Concern over Labour’s new discipline chief
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.”