The Jewish Chronicle
Labour’s new complaints handbook is branded a ‘betrayal’ of the community
LABOUR’S NEW complaints handbook has been branded a “bad joke” and a “betrayal” of the Jewish community after it detailed examples of how party members had received only light sanctions for acts of antisemitism.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer promised “zero tolerance” for Jew hatred in the wake of the damning Equality and Human Rights Commission report into the party. But examples laid out in Labour’s new Complaint Handling Handbook revealed how members could share multiple antisemitic posts online and get away with little more than a slap on the wrist.
In one example, a member who has “posted and shared several things on social media that were antisemitic, using Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine” received only a formal warning that remains on their record for 18 months, despite multiple apparent breaches of the IHRA definition of antisemitism to which Labour is signed up. After the EHRC’s ruling, Labour was ordered to deliver an action plan to tackle antisemitism in its ranks and last week the party published its updated complaint handling book, complaints policy and disputes report.
However, the new policy has been dubbed a throwback to the heavily criticised Chakrabarti Report on antisemitism, published under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, because it limited complaints to alleged antisemitic conduct carried out when someone is a Labour member, not before they joined.
The new complaints policy included a strengthened social media code of conduct and a new simplified complaints handling form. But the handbook confirmed that complaints lodged by anyone from outside the party, including any Jewish organisation, would not include “any ongoing information due to confidentiality and data protection reasons”.
It also detailed examples of how antisemitic complaints might be handled by the party. In one, a Labour member “posted several articles on social media promoting conspiracy theories suggesting that Jewish people were responsible for real and imagined wrongdoings”, as well as “articles that minimised complaints of antisemitism within the Labour Party”. However, it added that the investigation “concluded that no Labour Party rules were specifically breached but a Reminder of Conduct was issued to the member”.
The complaints handbook, in a specific section on antisemitism, also insisted that antisemitic behaviour “can include sharing and/or liking antisemitic content on social media sites”. It added: “None of this is acceptable, and such behaviour from Labour Party members, will not be tolerated as it does not align with our aims and values.” But in another example, a member “responded to a social media post in a way that served to repeat antisemitic tropes”. It concluded that“no party rules have been breached” and the member only received a “reminder of values” notice. Joe Glasman, of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “Labour’s new complaints handbook reads like a bad joke. The idea that a prospective member can be as antisemitic as they like until they join the party is another Chakrabarti-like attempt to turn a blind eye and move on.
“The illustrations of current practice, far from inspiring confidence, show just why the system is broken: for someone to be able to breach the International Definition of Antisemitism, which Labour adopted only after a massive row, and only get a formal warning is a betrayal of the Jewish community. ”
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “These inappropriate comparisons to the Holocaust belittle the memory of this appalling tragedy and are an insult to the survivors and their families. ”
A Labour spokesman confirmed the handbook was part of the action plan ordered by the EHRC. When asked about the examples Labour said they “refer to previous decisions which do not reflect the current approach of zero tolerance to antisemitism. Under Keir Starmer’s leadership we are continually improving and strengthening procedures to root out antisemitism from our party.” Meanwhile, the party NEC’s disciplinary statistics for March have been published. They reveal that since May 2020, 356 complaints have been resolved. Of that total some 70 per cent involved allegations of antisemitism. Only 26 per cent of all cases led to expulsion and 10 per cent suspension. One in 10 cases were referred to the higher discipline body, the National Constitutional Committee, 18 per cent resulted in a formal warning,
18 per cent in a
“reminder of conduct” and eight per cent a “reminder of values” notice.
No action was takeninnineper cent of cases.