Jeremy Corbyn outlines plans to accelerate expulsion of antisemites from Labour’s ranks
‘It is wrong to deny there is antisemitism in the Labour Party. And those who deny that it does exist are part of the problem,’ Labour leader says
Following weeks of damaging internal rows over the party’s handling of antisemitism allegations, the Labour leader told his top team he would propose a “new way of dealing with the most extreme cases”.
His remarks came ahead of a meeting of Labour’s governing body – the National Executive Committee (NEC) – on Tuesday to discuss options geared at improving disciplinary procedures already in place.
Under current rules, a disciplinary panel meets to examine cases, and if there is believed to be a case against a member, it can be referred to Labour’s National Constitutional Committee (NCC) – a process that can then take many months.
At a meeting of the shadow cabinet specifically on antisemitism, the senior Labour figures backed proposals allowing the most serious cases to be referred to a panel consisting of NEC officers with the power to expel antisemites. This would allow rapid expulsions, Labour sources said.
This will be discussed at Tuesday’s crunch meeting of the party’s governing body, and if backed, will be passed to the Labour Party conference floor in September.
A statement from the meeting added: “As part of tackling antisemitism, the shadow cabinet has today supported the proposal for summary exclusion outlined by the Labour leader, which he will put to the National Executive Committee tomorrow.”
“The shadow cabinet also supports the proposal to introduce independent oversight of our processes, and will continue to seek to engage with the Jewish community organisations to build confidence.”
But not all MPs were impressed at the proposals as they exited the final meeting of Labour’s parliamentary party before the summer recess. “I don’t think anything has really changed,” said the MP Ruth Smeeth. “I just think this was to get us through to recess.”
Addressing the shadow cabinet meeting, Mr Corbyn said those who deny the existence of antisemitism in the party are “part of the problem”.
He continued: “Labour is not an antisemitic party. But one antisemite is always one too many. I know that some of the complaints have taken too long to deal with. This is not good enough.
“Our members don’t want to share their party with anyone who is racist – and they want to be able to demonstrate there is no place for antisemitism among them.
“Some of the hate and bigotry displayed on social media would count as gross misconduct in any workplace, and must be treated similarly robustly in the Labour Party.”
Mr Corbyn added that at Tuesday’s NEC meeting he will propose the party adopts a new way of dealing with the “most extreme cases”.
“Defining what would qualify as an extreme case of hate and bigotry is of course a sensitive and complex area, and I would like the NEC to look at that in more detail,” he said.
In the first six months of 2019 there have been complaints against 625 members relating to anti-Semitism, around 0.1 per cent of the party membership, Labour also disclosed after the meeting. There were also complaints about 658 people who are not in the party.
In 28 of the most serious disciplinary cases concluded by the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) in the first six months of 2019, eight members were expelled, three received an extended suspension and four received a warning.
One member received no action as the NCC found the charges to be unproven and 12 left the party after being referred to the disciplinary body.
NEC antisemitism panels referred 97 members to the NCC between January 1 and 30 June, issued 41 with formal warnings and 49 with a “reminder of conduct”. Three cases were closed as the full evidence suggested no further action should be taken.
The remarks from Mr Corbyn to his top team also came after Labour peers drew back from moving a motion of no confidence in his leadership of the party, but expressed unanimous support for Baroness Hayter, who was sacked as a Labour Brexit spokesperson last week.