The Equality and Human Rights Commission has begun pre-enforcement proceedings against the Labour Party following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant. The pre-enforcement proceedings are a precursor to opening a full statutory investigation.
During the pre-enforcement proceedings, the Commission can be expected to meet the Labour Party and ask its leadership to account for the many acts of antisemitic discrimination and victimisation detailed in the dossiers that Campaign Against Antisemitism has provided. It can also be expected to invite representations from the Labour Party as to why the Commission should refrain from expanding its engagement to a full statutory investigation under section 20 of the Equality Act 2006.
If the Commission then proceeds with a statutory investigation, it will be able to use its statutory enforcement powers to compel the Labour Party to reveal details of its handling of antisemitism in recent years, including internal communications such as text messages and e-mails. It can also seek court injunctions against the Labour Party to prevent further antisemitic discrimination and victimisation, and it can also impose an action plan on the Party and enforce compliance with the plan.
Gideon Falter, Chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “The Labour Party has repeatedly failed to address its own antisemitism problem, resulting in MPs and members abandoning the Party. It is a sad indictment that the once great anti-racist Labour Party is now being investigated by the equality and human rights regulator it established just a decade ago.
“The Jewish community has gone to every conceivable length to persuade Jeremy Corbyn, Jennie Formby and Labour’s National Executive Committee to act, but we have been persistently rebuffed. We had no option but to seek an external, impartial investigation, and that is why we asked the Equality and Human Rights Commission to investigate illegal antisemitic discrimination and victimisation in the institutionally racist Labour Party. We commend the Commission for acting on our referral and we have full confidence in the Commission to investigate thoroughly and deliver justice. Since the Holocaust, Britain has led the world in promoting human rights, and it could scarcely be more important to British society that the Jew-hatred festering in the Labour Party is firmly brought to an end.”
A spokesperson for the Commission said: “We believe Labour may have unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs. Our concerns are sufficient for us to consider using our statutory enforcement powers. As set out in our enforcement policy, we are now engaging with the Labour Party to give them an opportunity to respond.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism first contacted the Commission during the Labour Party Conference in Brighton in 2017. The conference was so rife with antisemitism that Brighton and Hove City Council’s Labour leader, Warren Morgan, told his own Party that he would not permit use of Council premises for the conference again. Mr Morgan has since resigned from the Labour Party over antisemitism. At the time, the Chief Executive of the Commission issued a statement demanding that the Labour Party prove “that it is not a racist party”.
Campaign Against Antisemitism made a number of disciplinary complaints to the Labour Party between 2016 and 2018 about Jeremy Corbyn, including about his defence of the antisemitic Tower Hamlets mural in 2012, his Holocaust Memorial Day event in 2010, and his Press TV interview in 2012.
The Labour Party refused to open an investigation into our complaints, and consequently on 31st July 2018, Campaign Against Antisemitism referred the Labour Party to the Commission over its institutional antisemitism. Other organisations have since written to the Commission to support our referral.
At the Commission’s request, Campaign Against Antisemitism submitted detailed legal arguments in November 2018. We provided additional legal arguments to the Commission on Monday, based on developments since November. Our evidence has now been thoroughly assessed, prompting today’s announcement.
We asked the Commission to open a statutory investigation under section 20 of the Equality Act 2006 into antisemitic discrimination and victimisation in the Labour Party.
If a statutory investigation is opened, the Commission can use its powers to compel the Labour Party to reveal details of its handling of antisemitism in recent years, including internal communications such as text messages and e-mails. It can also seek court injunctions against the Labour Party to prevent further antisemitic discrimination and victimisation, and it can also impose an action plan on the Party and enforce compliance with the plan. Previous statutory investigations include an investigation into victimisation within the Metropolitan Police Service.
Normally, before the Commission opens a statutory investigation, which is considered a form of enforcement action, the Commission enters into a pre-enforcement period of engagement with the organisation concerned, allowing it to propose a plan of action and make representations to the Commission giving reasons why enforcement should not commence.
Due to the public and brazen nature of antisemitic discrimination and victimisation in the Labour Party, the Commission can be expected to keep its pre-enforcement engagement with the Party to a short period, before launching a full investigation under section 20 of the Equality Act 2006.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has submitted two detailed legal submissions to the Commission, assisted by specialist human rights counsel Adam Wagner of Doughty Street Chambers. The first was submitted on 9th November 2018 and the second was submitted on Monday.
We will not be releasing the submissions at this stage, however our submissions provided a substantial list of incidents for investigation, including incidents involving Mr Corbyn.
In summary, we made legal arguments that:
- An unacceptable number of antisemitic incidents of unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation have occurred in Labour in recent years. These have occurred at all levels of the Party and continue to occur.
- Under Mr Corbyn’s leadership, Labour’s disciplinary mechanisms for dealing with antisemitism have been significantly weakened, and the machinery of the Party has been used to victimise those who stand up against antisemitism.
- A culture of denial and victimisation has developed in some sections of Labour in relation to antisemitism. For example, antisemitism allegations are often described as “smears”.
- The result of the toxic culture which surrounds the issue of antisemitism in Labour is that people who suffer discrimination are subjected to victimisation when they raise complaints or are reluctant to bring complaints in the first place.
- Antisemitism in Labour should be judged according to the International Definition of Antisemitism, which has now been adopted by Labour as well as the other major political parties.
- Labour has failed to put in place a fair and effective complaints and disciplinary process to deal with antisemitism.
- There is substantial evidence that the problem of antisemitism in Labour has become institutional.
- Labour appears incapable of resolving this issue of antisemitism itself.
- There is sufficient evidence to warrant a section 20 statutory investigation by the Commission into whether systemic unlawful acts have occurred in the handling of complaints of antisemitism in relation to Labour officials, members and other representatives, and whether Labour is now institutionally racist.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has invested heavily in the legal work required to produce this result, and our volunteers have spent many hundreds of hours compiling evidence.