Jeremy Corbyn triggered anger last night after presenting a plan to give his political ally a much greater role in the fight against anti-Semitism.
In an emergency meeting discussing Labour’s handling of the crisis, he said he wanted to set up a new disciplinary body chaired by Jennie Formby, the party’s secretary-general.
It came when Labour revealed that so far this year only eight people have been expelled for anti-Semitism, despite all the rhetoric about cracking down on the problem. In the first six months of 2019 there were complaints against 625 Labour members.
Mr Corbyn told the Shadow Cabinet yesterday that his new proposals would speed up Labour Party disciplinary proceedings in the most serious cases of racial hatred against Jews.
Mr Corbyn outlined plans to combat the “poison” of anti-Semitism and said that the trials to deal with serious cases were “not good enough” and some took too long to resolve.
He supported a plan that would allow the most serious cases to be referred to a special body – consisting of Secretary General Ms Formby and National Executive Committee officials – with the power to expel anti-Semites. Labour insiders said this would speed up expulsion.
But he also presented an alternative proposal that would give the existing NEC anti-Semitism panels the power to impose suspension or expulsion, with a right of appeal to the National Constitutional Committee.
Mr Corbyn said: “It is wrong to deny that there is anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. And those who deny they exist are part of the problem.
“We must stand for serious, anti-racist, inclusive socialism.
He stressed that there had been improvements in the disciplinary process, but added: “I also know that some complaints have taken too long to be dealt with. This is not good enough. Our members do not want to share their party with someone who is racist – and they want to be able to show that there is no place for anti-Semitism among them.
Some of the hatred and bigotry shown in the social media would be considered gross misconduct in any workplace and must be treated equally robustly in the Labour Party.
In a separate statement, the Shadow Cabinet called for independent monitoring of the complaints procedure – something that Mr Corbyn has so far rejected. Veteran Jewish MEP Margaret Hodge criticised the proposed enhanced role of Mrs Formby, who is currently fighting breast cancer. It came two weeks after a BBC1 Panorama programme reported allegations that older Corbyn allies – including Mrs Formby – had interfered in disciplinary cases.
Dame Margaret said: “It shows that Jeremy Corbyn is completely unconnected to what the Jewish community and all decent Labour Party members know – that the leader, his office and the secretary-general have spoiled the grievance process through their political interference.
They cannot be trusted. Only a fully independent complaints process will restore confidence. The work figures showed that in the first six months of 2019 there were 625 complaints about anti-Semitism against 625 members – 0.1 per cent of the members.
In 28 of the most serious disciplinary cases closed by the NCC, eight members were expelled, three received an extended suspension, four received a warning, 12 left the party, and one was not exposed.
Jewish MEP Ruth Smeeth said: “We charge an average of over 100 anti-Semitism complaints per month, but have only expelled eight people. At a party meeting last night, Ms Smeeth accused Mr Corbyn of not showing solidarity with the informants who spoke to Panorama.