Labour’s 13 point action plan to deal with antisemitism has been leaked to the Huffington Post.
While it is welcome that the party wants a clear plan to tackle antisemitism, its apparent conclusions should be of concern to those of us who want to deal with antisemitism as a political problem. The plan includes a speeded up process for complaints, a smaller number of trained people to investigate, greater transparency over what is and will not be considered evidence.
All of this is useful, but just a clearer disciplinary process will not deal with what is a political problem. We need much more debate, discussion and education and all of that comes before discipline and expulsions.
The antisemitism working group which drafted the report notes that, “The perception is that the process is not swift enough from start to finish, that it is susceptible to political forces at each stage of the process and that there is a lack of consistency in how cases are adjudicated on.”
The seemingly unending delay between complaints being made or allegations received by members, followed by a lack of action, has been a concern for both complainants and the accused.
New staff in a “complaints unit” has already speeded up the rate with which these matters are dealt and the General Secretary is now more directly involved on signing off the cases given to the team. The report also says that the politics of Labour’s National Executive Disputes Panel has given rise to a perceived lack of consistency on how these matters are dealt with. This presumably refers to the division between some members and others like Christine Shawcroft and Darren Williams who have been against matters being referred to the National Constitutional Committee and have argued for smaller penalties for those accused of antisemitism.
Infamously Christine Shawcroft defended a council candidate who had questioned the Holocaust. The proposal to anonymise reports, as is already the case for reports to the Sexual Harassment Panel, is perfectly sensible, but to suggest the issue can be depoliticised is inherently wrong.
Labour’s Chair, Ian Lavery has said that suspensions for antisemitism will now probably increase “dramatically”, and he champions this as a good thing.
But a program of education and a commitment to open debate and pluralism will do much more to tackle antisemitism then administrative suspensions.