Con­cern over Labour’s new dis­ci­pline chief

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY LEE HARPIN PO­LIT­I­CAL EDITOR

THE LAWYER ap­pointed by Labour to over­see its dis­ci­plinary cases will adopt only part of the in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised def­i­ni­tion of an­ti­semitism, the JC can re­veal.

Gor­don Nardell QC has been con­firmed as Labour’s first in-house coun­sel on dis­ci­plinary mat­ters as part of Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Jen­nie Formby’s pledge to clear the back­log of out­stand­ing an­ti­semitism cases.

But the re­spected com­mer­cial and hu­man rights lawyer will not adopt the full In­ter­na­tional Holo­caust Re­mem­brance Al­liance def­i­ni­tion of an­ti­semitism — in­clud­ing ex­am­ples re­lat­ing to Is­rael.

On Wednesday, a Labour of­fi­cial con­firmed to the JC that Mr Nardell would fol­low a “work­ing def­i­ni­tion” of the IHRA def­i­ni­tion on “ha­tred to­wards Jews” in his om­buds­man role.

Al­though Jeremy Cor­byn’s party adopted the IHRA def­i­ni­tion in 2016, Jonathan Gold­stein, chair of the Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil, ex­pressed fears in April that the Labour leader had per­formed a “back­track” over the def­i­ni­tion be­cause of claims it lim­ited crit­i­cism of Is­rael.

There is also mount­ing con­cern among com­mu­nal lead­ers over Mr Nardell’s long his­tory of hard-left ac­tivism — in­clud­ing an as­so­ci­a­tion with El­leanne Green, the Labour ac­tivist sus­pended af­ter the Pales­tine Live Facebook group she founded hosted openly an­tisemitic ma­te­rial.

Ms Green, who is a mem­ber of West­min­ster Labour Party, was placed un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter al­leged an­tisemitic com­ments of her own came to light, in­clud­ing ev­i­dence she had shared a story claim­ing “Zion­ists” are “killing chil­dren and steal­ing chil­dren to sell them on the black mar­ket”.

Last week she re­acted to Mr Nardell’s ap­point­ment by de­scrib­ing him as “a man I like and trust” and wel­com­ing him as “a non-Zion­ist Jew”.

Mr Nardell has also been a long­time mem­ber of the hard-left Labour

Rep­re­sen­ta­tion Com­mit­tee (LRC), chaired by Shadow Chan­cel­lor John Mc­Don­nell, which only last month de­scribed Ken Liv­ing­stone’s res­ig­na­tion as a “ma­jor set­back” and claimed Labour’s dis­ci­plinary process “con­tains not a whiff of ‘due process’ or ‘nat­u­ral jus­tice’.”

He was also pre­vi­ously a mem­ber of the edi­to­rial board of Labour Brief­ing, the LRC’s mag­a­zine, along­side Jackie Walker, her­self sus­pended in a high pro­file case of al­leged an­ti­semitism.

Mr Nardell’s Facebook page also re­veals that among his ‘friends’ is Tony Green­stein — ex­pelled over abu­sive be­hav­iour in­clud­ing re­peated use of the term ‘Zio’.

Ear­lier this year, as he cam­paigned to be­come the Labour par­lia­men­tary can­di­date for the West­min­ster con­stituency, Mr Nardell was asked by a mem­ber of the au­di­ence — who said she had only re­joined Labour be­cause of Mr Cor­byn’s views on for­eign pol­icy is­sues such as Pales­tine, Syria and op­po­si­tion to the war in Iraq — if he too sup­ported these views. He replied: “Yes, ab­so­lutely.”

A Board of Deputies spokesman said of Mr Nardell’s ap­point­ment: “Be­fore our meet­ing with Jeremy Cor­byn we called for greater trans­parency and an in­de­pen­dent om­buds­man to give greater con­fi­dence about a dis­ci­plinary process which is widely seen to be politi­cised and give po­lit­i­cal al­lies of Mr Cor­byn an easy ride on se­ri­ous mat­ters like an­ti­semitism.

“We are con­cerned by the wide­spread sug­ges­tion that Mr Nardell’s af­fil­i­a­tions and friend­ships would cast se­ri­ous doubt on his abil­ity to be in­de­pen­dent.

“The Chakrabarti re­port, widely re­garded as weak by our com­mu­nity, called for an in­de­pen­dent le­gal coun­sel. If Labour is fail­ing even its own test, that hardly in­spires con­fi­dence.”

There was also con­cern from le­gal ex­perts about Mr Nardell’s suit­abil­ity for the role.

Mark Lewis, the lead­ing me­dia lawyer, said “the prob­lem” was Mr Nardell was tak­ing “a quasi-ju­di­cial role in which opin­ions have been given so that even if jus­tice is done it might not be seen to be done.

“It is a bad start­ing point that par­ties are al­ready call­ing for re­cusal.” An­other lead­ing QC told

the JC: “The is­sue is whether re­ceipt of a com­mu­ni­ca­tion from some­one ac­tively cam­paign­ing for one party com­pro­mises the ap­pro­pri­ate neu­tral­ity.

“This is both a pro­fes­sional is­sue and one that should have been dis­cussed at the time of his ap­point­ment and cov­ered in its terms.”

Mr Nardell’s ap­point­ment, con­firmed last Friday, was the re­sult of a plea first made by Baroness Chakrabarti in 2016 in her re­port into the party’s an­ti­semitism cri­sis in which she crit­i­cised the “sheer in­ad­e­quacy” of le­gal re­sources within Labour.

On Wednesday a Labour of­fi­cial stressed to the JC that Mr Nardell, who is Jewish, had a long record of cam­paign­ing against an­ti­semitism and other forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion.

The source in­sisted that as some­one who had been ac­tive within Labour for many years, Mr Nardell had been “added on Facebook by some peo­ple he doesn’t know or doesn’t know well”.

They also said Mr Nardell would con­tinue to carry out his duties with the same high stan­dard of in­tegrity he has ob­served “in his dis­tin­guished ca­reer to date”.

But a Labour Friends of Is­rael spokesman said: “We are con­cerned Mr Nardell may not be best placed to over­see the ef­fort to rid Labour of an­ti­semitism.”

Gor­don Nardell

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