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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Labour Party breached equalities law

The Guardian reports on the findings of the Equality and Human Rights Commission that the Labour party was guilty of unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination over antisemitism within the party, adding that there were “serious failings in the Labour party leadership in addressing antisemitism and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints”.

The EHRC inquiry found that Labour, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, was responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act, connected to harassment, political interference in antisemitism complaints, and inadequate training to those handling the complaints:

The EHRC uncovered what it said was inappropriate interference in the complaints process over antisemitism by staff from Corbyn’s office, with 23 instances found, including staff exerting influence on decisions on areas such as member suspensions, or whether to investigate claims.

Some of these decision were made “because of likely press interest rather than any formal criteria”, it said.

While there was a wider culture of political interference in certain complaints, the report said, this occurred more often in antisemitism cases, and was thus found to be discriminatory and unlawful.

Among another example of poor practice in dealing with complaints, the EHRC said an email inbox for these “was largely left unmonitored for a number of years and no action taken on the majority of complaints forwarded to it”. Of 70 files reviewed for the inquiry. 62 had records missing.

The report found that this element of the indirect discrimination against Jewish members, the lack of a proper complaints and disciplinary procedure, lasted until August 2020, four months into Ker Starmer’s tenure, but was now being addressed.

In terms of conduct by individual members seen as unlawful harassment, such as using antisemitic themes or suggesting complaints were faked or smears, the report names two people: Ken Livingston, the former London mayor; and Pam Bromley, a councillor in Rossendale, Lancashire.

The report said: “As these people were acting as agents of the Labour party, the Labour party was legally responsible for their conduct.

“In each case, the EHRC considered the perception of those affected by the conduct, and Labour party members told the EHRC that the comments contributed to a hostile environment for Jewish and non-Jewish members.”

However, the EHRC said these two cases were “only the tip of the iceberg”, with 18 other instances were found where there was not enough evidence for a legal conclusion that the party was responsible for the conduct, covering councillors, candidates and constituency party officials.

There were also, the report, said, '“many more files” contained evidence of antisemitic conduct by an ‘ordinary’ member of the Labour Party, who did not hold any office or role and the Labour Party cannot be held directly responsible for under the Equality Act 2010.

This lack of willingness to tackle anti-semitism within the Labour Party is a serious and substantial breach of equalites law.
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