Jewish Labour and Momentum clash over stance on EHRC changes at conference

Elliot Chappell

The Jewish Labour Movement has demanded to know why Momentum urged delegates at the annual Labour Party conference to vote against rule changes mandated by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

In a letter sent today to Momentum co-chairs Gaya Sriskanthan and Andrew Scattergood, JLM chair Mike Katz and secretary Adam Langleben said they were “dismayed” that the group had recommended that delegates vote against the reforms.

JLM said the decision “utterly undermines any claim Momentum may make about wanting to tackle antisemitism” and asked the Momentum co-chairs to explain the move. They put the following questions to Sriskanthan and Scattergood:

  • “Can you confirm that this was the position Momentum took?
  • “If so, we would like to know what clarification you sought from the EHRC on their view of the proposals, given your justification that the rule changes were a “flawed interpretation” of the commissions’ report?
  • “What interaction you had with party staff responsible for drawing up the proposals to interrogate their legal soundness and the contact that they had with the EHRC on the changes?
  • “Given that the party had a legal obligation to meet the EHRC’s recommendation to introduce and independent system, what alternative did you propose to ensure that the party was not issued with an enforcement notice by the commission?”

Sriskanthan and Scattergood responded today, saying: “Momentum welcomed the publication of the EHRC report in a published statement at the time, and we are firmly committed to tackling all forms of racism, including antisemitism, whether in the Labour Party or in society.”

The pair said in their own letter that they support an independent complaints system but there are “serious problems” with the proposals passed by conference that “risk undermining its effectiveness and the confidence of members in it”.

They noted that the changes hand “considerable power” to the general secretary of the party, David Evans, who has “proven himself incapable of acting independently” and “pursued a blatantly factional agenda” according to Momentum.

“Giving substantial power in the new complaints process to the now extremely politicised role of general secretary risks seriously undermining its functioning,” Sriskanthan and Scattergood wrote to the party-affiliated JLM today.

“Now the new complaints process has been approved by Labour conference we sincerely hope it functions effectively. But we remain extremely concerned that the general secretary will in his actions at some point undermine it. We hope we are wrong.”

The exchange between the two groups follows the first annual party conference since the EHRC published its report into antisemitism within the party in October 2020, in which it found Labour responsible for “unlawful acts“.

Momentum urged delegates to vote against the EHRC rule changes, including a new disciplinary process with independent oversight. They were passed with the backing of 73.64% of delegates, as 26.36% opposed the reforms.

The new complaints system will apply to all complaints about antisemitism, Islamophobia, other forms of racism, sexual harassment, and discrimination on the grounds of disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership.

Katz and Langleben also told the Momentum co-chairs in their letter today that they were “especially troubled by some of the rhetoric” regarding the former chair of the left-wing organisation, Jon Lansman.

“He has been a central target of left antisemites for over two years and much of the abuse has been clearly antisemitic in nature. We remain dismayed that Momentum have not called any of this out,” the JLM reps wrote.

“In fact, despite antisemitism remaining a serious problem we do not believe that, under your leadership, Momentum has taken any steps at all at addressing this.”

In response, Sriskanthan and Scattergood said they maintain a “constructive relationship” with Momentum co-founder Lansman, and added that they “strongly challenge any implication that we have somehow failed him”.

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