UK Politics

Corbyn criticised over handling of anti-Semitism cases

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright PA
Image caption Labour said leader Jeremy Corbyn was 'committed to celebrating the Jewish community'.

Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised over Labour's handling of anti-Semitism allegations by the national secretary of the Jewish Labour Movement.

The organisation has also voted to pass a motion of no confidence in the Labour leader over the matter.

Earlier, shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti called on the group not to "personalise the issue".

Labour says it takes all complaints of anti-Semitism "extremely seriously" and is committed to "rooting it out".

Labour MP Ruth Smeeth said it had been a "heartbreaking day" and she felt "sick" after the meeting.

She said: "Jewish members of the Labour Party have come together in anger and frustration to make it clear to the leadership that enough really must be enough.

"The mood was very sombre. The party has to shine a light on what's really going on - it's time for the Labour Party to remove itself from its own disciplinary and complaints process and hand it to an independent body."

Dame Margaret Hodge said the meeting was "collegiate but angry".

The vote comes after the Sunday Times reported that it had seen internal documents which showed the party had failed to take disciplinary action in hundreds of cases.

The newspaper reported that the documents, which have not been seen by the BBC, showed the party's system for dealing with complaints had been beset by delays, inaction and interference from the leader's office.

Labour defended its handling of complaints, saying the figures used in the newspaper report were not accurate and had been "selectively leaked from emails to misrepresent their overall contents".

"The Labour Party takes all complaints of anti-Semitism extremely seriously and we are committed to rooting it out of our party," a spokeswoman said.

"All complaints about anti-Semitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures."

Responding to the vote, the spokeswoman said: "Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party are fully committed to the support, defence and celebration of the Jewish community.

"One anti-Semite in our party is one too many. We are determined to tackle anti-Semitism and root it out."

But Jewish Labour Movement national secretary Peter Mason said the reports showed the party's processes were "incapable of dealing with anti-Jewish racism".

He told the BBC News Channel: "Ultimately organisations are led by the top. Cultures of organisations are set by those that lead them."

Labour peer Baroness Chakrabarti, who led an inquiry into anti-Semitism within Labour in 2016, called on the Jewish Labour Movement not to "personalise the issue and make it about Jeremy Corbyn".

Speaking on Sky News's Ridge programme, she said the issue of anti-Semitism within the party "goes way back", whilst Mr Corbyn was "one person and he won't be leader forever".

"We have to make this non-factional, non-personal and work together," she added.

'Total sham'

Her review, which concluded in June 2016, found the party was not overrun by anti-Semitism or other forms of racism but there is an "occasionally toxic atmosphere".

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the Sunday Times report showed that attempts to deal with anti-Semitism had been "treated with utter contempt".

"Rather than own up to the problem, the Labour leadership has put its efforts into a cover-up operation," she said. "Any claims to a politically independent system can now be seen as a total sham.

"Labour must now urgently open up its processes to scrutiny by the Jewish community".