Jennie Formby

The Labour Party is again embroiled in a bitter row over its inadequacy in tackling anti-Semitism within its ranks.

Labour MPs unanimously passed a motion urging the party leadership to do more to fight anti-Semitism at a Parliamentary Party Meeting in Westminster on Monday.

A PLP motion by Catherine McKinnell and Ruth Smeeth noted a backlog of anti-Semitism cases still to be investigated along with concern over alleged cases of anti-Semitic activity by high-profile members being dropped.

The motion called on Labour’s leadership to publish details on the number of outstanding anti-Semitism cases being investigated, members awaiting anti-Semitism training, organisations commissioned to provide sessions and Jewish groups being consulted.

Details of anti-Semitism complaints received were requested, the many of staff investigating complaints, legal fees to date and timescales for responding to complaints.

Failure to act would seriously risk the party appearing to be institutionally anti-Semitic.

But Labour general secretary Jennie Formby astonishingly informed MPs she would not provide information requested, as she answered to the party’s governing body not the PLP.

MPs lambasted Ms Formby for her response in a “stormy” meeting.

Dame Margaret Hodge called for “complete transparency” to the cancer of anti-Semitism within the party.

“The general secretary of the Labour Party basically said she wasn’t prepared to give us the information that was required in the resolution,” she noted.

“For me if you want to get rid of the cancer of antisemitism in the Labour Party, you have to have complete transparency, and she’s refusing to do that.”

Labelling Ms Formby’s report “platitudinous, dismissive and far from acceptable”, Wes Streeting MP commented, “In not giving us data, she’s ruled out any possibility of Jewish members and Jewish constituents having confidence in the Labour Party’s ability to tackle it (anti-Semitism) and is also falling considerably short of the standards that we expect from government.”

Labour MP Luciana Berger added, “We have a responsibility as a party, if we’re true to the values of equality and anti-racism against all, to root this out.

“One anti-Semite in our ranks is one too many for a party that is supposed to pride itself on having equality at its core, and yet we were told by the general secretary today that she cannot eradicate antisemitism. Frankly that’s not good enough.

“For a party that is supposed to have (equality) as one of its central values, at its core, that we all hold dear, on the membership cards that we carry in our wallets, that is not acceptable.”

Prior to the PLP meeting, Ms Formby stated that she was “proud of the progress” made in addressing anti-Semitism and was “not complacent” in an email to Labour MPs.

Acknowledging “fundamental change takes time” as rule changes must be approved at the annual party conference, she insisted “wide-ranging changes” were in place but more work needed to be done to ensure all cases were dealt with and to “eliminate the evil of antisemitism” once and for all. She added that the party stood by the Jewish community against oppression and prejudice.

A Labour spokesperson commented, “Jennie Formby gave a comprehensive update on the significant work that’s been done to strengthen and speed up procedures and addressed the points in the motion. Complaints processes are confidential and the party has a responsibility to protect members’ data.”

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl and Jewish Leadership Council Chair Jonathan Goldstein had welcomed the PLP motion in a joint statement.

They noted, “Since our meeting with him (Jeremy Corbyn) on 24 April 2018, the party has not taken the necessary actions to rid itself of this racism. His lack of leadership has been extremely disappointing. We hope the PLP’s motion will push Labour to finally put in place the recommendations we discussed with Mr Corbyn. If he is truly against anti-Semitism this is an opportunity to prove it, once and for all.”

By Adam Moses