Labour finds a way to let off ‘antisemite’ allies of Jeremy Corbyn

LAAS in the Sunday Times 'Big Read'

The party is avoiding tackling those accused of prejudice by claiming they are not members

Labour has been accused of letting off allies of Jeremy Corbyn accused of antisemitism by claiming that reported activists are not even members of the party.

Labour Against Antisemitism (LAAS) has reported more than 1,200 accusations of antisemitic abuse by suspected Labour members to the party. In several cases, however, those with close links to the leadership have been exonerated because party bosses claim they cannot find evidence that they are party members, a claim it is difficult for Corbyn’s critics to contest.

Among those surprisingly exonerated was Michael Calderbank, who tweeted a comparison between Zionists and Nazis and defended the former London mayor, Ken Livingstone, who said Hitler was a Zionist. In 2016 Calderbank wrote: “Ethnically exclusive forms of nationalism as exhibited by some (but not all) zionists DO echo Nazi Germany. Ken’s been hung out to dry.” He repeated the charge in a second tweet: “It’s true that far right strains of zionism echo the ethnically exclusivist nationalism of Hitler.”

Yet when LAAS reported Calderbank, Labour’s compliance unit replied: “We have been unable to identify the individual as a member of the Labour Party.”

This is surprising since in posts for Labour Briefing in 2017, Calderbank billed himself as “secretary of Brent Central constituency Labour Party”. Calderbank also used to work for John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, and had at time of reporting a Commons pass sponsored by Ian Lavery, the party chairman. He is also co-editor of the left-wing magazine Red Pepper and is listed in the register of MPs’ staff as a researcher for five trade unions.

Euan Philipps, LAAS spokesman, said: “It is deeply troubling that the Labour Party appears to routinely reject complaints against members on the grounds that they cannot locate their membership information. If Jeremy Corbyn wanted to check if Michael Calderbank was a member, he would only have to look across Portcullis House to see his friend and colleague wearing a parliamentary security pass sponsored by the chair of the Labour Party, Ian Lavery MP.

“Jeremy Corbyn has routinely dissembled and kicked the can down the road in the course of the antisemitism scandal. This complete lack of leadership has infected the entire party machine.”