Forde Report Summary (Pt2): Introduction
The initial leaked report on Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism complaints was entitled ‘The Work of The Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit [GLU] in relation to anti-Semitism, 2014-2019’. The report was to be sent to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), along with other submissions, after the EHRC decided to open an investigation into Labour’s alleged mishandling of anti-Semitism complaints. As Forde explains, the report expanded its scope to include a critique of factionalism within the party and, in particular, accused some GLU staff of working against Jeremy Corbyn’s efforts (and as such against the broader membership’s efforts) toward winning the 2017 General Election. As supporting evidence, the leaked report included un-redacted transcripts of WhatsApp messages between senior GLU staff that demonstrated outright hostility toward the leadership. A version of the report was subsequently leaked to Sky News who then published it on 12th April 2020. Shortly after, in the same month, Martin Forde QC was approached, by the party, to Chair the inquiry into the leaked report. The broad scope of this inquiry, as laid out by the Labour Party, was to investigate the authenticity of the allegations made in the report, how and why the report was commissioned at all and how it came about that the report had been leaked to Sky News. The inquiry was also asked to look into “the structure, culture and practices of the Labour Party organisation, including the relationship between senior party staff and the elected leadership of the Labour Party”
Forde explains that the sheer volume of submissions they received from the membership made it impossible to properly consider the evidence and complete the report within the initial 6 week time frame. A change in secretariat added further delay and other unforeseen complications extended the deadline even further. He is clear that delays had nothing to do with “pressures exerted by the party – in an attempt to either influence our findings or supress them altogether.” He does however admit that one of the key reasons for the delay was that the inquiry was beset with “ever present threats of litigation by lawyers acting on part of different elements of the party, and different individuals.” He further admits that to avoid litigation they have not “ascribed particular actions or comments to individuals”
It seems that while the wider membership were happy to submit evidence and engage with the inquiry, many senior staff who were “central to the factual matrix,” chose to remain silent and refused to be interviewed. The inquiry had no statutory powers so they couldn’t force them to come forward either. For example, like many others, Jeremy Corbyn, who did provide a written submission, chose not to engage with the inquiry’s request to interview him. Despite the fact that the inquiry was able to interview 14 members of staff, 7 of whom were past or present staff at Labour HQ and 7 of whom were past or present staff at the Leader’s Office, Forde concludes that this inevitably “resulted in the panel being presented with a partial picture of events.” Perhaps even more problematic was the fact that supporting evidence, such as emails, notes and minutes of meetings, were not made available to the panel. Shockingly, the party apparently did not keep “adequate records of disciplinary proceedings at key periods,” which Forde describes as “not only unfathomable but completely unacceptable for an organisation of the party’s size”
In concluding the introduction, Forde exclaims the investigation found that “factional infighting.. distorted the perceptions and subsequent actions of party staff and members” and served as a major distraction. He also repeats the earlier claim he made, in his Foreword, that the left were in denial as to the seriousness of the problem of anti-Semitism within the party and adds that “This was principally amongst some of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters.” This is a surprising claim to make as it assumes that there was suddenly a disproportionately larger number of cases of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, by comparison, than in other political parties, or in wider society, or to previous records of cases being investigated by the Labour Party. It is especially surprising that he should make the claim that Corbyn supporters were principally in denial and we should ask, what evidence is he basing that assertion on? Did he poll hundreds of thousands of Corbyn supporters? I assume not? Perhaps the inquiry may have spoken to a few Corbyn supporters (certainly not thousands), but even then, what, specifically, was the question being asked? I suspect if you ask a Corbyn supporter if they thought allegations of anti-Semitism are a serious business, I suspect they would agree with you but if you asked them, do you think the Labour Party has a serious problem with anti-Semitism, I can see why many of them would respond in the negative. Certainly, based on the wider evidence that we have available to us, there are considerably fewer cases of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party than in any other British political party and Labour members are proportionally less likely to be anti-Semitic compared to broader national statistics. Perhaps, as well as the few select reports that the panel decided to look at (as part of their investigation), they might also have found time to take a look at the Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain report, published in September 2017 (almost 3yrs after Corbyn was elected leader of the Labur Party), by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. This report tells a very different story about the prevalence of anti-Semitism in political parties and in the wider population…
“Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population. Yet, all parts of those on the left of the political spectrum – including the ‘slightly left-of-centre,’ the ‘fairly left-wing’ and the ‘very left-wing’ – exhibit higher levels of anti-Israelism than average. The most antisemitic group on the political spectrum consists of those who identify as very right-wing: the presence of antisemitic attitudes in this group is 2 to 4 times higher compared to the general population.”
Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain report (Page 8)
“The most consistently found pattern across different surveys is heightened animosity towards Jews on the political right, typically captured by voting intention or actual voting for the UK Independence Party (UKIP). The political left, captured by voting intention or actual voting for Labour, appears in these surveys as a more Jewish-friendly, or neutral, segment of the population… Of all mentioned insights, the absence of clear signs of negativity towards Jews on the political left in these surveys appears… (1) YouGov/Tim Bale May 2016 survey of 1,694 British adults; (2) YouGov/Campaign Against Antisemitism survey December 2015/January 2016 survey of 3,411 British adults; (3) YouGov/Sunday Times January 2016 survey of 1,647 British adults; (4) Populus/BICOM January 2015 survey of 1,001 British adults; (5) ICM Unlimited/Channel 4 and Juniper April/May 2015 survey of 1,081 British Muslims; (6) Pew Research Centre April 2006 Global Attitudes survey (UK sample of 412 Muslims).”
Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain report (Page 44)
There are some interesting tables on page 45 of this report denoting anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attitudes across the political spectrum which clearly show that a) The left are generally a lot less anti-Semitic than the right and b) the left generally hold more anti-Israel attitudes than the right. This is particularly interesting because it’s been widely asserted that people who hold anti-Israel attitudes generally tend to be rampantly anti-Semitic as well…
There’s also a fascinating table on page 50 where they compare anti-Israel attitudes among 4 groups – ‘general population’, ‘very left wing’, ‘very right wing’ and ‘Muslims’…
We also know, from the data released by the Labour Party’s then General Secretary , Jennie Formby, back in February 2019, that there were just 673 accusations of antisemitism by Labour members between April 2018 and January 2019 and that this constituted a mere 0.1% of the party membership. Two additional things to note here 1) these were just accusations and a good proportion of them (220) “did not have sufficient evidence of a breach of party rules to proceed with an investigation.” 2) Some of those who ‘were’ issued with a Notice of Investigation or a suspension were not expelled, presumably because the accusation could not proved or was not considered serious enough to warrant expulsion.
Finally, given that the corporate media and 24hr news channels appear to have focused on the Forde Report’s implied assertion that both the left and right factions of the Labour Party were weaponising anti-Semitism, I think it’s important to question whether Forde was right to imply that those on the left, who rightly did not agree that there was a serious problem with anti-Semitism in the party and who saw the attacks on the left as attempts, by the right, to smear and remove left wing members, were, themselves, engaging in factional attacks. We must not allow the act of defending yourself with factually correct information (i.e. that, based on the statistics, there really wasn’t a ‘serious’ problem with anti-Semitism in the party), to be misconstrued as the left attacking the right. This is precisely the kind of narrative that the corporate media use when covering the Israel/Palestine conflict – using words like ‘clashes’ to give the impression that both sides are equally matched and equally culpable when, in fact, one side is a super power with access to advanced weapon systems and the other has been bombed back to the stone age and is under an apartheid military occupation.
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