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Labour leadership criticised after anti-Semitism expulsion figures released

Labour leadership criticised after anti-Semitism expulsion figures released

Monday 11 February 2019

Labour leadership criticised after anti-Semitism expulsion figures released

MPs have hit out at the Labour leadership after the party revealed it has received 673 allegations of anti-Semitism by its members over the past 10 months, leading to 12 individuals being expelled.

A party spokesman said the numbers involved amounted to around 0.1% of the total membership roll, but added: “One anti-Semite in our party is one too many.”

Labour was committed to “rooting out” anti-Semitism “once and for all”, he said.

But senior backbencher Dame Margaret Hodge, who has been a vocal critic of leader Jeremy Corbyn’s record on dealing with anti-Semitism, said she did not trust the figures and was not convinced the party’s leadership was “serious” about the problem.

And Labour MP Ruth Smeeth said no-one from the party leadership attended a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday night, adding that she was “not even surprised”.

Meanwhile several Labour MPs have written to Mr Corbyn calling for a vote at Tuesday’s shadow cabinet meeting on the leadership’s failure to comply with a demand for an oral and written report on the extent and handling of anti-Semitism cases by the party.

The figures were released a week after an explosive meeting at Westminster which saw MPs accuse party general secretary Jennie Formby of failing to tackle the issue adequately.

A motion demanding the release of information about disciplinary cases was passed by the PLP.

Releasing the figures ahead of the further PLP meeting on Monday, Ms Formby said she had “pushed hard” to persuade the party’s ruling National Executive Committee to allow their publication.

Of the 673 complaints between April 2018 and January 2019, some 211 resulted in the issue of a notice of investigation and a further 96 cases saw members immediately suspended.

In 146 less serious cases, members were given a written warning and in 220 there was not sufficient evidence of a breach of party rules to proceed with investigation.

The NEC’s Anti-Semitism Disputes Panel has reached decisions on 96 of the cases where notices of investigation or suspensions were applied.

In a further 44 cases, individuals left the party after being presented with evidence.

Other cases are still under investigation or have been halted after uncovering evidence which meant they could not proceed further.

Of those dealt with by the Disputes Panel, 16 were issued with formal NEC warnings and 25 with first written warnings, while six were referred for further investigation and seven had no further action taken.

Another 42 were referred to the next stage of the complaints process, the independent National Constitutional Committee, which expelled 12 members and imposed other sanctions on six more.

Other NCC cases are still to be completed.

Labour received another 433 complaints, more than 30% of the total, about people who turned out not to be in the party at all.

Complaints related to social media posts that were up to eight years old, including some by people who had since died.

Dame Margaret Hodge said she was “glad” that the leadership had provided statistics in response to MPs’ demands.

But she added in a tweet: “I alone put in over 200 examples – some vile – where evidence suggested they came from Labour. So don’t trust figures.

“Can’t believe only 12 expulsions. Not convinced leadership serious on rooting out anti-Semitism.”

Ruth Smeeth said she would not keep quiet “until this is better and until anti-Semitism has gone from the Labour Party” (Yui Mok/PA)

Ms Smeeth told reporters after the PLP meeting: “We are at the point now where we need genuine and real leadership and we need them to turn up to do it.

“It didn’t matter who from the leadership came tonight… We have various options that could have come this evening to at least have done a holding statement or to hear how angry and upset people are getting.”

She added: “This is not over. I so desperately wish this was over.

“I think every Jewish MP wishes this was over. Every MP wishes this was over. It is not yet over.

“We’re not going to keep quiet until this is better and until anti-Semitism has gone from the Labour Party.”

In a letter to MPs, Ms Formby said: “I totally reject the suggestion that the existence of anti-Semitism in our party is a smear.

“I have seen hard evidence of it and that is why I have been so determined to do whatever is possible to eliminate it from the party.

“It is also the reason why I made it a priority to implement robust procedures to deal with it whenever it is identified.

“Whilst I cannot guarantee to totally eradicate it, as we have new members joining every day, I can guarantee that we now have robust procedures to deal with it whenever it is identified.”

Following “capacity issues” caused by staff sickness and departures last year, the party’s governance and legal unit has increased from five to 11 people dealing with investigations, she said.

Ms Formby said she has had private meetings with representatives of several Jewish community organisations in the hope of encouraging them to re-engage with Labour’s consultation on its Code of Conduct.

She said: “Direct engagement with us does not currently appear to be an option for some organisations.

“I very much hope this will change as I remain absolutely committed to engaging and working together with Jewish community organisations at all times.”

A Labour Party spokesman said: “Jennie Formby, after obtaining the NEC’s agreement, has published the figures on anti-Semitism complaints handled by the party and published a report on the work the party has done and is doing to speed up and strengthen our procedures, increasing transparency.

“These figures relate to about 0.1% of our membership, but one anti-Semite in our party is one too many.

“We are committed to tackling anti-Semitism and rooting it out of our party once and for all.”

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