Labour’s fully independent complaints process expected in late 2021

Labour plans to introduce a fully independent complaints process to tackle anti-Semitism within the party by late 2021.

The party on Thursday published its plan for a major overhaul in response to the highly-damning report by the equality watchdog into its handling of the issue under Jeremy Corbyn.

Backed by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the action plan also seeks to prevent the leader and his office from influencing outcomes and deal with a backlog of cases.

Angela Rayner and Sir Keir Starmer
Angela Rayner and Sir Keir Starmer

The issues were cited as problems during Mr Corbyn’s leadership by the EHRC investigation that found the party broke the law in its handling of anti-Semitism.

Jewish groups broadly welcomed the plan developed under Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership but there was a warning over the time expected for the complaints process to be put in place.

The plan sets out that many independent elements of the process that do not require an overhaul to the party rule book will be in place by the end of April.

But the full system will not be in place until “as soon as practicable after Labour Party Conference in September”, where the rule book changes would be made.

Campaign Against Antisemitism chief executive Gideon Falter welcomed the plan, but added: “The Jewish community should be under no illusions – the action plan does not envisage an independent disciplinary process until a year from now.

“This extremely long delay is down to the party’s refusal to hold a special conference of its membership to make the necessary changes to its rule book sooner.”

However, a Board of Deputies of British Jews spokesman said: “We are realistic enough to understand that in practice this will take some time to design, commission and implement, but this needs to be up and running as soon as possible.”

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

Sir Keir acknowledged “there’s lots that we need to do” in implementing the “very robust action plan” and added that “I’m absolutely determined to root out anti-Semitism in the Labour Party”.

The formal response to the EHRC report published in October is a major test for the party as it seeks to restore its reputation with the Jewish community.

Other details in the plan include appointing external lawyers to advise on hearings and strengthening social media guidelines and due diligence checks for prospective Labour candidates.

It also also includes setting up an advisory board composed of members of the Jewish community to ensure transparency and increase trust in party procedures.

EHRC executive director Alastair Pringle welcomed the plan as being “comprehensive” and said it “meets the recommendations” set out in the watchdog’s investigation.

The Jewish Labour Movement, one of the party’s affiliated organisations, said it was pleased “we now have a new leadership committed to act” and welcomed the plan.

“Our expectations will be however, as they always have been, for strong actions to follow positive words,” a spokesman said.

“Whilst we welcome the reform of processes, by itself it is not enough. Recent events have shown a toxic culture persists in many parts of the party. Solving this is as essential as introducing an independent disciplinary process.”

Board of Deputies of British Jews president Marie van der Zyl said the action plan “provides a suitable basis” to move forward but that there are areas that “require further detail”.

“We note Labour’s ongoing attempts to deal with this issue. For it to work, the plan will have to be followed closely at every step. We and other Jewish communal organisations will be closely monitoring the situation to ensure that Labour follows through on the changes it has pledged to make.”

Mr Corbyn was swiftly suspended after claiming anti-Semitism had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons” in the wake of the EHRC report’s publication.

After an investigation, his party membership was reinstated by the party’s ruling national executive committee, but Sir Keir has not restored the Labour whip, meaning Mr Corbyn cannot sit as a Labour MP.