I haven’t said that before because it wasn’t appropriate for an NEC member to say that, but I’ve effectively finished my term,” he said.
Lansman explained that he believed the situation would only likely be resolved with a “withdrawal” that would follow if the party decided to take no further action once receiving answers to questions put to Corbyn about the complaint.
Although he disagrees with the former leader’s response, the left figure also raised concerns over whether due process was followed in the suspension, saying: “The EHRC is very clear about political interference.
“I’m not sure it was right for David Evans as general secretary to make the decision… It seemed pretty clear to me that the decision should be taken within the unit that investigates [antisemitism complaints].”
Lansman told LabourList that he is “in favour of an independent process” for the party’s antisemitism complaints, as well as those relating to sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of harassment.
On the report of the equality body itself, the outgoing NEC member said: “The day of the EHRC report was very emotional. And by the way, when I read the EHRC report, there was very little in it that I would disagree with at all.
“Nothing major, actually. It’s a very process-driven report, which you would expect.” But he added that “there is an issue about the way that the EHRC treats party agents” as it is “quite a broad range that has significant implications”.
LabourList will soon be publishing the full exclusive interview with Jon Lansman.