Jeremy Corbyn said last week that he had “strengthened processes” for dealing with antisemitism and that in the summer, he “proposed that egregious cases should be fast-tracked”.
FactCheck reported some days later that, according to a leaked internal document, the new policy was still not in force as recently as mid-October.
Now we’ve heard from a prominent supporter of Mr Corbyn who has detailed knowledge of the ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) and its antisemitism panel.
They told us the new policy has taken effect, but that it’s only been used at one panel meeting, which they say took place in early November.
They also told us that some members were given “lesser sanctions” for antisemitism — information that seems to contradict Mr Corbyn’s claim in the ITV leaders’ debate that “where anyone has committed any antisemitic acts or made any antisemitic statements, they are either suspended or expelled from the party”.
The NEC antisemitism panel has existed for some time.
In July this year, Mr Corbyn proposed that it should be given new powers to expel members who are found to have said or done antisemitic things.
That’s what he was referring to when he told Andrew Neil he had “strengthened processes”.
The move required approval from the Labour conference through a change in the party’s rules, which it got on 21 September.
Last week, we reported that according to a leaked internal document, the rule change had not taken effect as recently as mid-October.
The November antisemitism panel
Since we published that article, we’ve heard from a senior figure who has detailed knowledge of the NEC antisemitism panel.
The party insider, who is a vocal supporter of Mr Corbyn, told FactCheck that the panel has started to use its new powers – but only at one meeting, which was held on 5 November.
They said the panel had expelled “several” members in that session, though they were unable to say exactly how many.
Antisemites ‘are either suspended or expelled’
We asked our source whether every member who was found to have said or done something antisemitic was expelled or suspended at the November panel.
They told us: “No, only those which meet the criteria can be expelled by the NEC. Essentially, the criteria are that the case is very clear cut and can be dealt with solely on the basis of the evidence presented in writing (normally screenshots and answers to written questions). Otherwise the respondent has to be allowed to be present at the hearing. Only the NCC can conduct those hearings. Most of the remaining cases were referred to the NCC, some received lesser sanctions.”
The “NCC” refers to the National Constitutional Committee, Labour’s highest ruling body which has always had powers to expel members.
The point about “lesser sanctions” is significant because it appears to directly contradict what Jeremy Corbyn said in the first ITV leaders’ debate on 19 November.
He told viewers: “Where anyone has committed any antisemitic acts or made any antisemitic statements, they are either suspended or expelled from the party and we have investigated every single case.”
We reported last week that Mr Corbyn’s claim was already at odds with a letter sent by the party’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, who told MPs in February 2019 that dozens of Labour members had been given sanctions other than expulsion or suspension as recently as 2018-19. These included a “formal NEC warning” and a “reminder of conduct” letter.
The new information we’ve had from this senior insider suggests it is still the case that people found to have said or done antisemitic things are not always suspended or expelled from the Labour party, despite what Mr Corbyn has claimed.
We approached Labour for comment. They have yet to get back to us, but we’ll be more than happy to update this article if they do.