The Labour Party has failed to take disciplinary action against hundreds of members accused of anti-semitism under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, according to internal documents leaked to The Sunday Times.
A hard drive of emails and a confidential database last updated on March 8 reveal how the party’s system for dealing with such complaints is bedevilled by delays, inaction and interference from the leader’s office. They reveal members investigated for posting such online comments as “Heil Hitler”, “F*** the Jews” and “Jews are the problem” have not been expelled, even though the party received the complaints a year ago.
A sitting councillor in Lancashire was let back into the party after fuming about “Jewish” media attacks and the Rothschild family. She told party investigators she meant “Jewish” as a “blanket term of description without any racist connotations”. In Manchester, a trade union official was readmitted despite sharing material saying “Jewish Israelis” were behind 9/11.
Corbyn’s office has been involved in approving, delaying or blocking at least 101 complaints.
The party claims the disciplinary process has been free from political interference since March last year. A month later, however, in an email seen by The Sunday Times, Corbyn’s chief of staff, Karie Murphy, said that “going forward” his office needed an “overview” of politically sensitive cases.
Leaked emails also reveal:
• Thomas Gardiner, a Corbyn ally and the powerful chief of Labour’s governance and legal unit, last month frustrated efforts by a member of his staff to fast-track the investigation of a member who condemned two Jewish MPs for being “shit-stirring c** buckets” in the pay of Israel”
• In one case, an MP reported a member for saying the Board of Deputies, Britain’s representative Jewish body, were “c****” and that saying so was “not anti-semitic, it’s anti-c***. See Israel.” The member was let off with a warning
• A Labour official said a council candidate who accused Jewish MPs of being “Zionist infiltrators” met the threshold for suspension. She then ruled that because he “is a candidate” he should not be suspended; he faced no action.
Labour’s official Jewish affiliate called the party’s approach to antisemitism “boneheaded”. Peter Mason, national secretary of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), castigated his party for its “consistent obfuscation and denial”.
JLM will hold a vote of confidence in Mr Corbyn’s leadership today and Mr Mason told Sky News: “It’s been more than a year since the Jewish community took to the streets to protest: ‘Enough is enough’. It’s been more than a year since the Jewish community met with the leader of the Labour Party and with his senior staff to ask him to take serious actions. It’s been more than a year since we met the general secretary to lay down what those actions look like.
“In the intervening year nothing has happened. And as The Sunday Times quite clearly demonstrates, rather than action being taken we have a consistent obfuscation and denial of a problem, denial of such an extent that we are now in a situation where there are hundreds of incidences of antisemitism that the Labour Party have either failed to investigate or completely misjudged and taken boneheaded decisions not to take the necessary action.”
Baroness Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general who led a review into antisemitism allegations in the party that was widely criticised by Jewish community groups, told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “Jennie Formby is a very strong general secretary who is committed to making this a priority. So there is no interference from Jeremy Corbyn or his staff in the disciplinary process.”
She asked the JLM “not to personalise” the issue in a confidence motion on Mr Corbyn’s leadership at the group’s annual general meeting, which is taking place today. “My plea to the Jewish Labour Movement is to stay in the Labour movement and to tackle racism together, not to personalise it and make it about Jeremy Corbyn, because he is one person and he won’t be leader forever.”
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “Labour must now urgently open up its processes to scrutiny by the Jewish community. We stand united with all decent people in the fight against ugly racism.”
Last night, Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said: “This makes for deeply shocking and depressing reading. Labour members and the Jewish community will not understand how, many years on from the first concerns about anti-semitism being raised, we have not got to grips with it.”
Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP for Barking, said: “The scale of the abuse, the depth of the hatred and the total lack of action by the Labour Party is astonishing.” She added: “Jeremy gave me assurances that he does not intervene [in complaints]. This investigation proves that either he is lying to me or his office are lying to him.”
Of 863 complaints overall, 454 (53%) are unresolved, including 249 where the party has not started an investigation. There are 176 ongoing probes. Just 29 cases have been referred to the body authorised to expel individuals.
Of 409 cases where a decision was reached, 191 members faced no further action and 145 received a formal warning — which has no impact on membership or ability to stand as party candidate. Fewer than 30 were expelled; the rest left the party of their own accord.
The findings come as The Sunday Times reveals details of the secretly recorded meeting in which Corbyn and his political secretary, Amy Jackson, assured Hodge his team would “never” interfere in complaints. At the height of Labour’s anti-semitism crisis, in January, Corbyn told the MP: “It doesn’t come here . . . I don’t involve myself in the complaint at all.”
Jackson said: “Absolutely not. I could tell you 100% we would never do that, that would be an appalling thing to do.”
However, the claims he made during the meeting are apparently undermined by emails in which the leader’s chief of staff says Jackson herself must be kept abreast of certain complaints.
In an email dated April 5, Murphy wrote: “I think it’s important for Amy Jackson to have an overview of all complaints that involve elected politicians or candidates.”
A Labour spokesperson said: “These figures are not accurate,” adding: “Lines have been selectively leaked from emails to misrepresent their overall contents.
“Former staffers asked the Leader’s Office for their help with clearing the backlog of cases. This lasted for a few weeks while there was no general secretary, and was ended by Jennie Formby [now in that role].
“The Labour Party takes complaints of anti-semitism extremely seriously and we are committed to rooting it out. All complaints are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures. We can’t comment on individual cases.”