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.

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Sir Keir Starmer

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