Labour peer Lord Falconer has been proposed by the Labour leadership to conduct an “independent” review of Labour’s handling of disciplinary cases of antisemitism. Campaign Against Antisemitism believes that he will be even less independent than Baroness Chakrabarti, who received a peerage shortly after whitewashing antisemitism in the Labour Party by brazenly declaring that the Party had no major problem.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton, served as Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary from 2003 to 2007 and was a flatmate of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. He is also a senior barrister, and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1991. Labour General Secretary, Jennie Formby, announced that he had been appointed as the Party’s reviewer of antisemitism with full oversight of how Labour handles complaints. However, Lord Falconer said that he will only take on the role “subject to agreement being reached”.
Nevertheless, his independence is already compromised.
For any truly independent investigation into Labour’s institutional antisemitism to even start, clear criteria must first be satisfied: the process of choosing an investigator must be seen to be itself impartial; the investigator and their team must be viewed as objectively impartial; the investigator and their team must have broad terms of reference and the power to access any evidence that they wish to examine within the Party; and the selection of the investigator must be endorsed, and seen to be endorsed, by the Jewish community itself.
The selection of Lord Falconer fails to meet any of these criteria.
Lord Falconer has already said that he does not intend to criticise Labour’s leadership. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics, Lord Falconer said that: “I believe Jeremy Corbyn is most certainly not an antisemite but for the Jewish community this is existential — for the main opposition party not to be reliable on that issue, which goes to the heart of the very community, is absolutely appalling.” He further stated that he was interested in making “processes” work, rather than address the issues of any individual’s antisemitic statements or actions and therefore would not be criticising the Party’s leadership.
In an interview with The Times, Lord Falconer went even further. He claimed again that Jeremy Corbyn is not an antisemite, and remarkably excused his support for the notorious Brick Lane mural on the grounds he “hadn’t looked closely enough” at it. This was not even a defence that Mr Corbyn maintained when finally interviewed on the subject by the BBC’s Andrew Marr, claiming instead that he had been “worried about the idea of murals being taken down” and was confused about whether it was truly antisemitic as “it also has other symbols in it from the Freemasons” and then subsequently refused when questioned to say the mural was clearly antisemitic, only that “he was pleased it was taken down”. How then can the Jewish community start to trust Lord Falconer, when he uses shabby excuses to defend an antisemite, excuses which that antisemite has himself abandoned?
Not only has Lord Falconer already made up his mind on crucial issues, he has also been involved in creating the mess that the Labour Party now claims it is trying to solve. Jewish Labour MP Margaret Hodge, has revealed that: “When I confronted Jeremy about antisemitism in the corridors of the Houses of Parliament and told him to his face what I and many others were feeling — that he is making it very difficult for Jewish people to stay in the Labour Party — it was me who faced disciplinary action. Fortunately, that was quickly dismissed, even though Labour’s lawyers — including Lord Charlie Falconer, former Lord Chancellor under Tony Blair — did their utmost to intimidate me and force me to apologise.”
Lord Falconer has failed to satisfy the most basic starting requirements of any investigation into the Labour Party’s antisemitism: he has stated that Jeremy Corbyn is not an antisemite, when he clearly is; he has cited the unacceptable excuse Mr Corbyn proffered for defending the Nazi-esque Brick Lane mural which he later abandoned; he was involved in an attempt to silence Margaret Hodge when she spoke out against Jeremy Corbyn’s antisemitism, and has made it clear that one of his primary concerns is to make the Party electable, rather than rid it of an institutional antisemitism that its own MPs accuse it of, and which the Jewish community correctly perceive as drawing its strength from Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. At the very least Baroness Chakrabarti did not announce her views before commencing her supposedly-independent investigation.
Lord Falconer has now expressed concerns that he might be viewed as “a useful idiot” for the Labour Party’s leadership. Campaign Against Antisemitism can at least agree with him on that.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has referred Labour to the Equality and Human Rights Commission for investigation, because the Party’s leaders clearly have no intention of addressing the Party’s antisemitism themselves. If the Labour Party truly seeks an independent review of its antisemitism problem, it should write to the Commission and encourage it to open a section 20 statutory investigation into the matter.