Labour antisemitism: Emily Thornberry calls for staff who mishandled cases to be sacked
Leadership candidate says anyone implicated by equalities watchdog probe should be ‘out the door immediately’, as she reveals she was overruled during election campaign
In a warning aimed at members of Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle, the shadow foreign secretary and Labour leadership contender said anyone implicated by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) inquiry into antisemitism in the party should be “out the door immediately”.
Her comments will likely be seen as an attack on Mr Corbyn’s senior advisers, including his former chief of staff Karie Murphy who have been accused of unduly interfering in antisemitism disciplinary cases.
Ms Murphy and Seumas Milne, Mr Corbyn’s director of communications and strategy, are unpopular with many Labour MPs and have been blamed for the party’s disastrous election defeat.
The EHRC inquiry into Labour antisemitism is expected to report early in 2020 and could send shockwaves through the party. It is only the second time that the watchdog has investigated a political party, after an inquiry into racism in the British National Party (BNP) in 2010.
Ms Thornberry was writing in response to five questions that Labour MP Alison McGovern posted on Twitter and asked leadership contenders to consider. They related to antisemitism, economic credibility, policy direction and winning elections.
Responding in an article for LabourList, Ms Thornberry, the first candidate to declare her intention to stand for leader, said Labour needed to be “utterly ruthless” in tackling antisemitism and expelling “these despicable individuals”.
She continued: “No indulgence, no excuses, no warnings or training sessions. Just kick them out.
“On a practical level, we need to get the recommendations from the EHRC inquiry, which should be coming soon, and implement them in full. Anyone exposed by the EHRC for wrongdoing in the handling of antisemitism cases needs to be out the door immediately.”
The shadow foreign secretary said that, as leader, she would ask Labour peer and former cabinet minister Charlie Falconer to conduct a review into the party’s procedures for tackling antisemitism. Lord Falconer was asked to perform a similar role for the current party leadership but declined.
Ms Thornberry also criticised Mr Corbyn’s team for their general election strategy, saying there had been “some very odd decisions” about the allocation of funding and volunteers, which had led to marginal seats that Labour subsequently lost feeling “starved of support” while resources were targetted at “unwinnable seats”.
She added: “There needs to be a serious inquest into why that happened, and why it was allowed to go on for so long, even when the outcome was becoming so glaringly clear.”
Ms Thornberry revealed she had been overruled on foreign policy spending decisions and claimed that the party’s manifesto had made Labour look like it was “promising to deliver the Earth, the moon and the stars, and we didn’t need to worry about explaining how we’d pay for all of it”.
She said: “I’ve had to continually argue against commitments to increase the Foreign Office budget – not something the shadow secretary of state would usually do – because I thought we needed to wait until we were in government, and see what the wider priorities were.
“But even that argument was lost for this manifesto, and a £400m spending commitment was chucked in by Jeremy’s advisers, which – to my mind – would have been far better spent on our pledges to increase the numbers of police officers or nursing staff.”