Antisemitism in the UK Contents

6Political discourse and leadership

The Labour Party

95.On 26 April 2016, the political blog Guido Fawkes published a screenshot of three Facebook posts shared by Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West, in 2014. All three posts are reproduced below.

Figure 8: Facebook posts shared by Naz Shah MP in 2014

Of equal concern as the contents of these three posts is the fact that nobody who reacted on Facebook appears to have objected to or questioned them.

96.Naz Shah stepped down as John McDonnell MP’s PPS and issued a formal apology after the publication of the first post. In a further statement to the House, she said: “I accept and understand that the words I used caused upset and hurt to the Jewish community and I deeply regret that. Antisemitism is racism, full stop.” The day after the revelations, she was suspended from the Labour Party, pending investigation. We have addressed Naz Shah’s involvement with the Committee and this inquiry in Chapter 1 of this report. Following the investigation, she was reinstated to the Labour Party in early July, after being issued with a formal warning and an instruction to apologise for bringing it into disrepute. The move was welcomed by representatives of Jewish communities: the Board of Deputies issued a statement describing Naz Shah as someone who “stands out” for her willingness to apologise and “make efforts to learn from her mistakes”,139 and Mark Gardner from CST said in evidence to us:

Can I say that I look forward to Naz Shah returning to this Committee? I met Naz Shah and her contrition and confession of ignorance of the subject and her desire to learn and engage with the Jewish communities was exemplary.140

97.Naz Shah’s actions were followed by an interview given by Ken Livingstone a day later, in which he defended her posts and told the interviewer, Vanessa Feltz, that they were not antisemitic. Particular attention resulted from a statement made by Mr Livingstone after he was challenged by Ms Feltz on the antisemitic nature of Naz Shah “talking about what Hitler did being legal”. He responded: “when Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism. [He then] went mad and ending up killing six million Jews.”141 Mr Livingstone’s comments were described as offensive by numerous commentators and observers, but he refused to apologise. In evidence to us, he said:

If I had said that Hitler was a Zionist, I would apologise for that, because it is rubbish. What I said was—and you can still access this on the BBC website—that when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy was that the Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism. [ … ] If I could go back in time and avoid referring to Hitler and Zionism in the Vanessa Feltz interview, I would. [ … ] I would go back and remove it. It allowed all the anti-Jeremy people in the Labour Party to start whipping this up as an even bigger issue.142

98.The day after Mr Livingstone’s comments and his suspension from the Labour Party, Mr Corbyn launched an independent inquiry into antisemitism within Labour, chaired by former Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti (who joined the Party on the day she was asked to lead the inquiry), with Professor David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (at Birkbeck), stepping in as Deputy Chair. The Daily Telegraph reported in early May that 50 members had been “secretly suspended” over antisemitic and racist comments, citing a “senior source”,143 but the Labour Party confirmed to Labour List two days later that 18 members had been suspended.144 This figure is likely to include Vicki Kirby, who tweeted that Jews had “big noses” and that Hitler might be the “Zionist God”.145 Ms Kirby was previously suspended over accusations of antisemitism and then reinstated in March, but was suspended again days later, after further antisemitic tweets were revealed by Guido Fawkes.146

99.A number of hard-left organisations, such as Unite Against Fascism, Stop the War Coalition and Palestine Solidarity Campaign, have clearly taken a pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli Government stance. These organisations hold or participate in marches, some of which have been attended by leading politicians such as Mr Corbyn. Whilst the majority of individuals attending these marches are not antisemitic, some of the placards and banners displayed are very offensive to British Jewish people. Jonathan Arkush told us that, during one of the Gaza campaigns, there were “huge marches” in London at which people held placards that read “Hitler was right.”147

100.Labour members appeared divided over whether they felt that the media storm was reflective of a genuine problem within their Party, or simply a way of attacking Mr Corbyn’s leadership. Only one in 20 members surveyed by YouGov for The Times believed that antisemitism is a bigger problem in Labour than in other parties, but 47% felt that antisemitism is a problem in Labour, but is no worse than in other parties. Almost half (49%) believed that Labour does not have a problem with antisemitism, and that it has been created by the press and Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents to attack him. Around a third agreed that the issue is being used to attack Mr Corbyn, but also felt that antisemitism is a problem within the Labour Party.148

101.A further poll of Labour members who joined after the 2015 General Election found even greater support for the notion that the antisemitism row had been fabricated by Corbyn’s detractors, with 55% of respondents agreeing with the notion that antisemitism within their Party is “not a serious problem at all, and is being hyped up to undermine Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, or to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel”. Around a third thought that it is a genuine problem, but that its extent is being “deliberately exaggerated to damage Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, or to stifle criticism of Israel”; and only 9% agreed that antisemitism is “a serious and genuine problem that the party leadership needs to take urgent action to address”.149

102.The report of the Chakrabarti Inquiry was published at the end of June. The inquiry found that the Labour Party is “not overrun” by antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism, but that, “as with wider society”, there is evidence of “minority hateful or ignorant attitudes and behaviours festering within a sometimes bitter incivility of discourse”.150 The report made 20 recommendations, including for a number of procedural rule changes to improve the disciplinary process within the Labour Party; the formation of an NEC working group into comprehensive education and training needs; the appointment of a General Counsel for the Labour Party, along with appropriately expert staff; an end to the use of the epithet “Zio”; and a wider range of sanctions for the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) to impose on members, short of suspension and expulsion.151 Some of the recommendations appeared to be little more than statements of the obvious, such as the assertion that “Labour members should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular”, or that “racial or religious tropes and stereotypes about any group of people should have no place in our modern Labour Party.” Ms Chakrabarti ruled out life bans for Labour Party members, and proposed time limits (of no more than two years) on the bringing of disciplinary charges.

103.At the launch of the Chakrabarti report, the Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth walked out after a Labour activist reportedly said: “Ruth Smeeth is working hand-in-hand with the right-wing media to attack Jeremy”. When she challenged him, the audience reportedly started shouting at Ms Smeeth, who later told the press that “Jeremy said nothing”. When questioned about this in oral evidence to us, Mr Corbyn said that he had not spoken out because he was not chairing the press conference.152 Ms Smeeth said later that day that no one from the Leader’s office had contacted her since the event, “which is itself a catastrophic failure of leadership”.153 We have received no confirmation from Mr Corbyn that he has subsequently met with Ms Smeeth to discuss this event.

104.Since that event, Ms Smeeth has reportedly experienced more than 25,000 incidents of abuse, including being called a “yid c**t” and a “CIA/Mossad informant”, and has said that she has “never seen antisemitism in Labour on this scale”.154 Ms Smeeth attended the Labour Party conference with a security detail, after press reports that she had received an antisemitic death threat online.155 In September, it was reported that Ms Smeeth had vocally rejected Mr Corbyn’s suggestion that those being abused online should simply “ignore it”, stating that “threats detailing how someone wants to hang me and what they want to do to me” are “not something that I nor the police can ignore”.156 In a television interview, she said of the abuse: “It’s vile, it’s disgusting and it’s done in the name of the Leader of the Labour party, which makes it even worse”.157 Ms Smeeth said that she needed Mr Corbyn “to make it clear what can be done”, including “naming and shaming some of the worst perpetrators who are doing it in his name”.158

105.At the time of its release, with the exception of some aspects, the Chakrabarti report received a largely negative reception from Jewish communities. Chief Rabbi Mirvis told us that it had some “positive features”, but that he was disappointed by some aspects. He voiced concern about the absence of a definition of antisemitism, arguing that “you can’t deal with a phenomenon if there is no definition of it”, and criticised the proposed moratorium on unearthing historical incidences of antisemitism. The Chief Rabbi also expressed concern that there was no reference to the Royall report (on antisemitism at Oxford University). In a written statement, the Board of Deputies criticised the report for failing to explore the history of antisemitism and anti-Zionism on the left; failing to highlight “support for—or lack of opposition to—terrorism against Jews” as a form of antisemitism; and lack of clarity on what anti-racist training will look like (with no mention of specific training on antisemitism).159 Like the Chief Rabbi, the Board also criticised the proposed moratorium on historic investigations.

106.Mr Corbyn gave evidence to us in July, shortly after the report was published, supported by Ms Chakrabarti, who passed him notes throughout the session. He repeatedly condemned antisemitism and all forms of racism; expressed regret at describing Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends”; and defended his links to them on the basis that “to bring about a peace process anywhere in the world, you have to reach out”.160 Mr Corbyn described Mr Livingstone’s comments as “wholly unacceptable and wrong”, but refused to accept that they were antisemitic and/or racist. He also defended the absence of a definition of antisemitism in the Chakrabarti report, and denied that there had been a rise in antisemitism within the Labour Party under his leadership. He believed that his Party should be “commended” for setting up “a process that other parties may wish to follow”.161

107.In the face of questioning about his relationships with a number of individuals associated with antisemitism, including Raed Salah (who was convicted in Israel for using the blood libel and funding Hamas), Mr Corbyn defended himself on various grounds—in some cases, by denying that he was aware that those individuals had made antisemitic remarks.162 Mr Corbyn was specifically challenged about the views of his Executive Director of Strategy and Communications, Seumas Milne, who had been filmed at a demonstration in 2009, at which he said that Hamas “will not be broken” due to the “spirit of resistance of the Palestinian people”.163 The Covenant of Hamas states that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it” and that “There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.” Mr Corbyn told the Committee that he did not think it “appropriate” for him to be asked questions about the views of “every single member of staff “ he employs, and said that he had not seen the video concerned, but described Mr Milne as a man of “immense intellect” and a “scholar”.164

108.In early August, it was announced that Ms Chakrabarti, who joined the Labour Party shortly after being appointed as Chair of an “independent” inquiry into antisemitism, had been nominated by the Labour Leader for a peerage, which she had accepted. The decision led Labour colleagues and other observers to question publicly the independence of the inquiry.165 The Chief Rabbi said that the credibility of Ms Chakrabarti’s report “lay in tatters” as a result,166 and CST said it was “a shameless kick in the teeth for all who put hope in her now wholly compromised inquiry into Labour antisemitism”.167 Similar concerns were raised when it came to light that she had joined the Labour Party on the day on which she was asked to lead the inquiry. The then Chair of the Committee wrote to Ms Chakrabarti on 8 August to ask when she was offered her place in the House of Lords.168 She responded to say that she had accepted the peerage after the publication of her report, but did not disclose when the offer was first made, adding that she came under “no pressure or undue influence” while chairing the inquiry, and that suggestions of a “whitewash” were “deeply insulting and completely untrue”.169

109.The then Chair wrote again to Ms Chakrabarti on 16 August with a specific set of questions, with the aim of establishing greater clarity around her appointment. She was asked to provide:

The Committee has received no response to this letter, and Ms Chakrabarti has since joined the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Attorney General.

110.When the Labour Party’s NEC met in September, it reportedly agreed to implement the first six recommendations of the Chakrabarti report (regarding acceptable language), but decided against debating a motion proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement at this year’s autumn conference, which would have upgraded antisemitism to the same level of seriousness as showing support for another political party.170 It also backed a new Social Media Code of Conduct for Labour Party members.171 Further negative press attention was attracted by the autumn conference, where the then Vice-Chair of Momentum,172 Jackie Walker, who was temporarily suspended from Labour earlier in the year for stating that Jewish people were the “chief financiers” of the slave trade, reportedly criticised Holocaust Memorial Day and said that she had not heard a definition of antisemitism that she could “work with”.173 Ms Walker was suspended from Labour shortly afterwards and removed from her post as Vice-Chair of Momentum, although the group recommended against expelling her from the Labour Party.174 At the Momentum conference that took place nearby, it was reported that the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network handed out leaflets describing the Jewish Labour Movement as acting as a “representative of a foreign power, Israel”, and suggesting that antisemitism was being “exploited for factional goals”.175

111.In September, the CAA published the results of a self-selecting survey of British Jewish people, which suggested that the Labour Party is more negatively regarded than other political parties in relation to the manner in which it deals with antisemitism. When respondents were asked: “Do you feel that any political parties are too tolerant of antisemitism among their MPs, members and supporters?”, 87% responded affirmatively in relation to the Labour Party, compared with 49% for the Green Party, 43% for UKIP, 40% for the SNP, 37% for the Liberal Democrats, and 13% for the Conservative Party.176

112.Jonathan Arkush told us that the Jewish community is “not seeing much far right activity at the moment”, but that “Traditionally there has always been prejudice against Jews coming from the far left as well.” He said that, since the election of Jeremy Corbyn, “some people feel that a space has been opened up for them, or they feel emboldened to say things which previously they felt they couldn’t say in polite society”, adding that “We are concerned that leadership comes from the top”.177 Further criticism has been levelled at the Party by Dave Rich from CST, who said that antisemitism within Labour has been “normalised” by its decision to readmit Jackie Walker after her initial suspension, “with no apology, no punishment and no contrition”, adding that “it is now OK for Labour members to say that Jews were behind the slave trade” (quoting Ms Walker) and that this is “how Jews get squeezed out of the Labour Party”.178

113.While the Labour Leader has a proud record of campaigning against many types of racism, based on the evidence we have received, we are not persuaded that he fully appreciates the distinct nature of post-Second World War antisemitism. Unlike other forms of racism, antisemitic abuse often paints the victim as a malign and controlling force rather than as an inferior object of derision, making it perfectly possible for an ‘anti-racist campaigner’ to express antisemitic views. Jewish Labour MPs have been subject to appalling levels of abuse, including antisemitic death threats from individuals purporting to be supporters of Mr Corbyn. Clearly, the Labour Leader is not directly responsible for abuse committed in his name, but we believe that his lack of consistent leadership on this issue, and his reluctance to separate antisemitism from other forms of racism, has created what some have referred to as a ‘safe space’ for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people. This situation has been further exacerbated by the Party’s demonstrable incompetence at dealing with members accused of antisemitism, as illustrated by the saga involving the suspension, re-admittance and re-suspension of Jackie Walker. The ongoing membership of Ken Livingstone, following his outbursts about Hitler and Zionism, should also have been dealt with more effectively. The result is that the Labour Party, with its proud history of fighting racism and promoting equal rights, is seen by some as an unwelcoming place for Jewish members and activists.

114.The decision by the Leader of the Labour Party to commission an independent inquiry into antisemitism was a welcome one, notwithstanding subsequent criticisms. The Chakrabarti report makes recommendations about creating a more robust disciplinary process within the Labour Party, but it is clearly lacking in many areas; particularly in its failure to differentiate explicitly between racism and antisemitism. The fact that the report describes occurrences of antisemitism merely as “unhappy incidents” also suggests that it fails to appreciate the full gravity of the comments that prompted the inquiry in the first place. These shortfalls, combined with Ms Chakrabarti’s decision to join the Labour Party in April and accept a peerage as a nominee of the Leader of that Party, and her subsequent appointment as Shadow Attorney General, have thrown into question her claims (and those of Mr Corbyn) that her inquiry was truly independent. Ms Chakrabarti has not been sufficiently open with the Committee about when she was offered her peerage, despite several attempts to clarify this issue with her. It is disappointing that she did not foresee that the timing of her elevation to the House of Lords, alongside a report absolving the Labour Leader of any responsibility for allegations of increased antisemitism within his Party, would completely undermine her efforts to address this issue. It is equally concerning that Mr Corbyn did not consider the damaging impression likely to be created by this sequence of events.

115.The recommendations of the Chakrabarti report are further impaired by the fact that they are not accompanied by a clear definition of antisemitism, as we have recommended should be adopted by all political parties. We remain unconvinced of the robustness of the Labour Party’s code of conduct (and whether it will be effectively enforced), and the report does nothing to address a severe lack of transparency within the Party’s disciplinary process. There are examples of Labour members who have been accused of antisemitism, investigated by their Party, and then reinstated with no explanation of why their behaviour was not deemed to be antisemitic. The Labour Party, and all other political parties in the same circumstances, should publish a clear public statement alongside every reinstatement or expulsion of a member after any investigation into suspected antisemitism.

116.We see no good reason for the Chakrabarti report’s proposed statute of limitations on antisemitic misdemeanours. Antisemitism is not a new concept: an abusive, antisemitic tweet sent in 2013 is no more defensible than one sent in 2016. If the Labour Party or any other organisation is to demonstrate that it is serious about antisemitism, it should investigate all allegations with equal seriousness, regardless of when the behaviour is alleged to have taken place.

117.In its determination to be inclusive of all forms of racism, some sections of the Chakrabarti report do not acknowledge Jewish concerns, including its recommendations on training, which make no mention of antisemitism. This has generated criticism among some observers that antisemitism may be excluded from future training programmes. The Labour Party and all political parties should ensure that their training on racism and inclusivity features substantial sections on antisemitism. This must be formulated in consultation with Jewish community representatives, and must acknowledge the unique nature of antisemitism. If antisemitism is subsumed into a generic approach to racism, its distinctive and dangerous characteristics will be overlooked. In addition, the Labour Party’s disciplinary process must acknowledge the fact that an individual’s demonstrated opposition to other forms of racism does not negate the possibility that they hold antisemitic beliefs; nor does it neutralise any expression of these beliefs.

118.The Chakrabarti Report is ultimately compromised by its failure to deliver a comprehensive set of recommendations, to provide a definition of antisemitism, or to suggest effective ways of dealing with antisemitism. The failure of the Labour Party to deal consistently and effectively with antisemitic incidents in recent years risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally antisemitic.

119.The historical inaccuracy of Ken Livingstone’s remarks regarding Hitler and Zionism have been analysed elsewhere, and it is not the job of this Committee to deliver lessons in Nazi history, except to point out that Mr Livingstone has since admitted that it was “rubbish” to refer to Hitler as a Zionist. Regardless of academic rigour, his decision to invoke Hitler in a debate about antisemitism and Zionism—in defence of a Facebook post comparing Israel with the Nazis—was unwise, offensive and provocative. In light of previous incidents in which he has made comments that have been interpreted as antisemitic, or especially offensive to Jewish people, we believe it likely that he knew that his comments would cause similar offence. The fact that he continues to defend his position casts serious doubt on whether he has sufficient understanding of the nature of contemporary antisemitism. In the words of Mr Corbyn, who described himself as his friend, we hope that Mr Livingstone will “mend his ways” without delay.

Other political activity

120.Despite significant press and public attention on the Labour Party, and a number of revelations regarding inappropriate social media content, there exists no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party. We are unaware whether efforts to identify antisemitic social media content within the Labour Party were applied equally to members and activists from other political parties, and we are not aware of any polls exploring antisemitic attitudes among political party members, either within or outside the Labour Party. The current impression of a heightened prevalence of antisemitism within in the Labour Party is clearly a serious problem, but we would wish to emphasise that this is also a challenge for other parties.

121.A representative YouGov poll carried out in May 2016 found that Labour voters were no more likely than voters from other parties to express antisemitic attitudes, with UKIP voters demonstrating the highest levels of antisemitism.179 As outlined earlier in this report, a survey of British Jewish people found that almost half of respondents felt that the Green Party is too tolerant of antisemitism (compared with 87% in relation to the Labour Party), 43% think the same of UKIP, 40% of the SNP, and over a third in relation to the Liberal Democrats.180

122.Other political parties have not been immune to accusations of antisemitism, albeit apparently with a smaller number of reported incidents, and with a lower profile. In April 2015, a Conservative candidate for Derby Council was expelled from her Party after she said she would never support “the Jew” Ed Miliband.181 In August 2014, the University College London (UCL) Union investigated the university’s Conservative Society after it was accused of creating a “toxic environment”, with one member reported to have said “Jews own everything, we all know it’s true. I wish I was Jewish, but my nose isn’t long enough”. Media reports suggest that the incident was never investigated by the Conservative Party,182 but it is unclear whether it was ever referred to the Party, and questions have subsequently been raised about the veracity of the complaint.

123.A former Conservative Councillor who defected to the Liberal Democrats after losing his seat, Matthew Gordon Banks, was suspended from his new Party in September after writing on Twitter that “[Tim] Farron’s leadership campaign was organised and funded by London Jews”, adding in a second tweet: “I tried to work with them. Very difficult.”183 The former Liberal Democrat MP David Ward has been accused of antisemitism on several occasions. He was suspended from his Party after accusing “the Jews” of committing atrocities in Palestine,184 and later sent the following tweet: “The big question is–if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket?–probably yes”.185 Baroness Tonge, who now sits in the House of Lords as an independent Liberal Democrat, resigned the Party whip in 2012 after refusing to apologise for saying that “Israel is not going to be there forever”, and has recently attracted fresh criticism for sharing an article that suggested that “Jewish power” was targeting the Labour Party.186 At this year’s autumn conference, the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine group was asked to remove Facebook posts that quoted the statement: “The Jews as victim. Always the Jews, only the Jews.” SNP MSP Sandra White apologised “unreservedly” in November 2015 after tweeting an antisemitic image of six piglets (representing the UK and others) suckling at a sow with the word “Rothschild” and the Star of David on it.187 Incidents involving other forms of racism, including Islamophobia, have also affected a number of mainstream parties.

124.Soon after this inquiry was announced, we invited the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, to give oral evidence as Leader of the Conservative Party. On the date in June when he was scheduled to attend, the events leading up to his resignation had been set in motion, and he wrote to the then Committee Chair apologising and stating that he was unable to attend. Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, the newly-appointed Chairman of the Conservative Party, provided a detailed written submission in early August, and indicated that he would have been happy to give further oral evidence to us.188 We later invited the new Prime Minister on several occasions to give evidence to us in October, but received no formal response until the morning of the scheduled evidence session, when Sir Eric Pickles MP, the UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues and former Party Chairman, was nominated to attend as a representative of the Conservative Party.

125.It is very disappointing that the Conservative Party procrastinated for so long, and that both the Leader and Chairman of the Party declined to give evidence on this vital issue, but we are very grateful to Sir Eric for stepping in at the last minute, and value his extensive experience in these matters. He told us that the Conservative Party had had problems (with racism) in the late 1960s, but had learned lessons from this and recognised that it “must have a no tolerance policy with regard to any form of racism”.189 When challenged about the incident at UCL, of which he was unaware, he apologised and said that, on the face of it, the Party should have investigated it; although, as previously mentioned, there is some dispute over the veracity of the complaint itself. Sir Eric denied that he had intended to suggest in his evidence that the Conservative Party was alone in having no ongoing problems with antisemitism among its members, stating that antisemitism is “one of the oldest, most nasty, most evil of all the sins”; that it “comes back”; and that “to suggest for a millisecond that I believe that the Conservative party is free of antisemitism would be a complete bastardisation of what I have just said”.190

126.Tim Farron MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, gave evidence to us on the same day, and told us that his Party could learn “plenty of lessons” from the manner in which it had dealt with Cllr David Ward, stating that it took “too long” for the Whip to be withdrawn. When challenged on Cllr Ward’s ongoing membership of the Liberal Democrats, he said that “when we are looking at matters of discipline”, it is important to “allow a disciplinary process to take place”. He denied that Cllr Ward was a “repeat offender” and said that it was “very tricky” to judge whether an individual has been antisemitic or “just provocative and offensive”. Similarly, he said that he was offended by Baroness Tonge’s remarks (calling for British Jewish people to stop Israel from destroying the Middle East), but that “it is right that those issues are dealt with through a full disciplinary process”. Mr Farron told us that he has formally launched a new inquiry into the Party’s disciplinary procedures, led by Lord Ken Macdonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions.191

127.We also heard evidence from Angus Robertson MP, Leader of the SNP in Westminster, on 14 June. Mr Robertson told us that there have been examples of antisemitism “in all political parties, to a degree”, and asserted that “we all have responsibility as political leaders and democratic politicians to be absolutely unequivocal in our condemnation of antisemitism”.192 In reference to Sandra White’s tweet, he said there was “no prevarication” about the fact that it was “unacceptable”, and referred to correspondence that took place between the First Minister and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. When asked what he would have done if Ken Livingstone was an SNP politician, Mr Robertson said that he would have sought for him to be “dismissed from the party for acting in a way that the SNP rule book calls ‘conduct inimical’”, adding that Mr Livingstone’s behaviour was “against the values, policies and approach of the SNP”.193

128.No party is immune to ‘bad apples’, and it would be naïve to assume that tackling antisemitism in the Labour Party would eliminate it from political discourse altogether. Antisemitism is a problem of such gravity that no party can afford to be complacent. It is an issue that should transcend party loyalties and inter-party conflict.

129.Other political parties must not assume that antisemitic political discourse is an issue affecting the Labour Party alone. The Liberal Democrats in particular should pay heed to the need to act swiftly and decisively to deal with antisemitism within their ranks. We were disappointed by the manner in which their Leader, Tim Farron, referred to disciplinary processes rather than explicitly condemning antisemitic remarks made by members of his Party, and we were surprised to learn that Cllr David Ward remains an elected representative of the Liberal Democrats, despite his repeated antisemitic comments. All of the main political parties should examine whether the reforms recommended in this report could be applied to their own processes for training and disciplining their members and activists. Political leaders should also make themselves responsible for taking swift investigatory or disciplinary action when a party member is identified by Twitter as being a perpetrator of abuse.

130.The acts of governments abroad are no excuse for violence or abuse against people in the United Kingdom. We live in a democracy where people are free to criticise the British Government and foreign governments. But the actions of the Israeli Government provide no justification for abusing British Jews; just as the actions of the Saudi Arabian or Iranian governments provide no justification for abusing British Muslims.

131.History shows that antisemitism is a virus that is too easily spread, through subtly pernicious discourse, ignorance and collusion. Political leaders must lead by example, oppose racism and religious hate in all its forms, and promote an atmosphere of tolerance, inclusion and understanding, as befits the UK’s status as a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.

140 Oral evidence taken on 14 July 2016, Q486

141 “Ken Livingstone claims ‘Hitler was supporting Zionism’”—Youtube video, accessed 8 August 2016

142 Oral evidence taken on 14 June 2016, Qs 81 and 90

147 Oral evidence taken on 14 June 2016, Q41

148 Professor Tim Bale, Dr Monica Poletti and Professor Paul Webb, Submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry on behalf of the ESRC Party Members Project, 3 June 2016

149 Professor Tim Bale, Dr Monica Poletti and Professor Paul Webb, Submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry on behalf of the ESRC Party Members Project, 3 June 2016

151 Ibid

152 Oral evidence taken on 4 July 2016, Qs 337–341

160 Oral evidence taken on 4 July 2016, Q248

161 Qs 226, 228 and 374

162 Qs 255, 348 and 361

164 Oral evidence taken on 4 July 2016, Qs 356–361

165 The Times, Backlash at honour for Chakrabarti, 6 August 2016

166 Tweet by Chief Rabbi Mirvis (@chiefrabbi), 4 August 2016

170 Labour List, Labour in limbo as NEC fails to agree deal on shadow cabinet elections, 21 September 2016, and Jewish Chronicle, Year wait for debate on rule change, 22 September 2016

172 Momentum describes itself as the “successor to the campaign to elect Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party”. As an organisation, it “seeks to strengthen the Labour Party by increasing participation and engagement at local, regional and national levels”, using “its base in the Labour Party and Labour movement to reach out to the 99% of people who are not currently in any political party, spread Labour values and increase Labour Party membership” (Momentum website, accessed 13 October 2016)

177 Oral evidence taken on 14 June 2016, Qs 2 and 17

179 YouGov/Tim Bale Survey Results, May 2016

183 Jewish Chronicle, Lib Dems suspend former Tory MP over antisemitic rant, 25 September 2016

188 Cabinet Office press release, Putting a stop to public procurement boycotts, 17 February 2016

189 Oral evidence taken on 11 October 2016, Q552

190 Oral evidence taken on 11 October 2016, Q559

191 Qs 511–518

192 Oral evidence taken on 14 June 2016, Q55

193 Oral evidence taken on 14 June 2016, Q62

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

14 October 2016