A longtime ally of Jeremy Corbyn who serves as the head of the UK Labour‘s governance and legal unit reportedly didn’t suspend a party member accused of racially abusing an employee of the party, and who claimed that lawmakers receive instructions from the Israeli government via a phone app.
According to leaked emails seen by the Times of London, Thomas Gardiner declined to sanction the man, who also described former Labour MP Chuka Umunna as “black on the outside, blue on the inside.” When a mixed-race staffer objected to the member’s characterization of the lawmaker, he reportedly responded: “You would say that, wouldn’t you?”
The disciplinary unit run by Gardiner did not respond to the complaints about the unnamed member for five months, citing a “huge influx of cases” and administrative error as the reasons for the delay, the report said.
The unit reportedly only took action after the mixed-race employee said they were “concerned and disappointed” by the delay and worried about facing further racial abuse at party events.
In a January email, an aide to Gardiner wrote: “Thomas made a decision for a notice of investigation to be issued rather than a suspension. So this means the respondent is able to attend party meetings etc.”
According to the newspaper, a further email stated: “Your comments below about anticipating further abuse will be passed on to the investigating officer.”
A Labour source told the Times that Gardiner decided not to suspend the member because the alleged remarks were made online rather than in person.
For five months, the member continued to post offensive material online, including a story in April about Israel being behind the 9/11 terror attacks and an illustration of an airplane with a Star of David heading toward the Twin Towers. Gardiner suspended him after the April posts.
The newspaper reported in March that Gardiner said a member should not be suspended for posting an image depicting the Statue of Liberty smothered by an alien emblazoned with a Star of David because it was “anti-Israel, not anti-Jewish.”
Last Sunday, a former complaints officer at Labour headquarters told the Times that Gardiner took over investigations and disciplinary proceedings into party members accused of anti-Semitism.
Tim Dexter said Gardiner personally signed off on all decisions, which he appeared to make in coordination with Corbyn’s office.
“It was obvious and certainly accepted by me and a couple of other staff members that Thomas was probably getting direction from LOTO [leader of the opposition’s office] on lots of decisions,” Dexter said.
According to The Times, Gardiner also repeatedly refused to suspend a man who called Jewish Labour MPs “Zionist cum buckets.”
Labour has grappled with anti-Semitism in its ranks since the far-left Corbyn was elected party chief in 2015, with fresh scrutiny coming after a number of former party officials accused him and his allies of interfering in efforts to address the issue, in a BBC program aired earlier this month.
The party’s national executive committee (NEC) and shadow cabinet are due to hold extraordinary meetings later in the week at which the anti-Semitism crisis will be discussed.
The Guardian newspaper reported Saturday that the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) has written to every member of the shadow cabinet asking them to end the “institutional racism in the party.”
Mike Katz, chair of the JLM, said that the group may rethink its association with the party if action is not taken on the issue of Jew hatred.
Also on Saturday, a local constituency party voted to expel a former chief whip after she signed a letter along with more than 60 peers publicly accusing Corbyn of overseeing a “toxic culture” of anti-Semitism in the party.
The full-page ad in the Guardian newspaper accused Corbyn of “allowing anti-Semitism to grow in our party and presiding over the most shaming period in Labour’s history,” and said he “failed the test of leadership.”
On Saturday, Hilary Armstrong responded to her expulsion saying, “this sadly shows how far the party has departed from its roots. I’m not going to shy away from demanding that the party leadership take real and decisive action to rid anti-Semitism from the Labour party,” the Guardian reported.
Last week, Labour lawmaker Baroness Dianne Hayter was stripped of her role in the party after she compared Corbyn’s handling of the anti-Semitism crisis to Hitler’s “bunker mentality” in the final days of the Nazi regime.
A party spokesperson quoted by UK media outlets said Hayter was fired from her post as shadow Brexit minister “for her deeply offensive remarks about Jeremy Corbyn and his office.”
“To compare the Labour leader and Labour Party staff working to elect a Labour government to the Nazi regime is truly contemptible, and grossly insensitive to Jewish staff in particular,” he said.
Last week more than 200 current and former Labour staffers sent Corbyn a letter demanding he address the ongoing problem with anti-Semitism or step aside.
“The party’s response has been to smear Jewish victims, and former staff, accusing them of acting in bad faith,” they wrote. “The way the Party has threatened and denigrated these whistleblowers is appalling, hypocritical and a total betrayal of Labour’s core values.”
The letter said the crisis was of Corbyn’s making and that anti-Semitism had become institutionalized in the party and is now “worse than ever.”
Corbyn came under renewed pressure over anti-Semitism after a string of former officials spoke out in a BBC documentary about the party’s failure to tackle discrimination.
The former officials, including the main opposition’s former general secretary Iain McNicol, broke non-disclosure agreements to allege that members of Corbyn’s inner circle had interfered with investigations into anti-Semitism in the left-wing party.
Corbyn and the party have pushed back against the accusations made on BBC’s “Panorama,” saying the documentary contained “deliberate and malicious representation” and that the whistleblowers had “personal and political axes to grind.”
Both he and Labour have repeatedly said they are committed to rooting anti-Semitism out of the party.