Trade union in Ox­ford Labour club cover-up

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY LEE HARPIN

THREE MEM­BERS of the Unite union with close links to Len McCluskey and Jeremy Cor­byn “ran rings around the room” at a Labour Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee hear­ing into claims of an­ti­semitism and bul­ly­ing at Ox­ford Univer­sity’s Labour Club.

A JC in­ves­ti­ga­tion has un­cov­ered new in­for­ma­tion on how Labour’s pow­er­ful NEC dis­putes com­mit­tee came to ig­nore a rec­om­men­da­tion by Labour’s Com­pli­ance Unit to is­sue for­mal warn­ings to two stu­dents who were ac­cused of en­gag­ing in re­peated an­ti­semitic acts.

The de­ci­sion, taken in Jan­uary, led Baroness Royall, the Labour peer who ini­tially in­ves­ti­gated claims of an­ti­semitism at Ox­ford, to con­clude it risked “con­firm­ing a widely held view that we don’t take an­ti­semitism se­ri­ously”.

In­ter­nal doc­u­ments sent to all 35 mem­bers of Labour’s NEC con­firm the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into one male stu­dent, who had close links to both the Labour leader and Mr McCluskey, the Unite general sec­re­tary, in­volved “se­ri­ous complaints” over “al­leged an­ti­semitic in­ci­dents linked to OULC”.

The Com­pli­ance Unit memo adds that the in­di­vid­ual, who is a lead­ing mem­ber of hard-left Mo­men­tum group, ac­cepted “the lan­guage used in some of his on­line con­tent which had caused of­fence to party mem­bers meant that his ‘mean­ing was not clear’ and con­firmed he would ‘not phrase them that way again’.”

But af­ter a re­view of all the ev­i­dence the memo con­cluded there was “no case to an­swer on the counts of an­ti­semitism” but that the stu­dent, who now holds a se­nior role at the Na­tional Union of Stu­dents, “should re­ceive a warn­ing re­mind­ing him of the stan­dards ex­pected of Labour Party mem­bers and the im­por­tance of due care when dis­cussing sen­si­tive is­sues”.

A sec­ond stu­dent, who also holds a se­nior po­si­tion in Mo­men­tum, was the sub­ject of two charges fol­low­ing complaints about his con­duct at OULC.

In the memo, Labour’s NEC were told that on the first count the in­di­vid­ual was al­leged to have taken part in “abuse and bul­ly­ing on­line and in per­son”.

On a sec­ond count he was ac­cused of “in­stances of an­ti­semitism to­wards other mem­bers”.

Again, Labour’s Com­pli­ance Unit con­firmed there was “no case to an­swer on the counts of an­ti­semitism” but con­cluded he should “re­ceive a warn­ing over his con­duct to other mem­bers based on his con­tri­tion in re­la­tion to un­rea­son­able com­ments”.

On Jan­uary 17, Labour’s dis­putes com­mit­tee gath­ered at the party’s HQ in cen­tral Lon­don to de­cide, among other mat­ters, whether to im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions from the Com­pli­ance Unit.

The JC has learned that around 20 peo­ple turned up for the meet­ing — in­clud­ing three Unite reps, Jen­nie Formby, Jim Kennedy and Martin Mayer, as well as NEC chair Ann Black, Uni­son rep Keith Birch and Young Labour’s Jas­min Beck­ett. Oth­ers in at­ten­dance in­cluded GMB union rep Cath Speight and Uni­son pres­i­dent Wendy Ni­chols.

A source who was present at the NEC meet­ing said there was clear ev­i­dence of co-or­di­na­tion among the three left­wing Unite mem­bers to over-rule the Com­pli­ance Unit’s rec­om­men­da­tions. “The three Unite reps ran rings around the rest of the room,” con­firmed the source. “They had co-or­di­nated their re­sponse very well.

“At one stage Jim Kennedy sug­gested ‘th­ese two gen­tle­men have been through enough’. Martin Mayer ac­tu­ally went so far as to say ‘th­ese two need an apol­ogy, not a warn­ing’.

“It was as though they were of­fer­ing per­sonal char­ac­ter ref­er­ences for the two in­di­vid­u­als ac­cused.

“At one point, it was sug­gested that ‘th­ese two boys, they’ve been dragged through the press, and are now wor­ried about their job prospects’. It was quite shock­ing to be hon­est — it just sounded like ex­cuses.” Ac­cord­ing to a fur­ther source, Unite’s pre-planned in­ter­ven­tion caused much con­fu­sion in the room. “Only Keith Birch went re­ally strong on it, speak­ing in favour of is­su­ing warn­ings against the two in­di­vid­u­als. “After­wards, he was quite up­set about the way it had gone. There was a vote, but it was a weird sit­u­a­tion, where peo­ple didn’t re­ally know what they were vot­ing for.

“Unite had done a good job, they had con­fused the is­sue so much there was no real clar­ity on what was be­ing voted on. In the end, af­ter Ann Black laid out a few op­tions, there was a lot of talk­ing. It was very prob­lem­atic.”

Ms Formby and Mr Mayer have been vo­cal crit­ics of Is­rael in the past. Ms Formby was be­hind the at­tempt to cut Labour’s links with se­cu­rity gi­ant G4S — and left Labour NEC mem­bers in shock when she com­plained that Baroness Royall was not the right per­son to in­ves­ti­gate claims of an­ti­semitism at OULC be­cause she had pre­vi­ously vis­ited Is­rael.

Martin Mayer also pro­voked fury af­ter he sent an email claim­ing the “Is­rael lobby” had man­u­fac­tured the an­ti­semitism cri­sis.

In it he com­plained that “Labour’s Blairite right wing have used the smear of an­ti­semitism to un­der­mine Jeremy Cor­byn’s lead­er­ship”.

The de­ci­sion not to is­sue warn­ings to the two in­di­vid­u­als, which was re­vealed first by the JC, pro­voked a fu­ri­ous re­sponse from Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions, with the Union of Jewish Stu­dents branded the de­ci­sion “dis­grace­ful”.

The JC has also seen a copy of the ini­tial Labour Stu­dents re­port into claims of an­ti­semitism at OULC.

Labour Stu­dents launched its in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Fe­bru­ary 2016 fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of the club’s co-chair Alex Chalmers in protest at what he de­scribed as “in­tol­er­ant ten­den­cies” to­wards Jewish mem­bers.

Af­ter con­duct­ing oral in­ter­views with 17 OULC and JSoc mem­bers, Labour Stu­dents iden­ti­fied six in­di­vid­u­als who they ac­cused of “nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples of se­ri­ous, re­peated and po­ten­tially crim­i­nal an­ti­semitism over a sus­tained pe­riod of time”.

The ev­i­dence against the six was passed to Labour’s Com­pli­ance Unit for in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The two in­di­vid­u­als cleared of all charges by the NEC have re­peat­edly de­nied the al­le­ga­tions, in­clud­ing claims they sang about rock-

One Unite rep called for an apol­ogy for the ac­cused stu­dents’

ets over Tel Aviv. But in one ad­mis­sion, one of the two ac­cused OULC mem­bers ad­mits to us­ing the word “Zio” to re­fer to Jewish stu­dents.

In his ad­mis­sion he says: “I had pre­sumed the word ‘Zio’ was a con­trac­tion of the word ‘Zion­ist’ and had sim­ply used it as such. I apol­o­gise un­re­servedly for this — when I was in­formed of his­tory and us­age amongst far-right and racist groups, I de­sisted from us­ing it im­me­di­ately.”

The other stu­dent ac­cused of an­ti­semitism is shown to have tweeted sup­port for a “purge” of pro-Is­rael Jewish mem­bers seen of a Face­book group.

In fur­ther ev­i­dence against the same in­di­vid­ual, an ar­ti­cle he wrote for the Ox­ford Stu­dent was pro­duced in which he wrote: “An­ti­semitism is a tired old ac­cu­sa­tion from Zion­ists, re­treat­ing be­hind men­da­cious slurs when los­ing the ar­gu­ments.”

A Unite spokesman said: “This mat­ter was de­cided upon over­whelm­ingly by Labour’s NEC. Any fur­ther ques­tions are a mat­ter for the Labour Party.”

PHOTO: PA

Baroness Royall

PHOTO: ALAMY

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