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Leonard must answer three simple questions on Corbyn

The Scottish Conservatives have today called on Richard Leonard to answer three clear ‘yes or no’ questions in response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report on antisemitism in the Labour Party.

The Scottish Labour leader yesterday defended Jeremy Corbyn, claiming he was “a life-long anti-racist campaigner”. Two years ago, Leonard said that Corbyn was “not antisemitic”.

On Thursday, two other Scottish Labour MSPs, Alex Rowley and Neil Findlay, also tweeted support for Corbyn. As did the Campaign for Socialism, which describes itself as the “Scottish sister” of Momentum, the Corbynite pressure group.

As a result of ongoing ambiguity about Leonard’s position, the Scottish Conservatives have today called on Leonard to answer three clear ‘yes or no’ questions:

  1. Does Richard Leonard support the decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn?
  2. Does Richard Leonard agree that Jeremy Corbyn’s statement in the aftermath of the EHRC Report excused antisemitism in the party?
  3. Will Scottish Labour commit to accepting the recommendations of the EHRC Report in full?

Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw said: “Richard Leonard’s soft response yesterday left unanswered questions about his party’s stance on Jeremy Corbyn’s flawed leadership and lack of action on antisemitism.

“Mr Leonard must leave no ambiguity and condemn the shamed former leader for his latest statement downplaying the depth of antisemitism in the Labour party.

“Scotland’s Jewish community needs reassurance that the Labour Party is serious about change, so we expect Richard Leonard to clarify his position by answering these three straightforward questions.

“The leadership of the Labour Party must be resolute in tacking antisemitism if it is to move on from this sorry episode.”

Notes:

Richard Leonard said yesterday: “I have known Jeremy Corbyn for decades. He is a life-long anti-racist campaigner. But I am not commenting on internal disciplinary matters”

Leonard said two years ago that Corbyn was “not antisemitic”. “Jeremy is not antisemitic - this is a man who has spent his political career fighting racism. The Labour Party do have to get out and win back the confidence of the Jewish community. There has been a shaking of their confidence and whether that has been directed, or it is just a feeling people have got, we need to restore that trust. We need also to have space in the Labour Party to discuss the Middle East and the relationship between Israel and Palestine.”  (Daly Record, 19 August 2018, link).

He was against Labour adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.  When asked he said “I am willing to recommend we have further discussion and dialogue with the Jewish community, including the Jewish community in Scotland, which I intend to lead on, because we need to win the confidence of the Jewish community. We need to get to a position where not only have we got a very robust code on anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, which we are striving to achieve, but also which allows for freedom of speech, a discourse around Palestine and Israel.” (The Scotsman, 5 August 2018, link).

Recommendations from the Equality and Human Rights Commission

 

Living up to a zero-tolerance commitment

The Labour Party must live up to its commitment to be a political party with zero tolerance of antisemitism. To do this the Labour Party should:

  • Continue to build on its new leadership’s statement regarding its failure to deal with antisemitism, and acknowledge its responsibility for not living up to its commitment to zero tolerance of antisemitism.
  • Engage with Jewish stakeholders to develop and embed clear, accessible and robust principles and practices to tackle antisemitism and to instil confidence for the future.
  • Make sure that it has a system and culture that encourages members to challenge inappropriate behaviour and to report antisemitism complaints.

Rebuilding trust and confidence in antisemitism complaint handling

The Labour Party must rebuild trust and confidence that antisemitism complaints are handled independently, lawfully, efficiently and effectively. To do this the Labour Party should:

  • In line with its commitment, and as soon as rule changes allow, commission an independent process to handle and determine antisemitism complaints. This should last until trust and confidence in the process is fully restored and should ensure that independent oversight and auditing are permanently embedded in the new process.
  • Acknowledge, through its leadership, the effect that political interference has had on the handling of antisemitism complaints, and implement clear rules and guidance that prohibit and sanction political interference in the complaints process.
  • Publish a comprehensive policy and procedure, setting out how antisemitism complaints will be handled and how decisions on them will be made. This should include published criteria on what conduct will be subject to investigation and suspension, and what will be considered an appropriate sanction for different types of proven antisemitic conduct.]
  • Develop and implement comprehensive internal guidance for all stages of the antisemitism complaints process on:
  • decision-making criteria
  • robust record-keeping, including recording reasons for decisions
  • timescales, and
  • communication, including regular communication with complainants
  • and clear rules regulating the use of informal methods of
  • communication in the complaints process.
  • Review and update the ‘Code of Conduct: Social Media Policy’ to make it clear that members may be investigated and subject to disciplinary action if they share or like any antisemitic social media content.
  • Make sure that NCC panels are routinely assisted by an external lawyer in the same way that NEC antisemitism panels are.
  • Take steps to increase transparency in the disciplinary process, as highlighted by the HASC report, by reporting regularly on the reasons for the final outcome decisions in antisemitism complaints, taking account of legal requirements to publish anonymised information where appropriate.
  • In line with the recommendation of the Royall report, make sure the complaint handling process is resourced properly so that it can deal with antisemitism complaints effectively and without delay.

Education and training

The Labour Party should take the following steps relating to education and training:

  • Commission and provide education and practical training for all individuals involved in the antisemitism complaints process. This should be implemented fully within six months of publication of this report and, from that date, should be mandatory before any individual is allowed to be involved in any stage of the antisemitism complaints process.
  • Make sure that all members found to have engaged in antisemitic conduct (apart from those who are expelled) undertake an educational course on identifying and tackling antisemitism, regardless of the level of sanction applied.
  • Roll out a programme of education and training on identifying and tackling antisemitism, for all staff, Party officials, and other members in positions of responsibility within the Party. We note the Leader of the Labour Party’s statement about his ambition to roll out training to all Party staff as soon as possible.
  • Develop all education and training programmes on antisemitism in consultation with Jewish stakeholders.

Monitor and evaluate improvements to the process to ensure lasting change

To evaluate the effectiveness of improvements to the antisemitism complaints process, the Labour Party should:

  • Collect, analyse, and publish quarterly data that enables a comparison between the handling of antisemitism complaints and other types of complaint. This should include the number of complaints, the outcome, what body made the decision (the Governance and Legal Unit, the NEC or the NCC), the sanctions applied, the time taken for completion, and how many complaints remain outstanding.
  • Audit its complaint handling processes on a regular basis, including response time and consistency of outcomes, including sanctions, and make changes to address any issues identified.
  • Measure staff and stakeholder confidence in the complaint handling process and respond appropriately to the feedback.
  • Put in place long-term arrangements for independent oversight of the complaint handling process, to make sure that standards are monitored and enforced and adequate resources are in place.

(EHRC, Investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party, October 2020, p12 -15, link).

Sturgeon statements on care homes ‘don’t add up’

Nicola Sturgeon must reveal when she found out about Covid-positive patients sent to care homes and stop disrespecting grieving families, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

In a letter to Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Donald Cameron on 14 October, the First Minister said that “neither Scottish ministers nor government officials had information on the results of Covid-19 tests prior to discharge or where these patients were discharged” prior to newspaper reports that revealed dozens of Covid patients were sent to care homes.

However, on Wednesday, when asked about the same issue, Nicola Sturgeon said: "I can't stand here right now and put a date on when that started to be something that we were conscious of and that we were being questioned about. But I've never said that I wasn't aware of that possibility.”

Under questioning from Ruth Davidson in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, the First Minister wouldn’t commit to an immediate public inquiry or agree to find out how many care homes suffered an outbreak after receiving a Covid-positive patient.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, Donald Cameron MSP, said: “One week the First Minister insists she knew nothing. Then she hints that she did know but won’t tell us when, or what, she knew. Her statements don’t add up and they disrespect all those who died from this tragedy.

“Why can’t the First Minister put a date on when she and her government knew about Covid-positive patients sent to care homes? Why can’t she put a date on when the public inquiry will start?

“The avoidable deaths of so many Scottish people in care homes is a scandal, not a political issue that the First Minister can dodge at will.

“Grieving families deserve simple answers to basic questions. The SNP Government’s silence betrays those families who, six months on, have no answers about what happened to their loved ones.”

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