Leaked minutes show Labour at odds over antisemitism claims
London – The depth of the split in the Labour party’s ruling body over antisemitism and racism has been laid bare in leaked minutes that show fierce disagreements over disciplinary action.
- A member who allegedly made threats when another raised concern about antisemitism and blamed Zionists for causing his problems in the party.
- A member accused of making antisemitic remarks on social media.
- A member accused of using a racial slur against a black candidate.
Almost all members of the national executive committee (NEC) elected on the leftwing slate acted as a block vote to try to minimise disciplinary action against several members at the committee’s disputes panel meeting in March, according to the minutes and sources at the meeting.
Multiple sources have alleged that suspended members who were perceived as being sympathetic to Corbyn were defended, even when the evidence against them was overwhelming.
“People were generally outraged at the scale of the defence of just anything. It’s all about control: control of the party and control of the processes,” one source close to the NEC said.
Euan Phillips, who runs the campaign Labour Against Antisemitism, said he was losing faith in the management of complaints. “We have been reporting this anti-Jewish racism for months and months now assuming that the party and the ‘quasi-judicial’ disputes panel would take it seriously,” he said. “Anyone defending antisemitism should be off the NEC and out of the Labour party.”
The panel in March was chaired by Christine Shawcroft, who was later forced to resign from the NEC after it emerged she had sent an email defending a Labour councillor accused of Holocaust denial.
Among cases discussed included a member who is alleged to have blamed Zionists for causing his problems with the party after he was suspended over a confrontation with another member who had raised fears about antisemitism and Holocaust denial.
Sources said Lansman and Darren Williams, one of the constituency party representatives, both argued the man’s case should not be referred for possible expulsion, but were overruled. The case did not go to a vote.
Williams moved an amendment to defend another case where a woman is reported to have made antisemitic remarks on social media, as well as supporting George Galloway in Manchester Gorton against Labour.
In both cases, trade union members and others on the NEC including MPs and councillors intervened and blocked attempts to just give the members a warning and training, instead referring them to Labour’s highest disciplinary body, the national constitutional committee (NCC), which can recommend expulsion.
In a Facebook post after the meeting, Williams expressed anger that so many party members were facing possible expulsion. “It’s deeply disappointing to see party members put on a path to likely expulsion when the evidence of their supposed wrongdoing is far from compelling,” he wrote.
The minutes also reveal Shawcroft refused to recuse herself as chair when the panel heard the case of a Labour councillor who has been accused of using a racist term to describe a black council candidate and co-ordinating with the party of the disgraced Tower Hamlets former mayor Lutfur Rahman against Labour.
Shawcroft, an active member in Tower Hamlets who was once herself suspended for defending Rahman, was asked to recuse herself after other NEC members said she had acted as a “silent friend” of the councillor during his investigatory interview, but refused, the minutes said.
Seven members of the NEC then voted to limit further disciplinary action, with several arguing the case was based on factional divides, but again they were defeated by other members. The case will now be heard by the NCC.
Tower Hamlets councillor Rachael Saunders welcomed the decision by the NEC to refer the councillor for disciplinary action. “It has taken us a while to sort out Tower Hamlets politics, it is a good thing that we are now able to move forward and that there are consequences,” she said.
All members of the NEC, including the leader and deputy leader, can attend NEC disputes panel meetings but Corbyn and Tom Watson were not at the meeting. Trickett, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, was the only one of the three shadow cabinet representatives who were at the meeting, with Kate Osamor and Rebecca Long-Bailey absent.
Sources close to the NEC said disputes panel meetings now regularly go on for three hours. The body reviews the most serious cases, referred to them by party staff who make a recommendation for further action.
The majority of cases discussed at the March meeting saw disciplinary recommendations accepted without a vote, though some after heated debate.
Williams declined to comment, while Shawcroft said that she could not discuss individual cases but that members of the NEC were behaving in an appropriate manner. “Cases are presented for discussion, not for rubber-stamping,” she said.
Saying that the discussions were in line with the recommendations of the report by Shami Chakrabarti into antisemitism, she added: “All complaints must be taken extremely seriously and looked at carefully. It’s therefore right that the panel fully consider each case and the different sanctions that can be applied. That’s what the meetings are for.”
Lansman and Trickett did not respond to a request for comment.
Richard Angell, director of Labour’s centrist pressure group Progress, said the votes at the meeting showed complaints were still treated as being politically motivated. “The new establishment may say one thing in public but in private they are using their political muscle to defend their friends and allies,” he said.
“Training on antisemitism is for those who show remorse and want to change – like Naz Shah MP – not for those who double down and think they have done no wrong.”
A Labour source said that the NEC panel was simply doing its job. “The role of the NEC disputes panel is to review and discuss cases to decide what disciplinary action should be taken, as happened in this meeting,” the source said. “Most decisions were unanimous, the few votes that took place were to decide what type of sanction should be applied, not whether action should be taken.”