The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced Tuesday a full statutory investigation against the British Labour Party over its failure to stamp out anti-Semitism in its ranks and to investigate if the party had “unlawfully discriminated” against people because they are Jewish.
The party’s current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been dogged by criticism about his handling of anti-Semitism claims since taking office in 2015. Since its inception 12 years ago, the EHRC has investigated only one political party over unlawful discrimination – the British National Party, or Nazi party.
The watchdog’s investigation will evaluate the Labour Party’s handling of the tens of thousands of acts of anti-Semitic discrimination reported to the commission. It will seek to determine whether officials have committed unlawful acts of discrimination or failed to respond to complaints of unlawful discrimination in an adequate manner.
Earlier this month, the campaign group Labour Against Antisemitism submitted a dossier to the EHRC containing over 15,000 online screenshots showing examples of alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
The independent watchdog began pre-enforcement proceedings against the organization in March, following a formal referral and detailed legal representations made last year by the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) and the Jewish Labour Movement.
The decision to launch a statutory investigation under section 20 of the Equality Act 2006 unlocks the watchdog’s full range of powers, including access to correspondence, emails, and other confidential documents to determine how Labour handled complaints of anti-Jewish hate.
While the EHRC has no powers to prosecute, it can create legally binding action plans for organizations and make recommendations.
Gideon Falter, the CAA’s chief executive, said there were two reasons the EHRC had taken such an “extraordinary step.”
“The first is that the Labour party has repeatedly failed to address its own antisemitism problem,” he noted. “The second is that when the commission approached the Labour leadership, they still failed to offer action sufficient to reassure the commission that the antisemitic discrimination and victimisation would stop.”
A Labour spokesperson said the party “support[s] the efforts of the EHRC to draw attention to the obligations all political parties have under the Equality Act” but rejected any suggestion that Labour had failed to investigate and discipline thousands of anti-Semitism cases.
[Photo: Sophie J. Brown / Wikimedia Commons]