Labour publishes antisemitism action plan after gaining EHRC approval

Sienna Rodgers

The Labour Party has published the action plan for tackling antisemitism within its ranks after securing approval from the Equality and Human Rights Commission that earlier this year found it responsible for unlawful acts.

The legally-required plan was developed in six weeks after the EHRC report was published. It was sent to the body for approval on December 10th after being unanimously agreed by Labour’s national executive committee.

Now released in full, the formal response to the EHRC investigation into Labour antisemitism sets out the key steps that the party will take to implement the recommendations of the binding report from October.

It commits the party to having an independent complaints process “up and running” and being used to determine all antisemitism complaints by December 10th next year. This allows time for a party conference to be held.

Labour plans to “pursue independent elements” of the process in the meantime, however, which can take place without rulebook changes requiring a conference. Such elements include independent scrutiny of complaint handling.

The plan also officially and publicly confirms the existence of ‘Organise to Win’ for the first time. This is the name given to the review of Labour’s organisational structure, led by former civil service head Bob Kerslake, which started in July.

LabourList understands that the review recently concluded with a report submitted to general secretary David Evans. Organise to Win aims to make Labour more election-focused, but also to address internal party culture problems.

One party source told LabourList: “Most people accept the findings and agree with the aims. There will be people who see it as ‘are they coming for our jobs’ but from what I can tell nobody would disagree that the culture and structures need improving.”

Read the EHRC action plan in full

The reforms are summarised in the plan as follows:

  • Leadership committed to zero-tolerance of antisemitism, culture change and action against offenders
  • Independent antisemitism complaints handling process to be set up as soon as possible
  • All national executive committee and national constitutional committee antisemitism panels to be assisted by external lawyers
  • Consultation with the Jewish community will be built into all aspects of the action plan. With immediate effect, we will establish a high-level advisory board and a reference group to work closely with the Labour Party and act as a sounding board
  • Summary of case decisions to be posted on the Labour Party website
  • Strengthen due diligence checks on candidates
  • Labour Party website to be updated with dedicated pages for antisemitism complaints
  • Develop a complaints handling handbook for all staff and to especially guide those handling antisemitism complaints
  • Strengthen social media guidelines to make clear that sharing or liking antisemitic content will be subject to disciplinary action
  • Deliver, alongside Jewish stakeholders, appropriate antisemitism training for all staff
  • Protocol to be published governing the Leadership’s interaction with disciplinary and complaints procedures

In the plan’s foreword, Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner say: “First, we will change the way complaints of antisemitism and all other forms of racism are handled.

“We will be establishing an independent process to investigate complaints of antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, sexual harassment and any discrimination based on protected characteristics.”

The Labour leader and deputy leader have said they will not have “any involvement in deciding the outcome of individual complaint cases” and will “employ external lawyers to advise antisemitism panel hearings”.

Pledging to “address the backlog of antisemitism cases”, they have promised that Labour will “not hesitate to sanction those who breach our rules”, will “strengthen” social media guidelines and will see candidates “undergo greater due diligence checks”.

Starmer and Rayner added: “Second, we commit to greater transparency in our complaints processes to increase trust and confidence in our procedures.

“To implement this action plan effectively, we will set up an advisory board composed of members from the Jewish community and a reference group to act as a sounding board and critical friend.”

The EHRC report found that there were “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination for which the Labour Party is responsible”, “serious failings in leadership” and “an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints”.

The equality body concluded that Labour is responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act (2010) relating to political interference in antisemitism complaints, failure to provide adequate training and harassment.

Its binding recommendations told Labour to engage with Jewish stakeholders, commission an independent process to “handle and determine” antisemitism complaints and sanction political interference in this process.

Commenting on the action plan, the Jewish Labour Movement said: “Jewish Labour members want to see Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner continue to set out clear and decisive actions in tackling anti-Jewish racism within our party.

“Many of the steps set out in this action plan are those that JLM has been asking the party to implement for years. We are disappointed that it took the intervention of the EHRC to secure them, but pleased that we now have a new leadership committed to act.

“As the centenary year of our affiliation to the Labour Party draws to an end, we will continue to play our part in being a loyal but critical friend to the Labour Party in resolving these challenges. Our expectations will be however, as they always have been, for strong actions to follow positive words.

“Whilst we welcome the reform of processes, by itself it is not enough. Recent events have shown a toxic culture persists in many parts of the party. Solving this is as essential as introducing an independent disciplinary process.”

The Campaign Against Antisemitism, also a complainant in the EHRC probe, welcomed the action plan and said it had been “vindicated”, but warned that there would be an “extremely long delay” in setting up an independent process.

The CAA’s Gideon Falter added: “Until then, our complaints against 15 sitting MPs, including Mr Corbyn, will remain outstanding, and it will be impossible for British Jews to assess whether Labour is addressing antisemitism effectively.”

The charity submitted complaints to Labour in October about Labour MPs including Rayner and several current frontbenchers, and asked for the cases to be considered via “transparent investigations” within six months.

The EHRC action plan specifies that its implementation will be monitored by the EHRC for two years, with the key dates for this process being April 29th, July 29th, December 10th next year and December 10th in 2022.

Labour will “make monthly returns” to the EHRC for the first six months and report quarterly after this period. The party will meet with the EHRC to discuss progress, at first bimonthly and later on a quarterly basis.

Jane Ramsey, who trained as a barrister, has been appointed by Labour as its new senior adviser on standards and ethics who will lead on the establishment of a new independent complaints process for internal disciplinary matters.

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