UK Labour launches plan to combat antisemitism

The party will "change the way complaints of antisemitism and all other forms of racism are handled."

Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer attend a general election campaign meeting in Harlow, Britain November 5, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAY)
Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer attend a general election campaign meeting in Harlow, Britain November 5, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAY)
The UK Labour Party announced on Thursday a new plan to uproot antisemitism from its ranks.
The Action Plan for Driving out Antisemitism from the Labour Party came in response to a UK Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report in October. The report determined that the party had violated equality laws in its handling of antisemitic incidents under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
The EHRC report’s “findings were clear and stark: The Labour Party breached the Equality Act 2010 in terms of unlawful harassment and indirect discrimination towards our Jewish members,” the party’s current leader, Keir Starmer, and Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said in the plan’s introduction. “We failed the Jewish community, our members, our supporters and the country.”
As such, Starmer and Rayner said they “have made rooting out antisemitism our number-one priority,” and they plan to “change the processes, structures and the culture of the Party to ensure Jewish people feel safe to return to their political home.”
Among the ways Labour plans to make itself more welcoming to Jews and members of other minority groups is to establish an independent investigation process for complaints of antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination.
Unlike the process that Labour implemented under Corbyn, the current leadership said it would not be involved in individual complaint cases to ensure there is no political influence on the decisions.
In addition, external lawyers will be hired to advise on antisemitism hearings, and the party will also move to address backlogged antisemitism cases.
“We will not hesitate to sanction those who breach our rules and regulations,” Starmer and Rayner wrote. “Social media guidelines will be strengthened and candidates wishing to represent the Party will undergo greater due diligence checks.”
Labour’s leaders also committed to increasing transparency in the process of investigating complaints.
The party plans to establish an advisory board with Jewish members.
“This Action Plan will help us act decisively against antisemitism in all its forms,” Starmer and Rayner wrote. “It will hold us to the highest standards and ensure we neither miss incidents nor accept denial or excuses.”
The Labour leaders pledged to do the hard work to restore the Jewish community’s trust and change the party’s culture.
“Our determination is undimmed – and our commitment to getting it right is absolute,” they wrote. “We will only consider this work a success when members who left our Party because of antisemitism feel safe to return.”
Last month, the EHRC, a statutory government authority, said Labour’s failure to tackle antisemitism in its midst, “at worst,” could be seen as acceptance of antisemitism.
The report published on Thursday relates to 2015-2020, when Labour was led by Corbyn, who took the party sharply to the left and attracted many hard-left, socialist, anti-Zionist and antisemitic elements.
According to the EHRC, the Labour Party breached the Equality Act of 2010 through political interference into antisemitism complaints, failing to provide adequate training to those handling antisemitism complaints and antisemitic harassment.
The EHRC warned that “despite some recent improvements, the Labour Party must do more if it is going to regain the trust of the Jewish community, the public and many of its members.” It gave the party until December 10 to draft an action plan to implement recommendations to tackle antisemitism in the party.
Starmer apologized immediately after receiving the EHRC report for his party’s failure to deal with antisemitism in its ranks.
“It is a day of shame for the Labour Party,” he said. “We have failed Jewish people... I am truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused.”
Starmer held a senior role under Corbyn’s leadership.
“The scale of the problem [of antisemitism in the party] was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media,” Corbyn said in October.
Following his statement and subsequent failure to retract it, Corbyn was suspended by his party. He was reinstated 19 days later.  The Guardian newspaper reported last month that it understood he was nevertheless to be suspended from the parliamentary Labour Party for three months pending further investigation into his conduct as party leader.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report