A UK government investigation into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party found that equality laws were broken and the party under former leader Jeremy Corbyn was “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination,” officials said Thursday.
The report by the state anti-racism watchdog came at the end of a year-long probe into allegations of anti-Semitism in the party.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) investigation found there were “serious failings” by the party’s leadership when it came to anti-Semitism, and that Labour had “inadequate processes” for handling complaints.
The EHRC gave the party an unlawful act notice, meaning it has to publish an action plan in response to the report within six weeks.
“The equality body’s analysis points to a culture within the party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent anti-Semitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it,” the watchdog said in a statement. “This is in direct contrast to the comprehensive guidance and training in place to handle sexual harassment complaints that demonstrates the Party’s ability to act decisively when it needs to, indicating that anti-Semitism could have been tackled more effectively.”
The watchdog found the party responsible for unlawful acts in three major areas: political interference in anti-Semitism complaints, failing to provide adequate training to those handling anti-Semitism complaints, and harassment.
There were 23 instances of “inappropriate involvement” by Corbyn’s office and others in the 70 files examined in the report, the EHRC said, with interference happening more frequently in complaints of anti-Semitism than other discrimination allegations.
The report also singled out former London mayor Ken Livingstone and Pam Bromley, a Labour Party local authority councilor in Rossendale in the north of the UK, for using anti-Semitic tropes and for claiming accusations of anti-Semitism were false smears, saying the party was responsible for their conduct.
However the report said those cases were the “tip of the iceberg,” and that there were a further 18 “borderline” cases in which there was not enough evidence to conclude that the party was legally responsible for the conduct of the individual.
“These were people such as local councilors, local election candidates and Constituency Labour Party office holders. Many more files contained evidence of anti-Semitic conduct by an ‘ordinary’ member of the Labour Party, who did not hold any office or role and the Labour Party cannot be held directly responsible for under the Equality Act 2010,” the report said.
The EHRC, the main government anti-racism watchdog, had initially announced a probe into whether the main opposition party led at the time by Corbyn had discriminated against, harassed or victimized Jews in violation of the UK’s 2006 Equality Act.
Keir Starmer, who replaced Corbyn in a party election earlier this year, has said he would fully cooperate with the EHRC’s report into anti-Semitism in the party.
Starmer, who has vowed to root out anti-Semitism, said the report marked a “day of shame” for the party. He said there would be “no more denials or excuses.”
Jewish groups have accused Corbyn, a far-left politician, of allowing a massive surge in anti-Semitism within the ranks of the party that was once considered the natural home of British Jewry. Thousands of cases of alleged hate speech against Jews had been recorded within Labour since 2015, when Corbyn was elected to lead the party.
After the report was published, Corbyn said he regretted that “it took longer to deliver … change than it should.” But he added that “the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party.”
He was removed from the party over the statement later Thursday, Sky News reported.
Corbyn had vowed to punish any party member caught making racist statements, yet he defended a number of members who made vitriolic anti-Semitic remarks, and expelled hardly any members despite more than 850 formal complaints.
Corbyn himself drew wide criticism for his own actions. Last year he expressed regret for having defended a 2012 anti-Semitic mural in London’s East End. The mural, named Freedom of Humanity, was painted on a property near Brick Lane by the Los Angeles-based graffiti artist Kalen Ockerman. It depicted a group of men — seemingly caricatures of Jewish bankers and businessmen — counting their money on a Monopoly board which is balanced on the back of naked workers.
Last year he was found to have authored a glowing foreword to a book that claims that Jews control global financial systems and describes them as “men of a single and peculiar race.”
In addition, the Hamas terror group has thanked Corbyn for his solidarity in recognizing Palestinian mourning over the 71st anniversary of the formation of the State of Israel.
The now former Labour leader has in the past been criticized for calling terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah “friends” when inviting members for a parliamentary meeting in 2009. He later downplayed the comment and said he regretted using the term.
Last year it emerged that in 2014 Corbyn attended a ceremony that honored the terrorists behind the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre. He later said “I was present when [a wreath] was laid, I don’t think I was actually involved in it.”
Agencies contributed to this report.