Two Thirds of Serious Cases Are Allowed to Remain in the Party

featured image thumbnail for post Reading the Labour Party Antisemitism Stats

Reading the Labour Party Antisemitism Stats

Labour Antisemitism: Two Thirds of Serious Cases Are Allowed to Remain in the Party

On Thursday 21st January, the Labour Party did something it had failed to do for over a year: it published statistics[1] on the outcomes of cases determined by subpanels of the Labour Party’s Disputes Panel.

There has been on ongoing challenge of transparency regarding how the Labour Party tackles antisemitism, and so we can welcome the publication of these figures as a positive (albeit a step that the party has been forced into by the Equalities and human Rights Commission (EHRC). The reason we can welcome them is because they provide an insight into where the Labour Party is in terms of effectively prosecuting instances of anti-Jewish racism by its own members. And that’s where the positives end.

"they provide an insight into where the Labour Party is in terms of effectively prosecuting instances of anti-Jewish racism"

Labour Against Antisemitism has always argued the extent of anti-Jewish racism in the Labour Party was so embedded that only a complete, zero tolerance approach would work effectively, and this was something the EHRC agreed with, describing a party “culture… at odds with [its own] commitment to zero tolerance of antisemitism”[2]. So clear was this message from the EHRC that in its own Action Plan[3] in response to their report, Labour placed “Living up to a zero-tolerance commitment” as action point 1.1[4]. The top line figure therefore to focus on is the number of expulsions – with an expectation that the closer the figure gets to 100% the closer the Labour Party is to reaching its goal.

Unfortunately these published stats show just how far away that goal currently is. Just 31.71% of cases (of which antisemitism make up 82%), or 91 out of 287 members whose conduct was serious enough to merit a subpanel hearing, resulted in expulsion. That’s less than a third of cases.

"Unfortunately these published stats show just how far away that goal currently is"

And of the remaining 59.3% who were allowed to remain in the party, 139 members – just under half of all cases - received no significant punishment at all.

Frustratingly, the stats do not include figures on how many members left the party rather than face a disciplinary process (a feature of the 2019 report[5]) nor does it provide a full year of data (again a feature of the 2019 report). The decision to compare these figures with statistics from 2014-2018, but not 2019, is not explained and could be a political decision to make the current leadership look better than its predecessor. If so, that is also disappointing: attempting to spin this kind of information only undermines trust and risks undercutting the entire purpose of the exercise.

Conclusion

Its fair to state that Keir Starmer and his general secretary, David Evans, inherited a disciplinary system which, as per the EHRC investigation and report, was simply not fit for purpose. Culture and personnel can take time to change and the replacement of hardcore Corbyn-supporter Yasmin Dar as chair of Labour’s NEC disputes panel by Shabana Mahmood[6] suggests Starmer is slowly getting his people in place. Time needs to be allowed to pull the Labour Party back from the brink of where it was under Jeremy Corbyn.

"Time needs to be allowed to pull the Labour Party back from the brink"

However, these figures present two distinct challenges to Sir Keir: firstly, how will he ensure that the expulsion figures move closer to 100% than to 0%, and secondly, what will happen with all the members who are being let off? The first, he will hope, will be addressed by the implementation of the action plan, but as yet the second has not been mentioned. These cases represent real members – maybe even MPs - whose anti-Jewish views have no place in the Labour Party and whose presence is an obstacle to tackling the antisemitism crisis. Having been let off by a broken party machine that is institutionally racist, the Labour leader needs to commit to a full review of historical cases once his independent system is up and running. Otherwise he will struggle to detoxify the party he leads, regain the trust of the British Jewish community, and convince the wider electorate that his new management is any better than the old one.

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  1. Cases determined by subpanels of the Labour Party’s NEC Disputes Panel https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/DisputesCaseStatistics.pdf
  2. EHRC Report p. 6
  3. Action Plan: Driving out antisemitism from the Labour Party 17 12 20
  4. Action Plan: Driving out antisemitism from the Labour Party 17 12 20, p. 5
  5. Labour Party Disciplinary Processes on Antisemitism – Statistics https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/13434_20-Statistics-Report-No-Place-For-Antisemitism.pdf
  6. Shabana Mahmood elected as chair of Labour’s NEC disputes panel https://labourlist.org/2021/01/shabana-mahmood-elected-as-chair-of-labours-nec-disputes-panel/

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Thanks to @CatoQuintus for help with the data.