The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have kindly sent me a copy of their report into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. They presumably did so after I launched an FOI request earlier this year asking about their approach to dealing with complaints of racism in the Conservative Party (answer: they’re not doing anything). In their covering email, the EHRC said
Politicians on all sides have a responsibility to set standards for our public life and to lead the way in challenging racism in all its forms. There have been recent examples of behaviour, from politicians of various parties that fall well below the standards we would expect.
Who could disagree with that? So why hasn’t the EHRC launched an inquiry into the Tory Party’s Islamaphobia, of which former party chair (for example) Baroness Warsi has often complained of? I wonder if the EHRC needs reform.
As regards the seriousness of the problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, the EHRC reviewed 70 complaints out of 220 sent to them, and found sufficient evidence in the cases of precisely two. But we are forbidden to say that the whole business was blown out of proportion, nor are we permitted to consider any theories as to why that might have been the case.
The EHRC recommend that the Labour Party should have an independent complaints procedure for dealing with anti-Semitic complaints. This would de facto establish anti-Semitism as a special form of racism. If we are to have an independent process, let it deal with all forms of discrimination. And, since the logic of ’independence’ seems so favourable, why not apply it to all political parties? (And why just political parties?)
Given that most of the 70 complaints reviewed by the EHRC related to posts on social media (there is no comment in the report as to whether these were posts by actual party members or not—the ambiguous term ‘insufficient evidence’ glosses over that possibility) it is surprising that the EHRC had nothing to say about the nature of ‘social’ media itself. The EHRC seems to be blind to the wider world we live in, and how a culture of victimisation spreads far beyond one form of expression of it. Surely the EHRC could have told us about what it had learnt about that?
It surprised me too (only kidding) that the EHRC, after name checking Jewish Voice for Labour, never again referred to JVL's submission to its inquiry, an omission which speaks volumes about the EHRC's 'impartiality.'
In the Guardian this morning there was nothing about this report, since it was only published this morning. But buried in a news report about the disproportionate targeting of black men for stop and search by the police, I read this (relating to the case of two black men's complaint of stop and search) "We approached the EHRC for help in bringing a case. They refused." The EHRC said "In isolation this case did not identify misconduct or evidence of racial profiling. However, looking at this in conjunction with other investigations has identified broader concerns . . " But no inquiry, merely an EHRC letter to London's police commissioner with some helpful hints. Since the Met 'denied bias affects stop and search' we'll probably hear no more about it from the EHRC.
UPDATE On the BBC—Keir Starmer’s response to the report, in part: ‘. . . anyone who was anti-Semitic "should be nowhere near this party".’ ‘And he said that those "who think there's no problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, that it's all exaggerated or a factional attack, then frankly, you are part of the problem too and you should be nowhere near the Labour Party either." Well I agree with the first statement wholeheartedly, and yes there is demonstrably a problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party (from whichever perspective you look at it) but I wonder if I’m to come unstuck on the bit about it being exaggerated? Should I expel myself or wait for the call? I don’t think I’ll expel myself anytime soon, since the belief, which I hold and is somewhat borne out by the EHRC report, is that the problem was exaggerated. That is a reasonable belief and my right to express it is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights—on the bit about freedom of expression. Sir Keir, in his urgency to please the anti-Corbynistas has made a rod for his own back. Is he really threatening mass expulsions? And if he doesn’t deliver on that, will the anti-Corbynistas leave him alone?