Labour has defended its handling of complaints about anti-Semitism after it was reported that the party had failed to take disciplinary action in hundreds of cases.
The Sunday Times said it had seen leaked internal documents which showed the party’s system for dealing with complaints had been beset by delays, inaction and interference from the leader’s office.
Some members investigated for posting comments online such as “Heil Hitler” and “Jews are the problem” had not been expelled despite complaints being made a year ago, while Jeremy Corbyn’s office had been involved in approving, delaying or blocking at least 101 complaints, the paper reported.
But Labour said lines from internal emails had been “selectively leaked” to “misrepresent their overall contents”, adding that it was “committed” to rooting out anti-Semitism within the party.
According to The Sunday Times, the hard drive of emails and a confidential database last updated on March 8 also showed that a trade union official was readmitted after being accused of sharing material saying “Jewish Israelis” were behind 9/11.
In another case, a Labour official ruled a council candidate accused of describing Jewish MPs as “Zionist infiltrators” met the threshold for suspension, but then ruled he should not be suspended as he “is a candidate”, the paper said.
It reported that 454 of 863 complaints were unresolved, including 249 where the party had not started an investigation, and that of 409 cases where a decision was reached, 191 members faced no further action, 145 received a formal warning and fewer than 30 were expelled.
Labour said the figures quoted in the story were “not accurate”.
A spokeswoman said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints of anti-Semitism extremely seriously and we are committed to rooting it out of our party. All complaints about anti-Semitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures. We can’t comment on individual cases.
“Lines have been selectively leaked from emails to misrepresent their overall contents.
“One of the emails shows the General Secretary’s Office ending the practice started by former staffers of asking the Leader’s Office for their help with clearing the backlog of cases. This practice lasted for a few weeks while there was no general secretary, and was ended by Jennie Formby.”
Shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti, who led a review into anti-Semitism allegations in the party, told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “Jennie Formby is a very strong general secretary who is committed to making this a priority.
“So there is no interference from Jeremy Corbyn or his staff in the disciplinary process.”
She pleaded with the Jewish Labour Movement “not to personalise” the issue in a confidence motion on Mr Corbyn’s leadership at the group’s annual general meeting.
“My plea to the Jewish Labour Movement is to stay in the Labour movement and to tackle racism together, not to personalise it and make it about Jeremy Corbyn, because he is one person and he won’t be leader forever.”
Other emails are reported to show Thomas Gardiner, head of Labour’s governance and legal unit, frustrating efforts by a member of his staff to fast-track an investigation.
A Labour Party source said: “These emails show Thomas Gardiner arguing for an anti-Semitism complaint to be recorded as anti-Semitism, in line with the Macpherson principle, and to ensure the case is dealt with through the fast-tracked anti-Semitism procedures.
“In another email Thomas makes clear it’s right and appropriate that Jennie Formby had ended the practice of LOTO (leader of the opposition’s office) being asked for help with cases, and it is untrue and misleading to say LOTO are involved as there is a firewall between the complaints process and the Leader’s Office. He was outlining and supporting this process.”
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “The Sunday Times investigation shows that our demands to root out anti-Jewish racism have been treated with utter contempt. Rather than own up to the problem, the Labour leadership has put its efforts into a cover-up operation.
“Any claims to a politically independent system can now be seen as a total sham.
“Labour must now urgently open up its processes to scrutiny by the Jewish community.
“We stand united with all decent people in the fight against ugly racism.”
Last month, Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge accused members of Mr Corbyn’s inner circle of interfering in the outcome of anti-Semitism cases to reduce the sanction imposed.
Labour insisted that it was “categorically untrue” to suggest that staff in the leader’s office overturned recommendations in cases.