The Labour Party could face a formal human rights probe, after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) raised concerns the party “may have unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs”.
In a statement, the EHRC said they were “considering” using their enforcement powers, and the Labour Party will have 14 days to respond after receiving a formal letter from the watchdog.
A spokesperson for Labour confirmed that they were “cooperating fully” with the EHRC, but said they “completely reject any suggestion the party has acted unlawfully”.
‘Tolerated, Mainstreamed and Institutionalised’
However, Jewish groups have insisted that the submission “bears testimony to our fears”, adding that the Jewish community has become “increasingly anxious”.
Their statement read: “For almost four years, since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, the Jewish community has felt increasingly anxious. Anti-Jewish racism has not only increased under his leadership but it feels as if it has become tolerated, mainstreamed and institutionalised.
Corbyn and his party are being investigated for anti-Semitism. Image credit: Wiki Commons
“The allegation that the Labour Party is institutionally antisemitic is not one we make lightly. The experiences of Labour members, laid out in the Jewish Labour Movement’s extraordinary submission to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, bears testimony to our fears.”
Labour leadership has a problem with anti-Jewish racism which it is unable or unwilling to solve.
Board of Deputies of British Jews spokesperson
President Marie van der Zyl from the Board of Deputies of British Jews added: “This proposed independent investigation confirms what the Jewish community has known for a long time: that the Labour leadership has a problem with anti-Jewish racism which it is unable or unwilling to solve.
“We welcome this development and hope it will now focus minds on the extent and depth of antisemitism infecting the Labour movement.”
Jewish Labour: ‘A Simple Message To The Labour Party’
The news follows months of protest against allegations of anti-Semitic behaviour on multiple levels of the Labour Party, including charges of inaction against leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Corbyn himself was drawn into the row in 2018, after it was revealed he had previously offered support to a graffiti artist whose work used several well-known antisemitic tropes. He has since apologised, adding that he “sincerely regret[s] that I did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on”.
We have a simple message to the Labour Party, it’s Leadership, it’s MPs, its Cllrs. If you do not show solidarity with us, we will not show solidarity for you.
We will hold our AGM on the 7th of April. For now, we are staying to stand and fight.
— Jewish Labour Movement (@JewishLabour) March 6, 2019
In the EHRC’s statement, they added: “Having received a number of complaints regarding antisemitism in the Labour Party, we believe the Labour Party 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.”
In response to the news, the Jewish Labour Movement said: “We have a simple message to the Labour Party, it’s Leadership, it’s MPs, its Cllrs. If you do not show solidarity with us, we will not show solidarity for you.”
Labour will have 14 days to respond to the allegations sparked by the Campaign Against Anti Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement, the latter of which revealed 1000s of testimonies from Jewish members of the Labour party.
‘One Antisemite In Our Party Is Too Many’
A Labour spokesperson has said: “We completely reject any suggestion the party has acted unlawfully and will be cooperating fully with the EHRC.
Jewish MP Luciana Berger has left the Labour party over the claims. Image credit: Parliament
“Labour is fully committed to the support, defence, and celebration of the Jewish community and its organisations.”
“Antisemitism complaints received since April 2018 relate to about 0.1% of our membership, but one antisemite in our party is one too many.
“We are determined to tackle antisemitism and root it out of our Party.”
MP Dismissed For Claiming Party Are ‘Too Apologetic’
After a period of slow response and a lack of action from the party, a number of key actions have stirred the debate, including Jewish MP Luciana Berger’s quitting to join The Independent Group of MPs.
Chris Williamson MP was also suspended from the party after he said the party had been “too apologetic” about complaints.