Equalities watchdog ends Labour work after reforms in the wake of antisemitism

Leader Sir Keir Starmer says antisemitism is “an evil” as he responds to the announcement that the equalities watchdog will no longer be monitoring the Labour Party

Labour is no longer being monitored by the equalities watchdog after making the changes demanded over its law-breaking handling of antisemitism under Jeremy Corbyn.

Sir Keir Starmer said antisemitism is “an evil” and “no political party that cultivates it deserves to hold power”, in the wake of the announcement on Wednesday.

The party leader, who succeeded Mr Corbyn, also said the judgment that the necessary reforms have been made was an “important moment in the history of the Labour Party”.

Sir Keir also confirmed Mr Corbyn would not stand as a Labour MP in the next general election.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had been scrutinising the party since ruling it was responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination more than two years ago.

But under Sir Keir’s leadership the watchdog says it has improved its complaints and training procedures to protect current and future party members.

Responding to the EHRC announcement Sir Keir said: “It’s taken many, many months of hard work and humility to get here.

“It’s meant rebuilding trust, not just with the Jewish community but with all those who were rightly appalled by the culture of the party and the previous leadership.

“When I became leader, I said I would turn Labour around and give it back to the British people, and the most important and urgent part of that was tearing out antisemitism by its roots.

He added: “To all those who were hurt, who were let down, who were driven out of our party, who no longer felt it was their home, who suffered the most appalling abuse, today, on behalf of the entire Labour Party, I say sorry.

“What you have been through can never be undone. Apologies alone cannot make it right."

The EHRC’s damning investigation, published in October 2020, found evidence of “political interference” by Mr Corbyn’s office in the complaints process.

The watchdog said there had been “inexcusable” failures which “appeared to be a result of a lack of willingness to tackle anti-Semitism rather than an inability to do so”.

Mr Corbyn was kicked out of the parliamentary party and remains an independent MP after he said he did not accept all of the EHRC findings.

When asked about this by reporters, Sir Keir said: “Let me be very clear about that: Jeremy, Mr Corbyn will not stand for Labour at the next general election, as a Labour Party candidate.

“What I said about the party changing, I meant, and we are not going back, and that is why Jeremy Corbyn will not stand as a Labour candidate at the next general election.”

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He also claimed the scale of the problem had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media”.

On Wednesday, the EHRC announced that its action plan for Labour to address breaches of the Equality Act concluded at the end of January and it was satisfied with the reforms.

EHRC chief executive Marcial Boo said: “On January 31, we concluded our monitoring as we were satisfied that the party had implemented the necessary actions to improve its complaints, recruitment, training and other procedures to the legal standards required.

“This will help to protect current and future Labour Party members from discrimination and harassment.

“We are pleased that our investigation and action plan has had the desired impact in this case.”

Among the watchdog’s demands were for Labour to commit to zero-tolerance of antisemitism and to set up an independent complaints handling process.

Consultation over the reforms had to include the Jewish community, social media guidelines had to be tightened and due diligence checks had to be strengthened on candidates.

In a joint statement, Jewish Leadership Council chairman Keith Black and Community Security Trust chief executive Mark Gardner said Labour had gone a “significant way” towards making the party an unwelcoming place for anti-Jewish racists but there was still much to do.

“We believe that the Labour Party and Sir Keir have engaged us honestly and transparently about the scale of the challenge throughout the EHRC monitoring period and we have welcomed this radically different approach,” they said.

Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive Karen Pollock said the EHRC announcement was “another step in the right direction” in the wake of a “shameful” episode in Labour’s history.

“The trauma of the anti-Jewish racism that permeated through the Labour Party over a period of five years is still felt by Jewish people within the Labour movement and the wider Jewish community,” she said.

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