Labour has suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn after he refused to accept the findings of an anti-Semitism inquiry.
In a devastating report, the Equality and Human Rights Commission concluded Labour had been guilty of “harassment and discrimination” against Jewish members while Mr Corbyn was in charge.
And the watchdog said Mr Corbyn’s office had “politically interfered” in the complaints process.
We reported earlier this year how Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard had been blocked from suspending a councillor over anti-Semitism concerns.
I will strongly contest the political intervention to suspend me.
I’ve made absolutely clear those who deny there has been an antisemitism problem in the Labour Party are wrong.
I will continue to support a zero tolerance policy towards all forms of racism.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) October 29, 2020
Mr Leonard had wanted to suspend Dundee councillor George McIrvine over Facebook posts which made reference to the Rothschild banking dynasty – a common target for anti-Semitic conspiracy theories – but was told by Labour’s legal unit the posts “are not” a problem.
Mr Corbyn reacted to the report by saying a number of complaints made during his tenure were “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.
He then gave a press conference in which he repeated this and insisted: “I’m not part of the problem”.
Responding to his remarks, a Labour spokesman said: “In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation. He has also had the whip removed from the Parliamentary Labour Party.”
Mr Corbyn said he would “strongly contest the political intervention to suspend” him.
He said: “I’ve made absolutely clear those who deny there has been an antisemitism problem in the Labour Party are wrong.
“I will continue to support a zero tolerance policy towards all forms of racism.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, who is a close ally of Mr Corbyn, said: “I have known Jeremy Corbyn for decades. He is a life-long anti-racist campaigner.
“But I am not commenting on internal disciplinary matters.”
The EHRC investigation, launched in May last year, concluded that under Mr Corbyn 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”.
The EHRC’s lead investigator Alasdair Henderson told a press conference that blame could not be placed on one person alone and the problem went beyond Mr Corbyn, but added that “as leader of the party, and with evidence of political interference from within his office, he does have a responsibility ultimately for those failings”.
The watchdog identified three breaches of the Equality Act relating to political interference in complaints, failure to provide adequate training to those handling anti-Semitism cases, and harassment.
The party has been served with an unlawful act notice and has been given until December 10 to draft an action plan to implement the report’s recommendations. The notice is legally enforceable by the courts if not fulfilled.
The EHRC found 23 instances of inappropriate involvement by the Leader of the Opposition’s Office (LOTO) and others in the 70 files the watchdog looked at.
They included LOTO staff influencing decisions, including on suspensions or whether to investigate claims.
The watchdog found that the lack of training for people handling anti-Semitism complaints indirectly discriminated against Jewish members until August 2020, by which time Sir Keir Starmer was leader of the party.
On the day we should all be moving forward & taking all steps to fight antisemitism, the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn is profoundly wrong. In interests of party unity let’s find a way of undoing & resolving this.
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) October 29, 2020
Labour has committed to proper training, with the EHRC recommending it should be mandatory and fully implemented within six months.
The Jewish Labour Movement said blame for the “sordid, disgraceful chapter” in the party’s history “lies firmly with those who held positions of leadership”.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Gideon Falter said: “Jeremy Corbyn and those around him who took part in, or enabled, the gaslighting, harassment and victimisation of Britain’s Jewish minority are shamed for all time.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the report was a “historic nadir for the Labour Party”.