Jeremy Corbyn faced veteran interviewer Andrew Neil this week, who grilled him on the party’s handling of antisemitism.
The Labour leader was challenged on a case involving a member who shared a video that cast doubt on whether six million Jews died in the Holocaust — but who only received a “reminder of conduct” letter from the party.
Mr Corbyn said he had “strengthened processes” since then and that “during the last few months” he had “proposed that egregious cases should be fast-tracked”.
But FactCheck has seen an internal Labour party document showing that as recently as mid-October, a senior party insider didn’t expect the policy to be implemented until after the general election.
We asked Labour to show us any proof of its having been introduced, but they did not respond to FactCheck’s requests.
Mr Corbyn has also claimed during this election campaign that: “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.”
But Labour’s own general secretary wrote to MPs in February this year setting out dozens of cases where members were found to have been antisemitic, but were not suspended or expelled from the party. The same letter also revealed that hundreds of complaints of antisemitism had not been formally investigated.
Update: what do Labour say?
Since we published this article, Labour have contacted FactCheck to say that the fast-track expulsion policy is now in use and “a number of people have been expelled under those new powers” this month.
We asked for evidence of this and they pointed us to remarks made by Labour’s General Secretary Jennie Formby in Jewish News on November 27: “Just this month a number of members have been expelled using these new powers.” The article was published after Mr Corbyn’s BBC interview, and after we first contacted Labour to ask about the new policy.
Responding to this FactCheck article after its publication, a Labour spokesperson said: “This is nonsense. Channel 4 FactCheck has not provided us with a document or with any evidence to back up its claim but the fact is, this alleged document from more than one month ago is out of date because the new fast-track expulsion procedures are already in use and a number of people have been expelled under those new powers.
“FactCheck has failed in its basic task to check the facts. In line with the Macpherson Principle, all complaints of antisemitism are recorded as such and we look into each complaint we receive. Some complaints do not meet the threshold for a potential breach of the Party’s rules, so they do not proceed beyond that initial stage after they have been recorded and reviewed.”
In July this year, Mr Corbyn put forward proposals that would allow Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) to set up a special panel to handle cases of antisemitism.
The plan is to give the NEC powers to expel members where appropriate — something that’s currently reserved for the party’s National Constitutional Committee.
We understand this is what Mr Corbyn was referring to when he told Andrew Neil that he had “strengthened processes” and had “proposed egregious cases should be fast-tracked” at some point “in the summer”.
As ever with rule-changes of this kind, the policy needed approval at the Labour party conference, which it got on 21 September.
But FactCheck has seen an internal Labour party document that shows that as recently as October, the new policy had yet to be implemented — and that a senior figure did not expect it to take effect until after the general election.
So Mr Corbyn claims to have “strengthened processes”, but the evidence we’ve seen casts doubt on whether the new policy has actually taken effect.
Antisemites ‘are either suspended or expelled’
It’s not the only time in this election campaign that Mr Corbyn has faced questions on antisemitism.
Last week, he said 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 and we have investigated every single case.”
But that is at odds with a letter from his party’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, who told Labour MPs that between April 2018 and February 2019, some 16 members were “issued with a formal NEC warning” for antisemitism, 25 got a “reminder of conduct” from the ruling body.
In other words, dozens of Labour members were given sanctions other than suspension or expulsion for antisemitism as recently as 2018-19.
‘We have investigated every single case’
Mr Corbyn was also challenged on his claim that Labour “have investigated every single case” of antisemitism — which the chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis described as “a mendacious fiction”.
Responding to Rabbi Mirvis’ comments, Mr Corbyn told the BBC: “No, he’s not right. Because he would have to produce the evidence to say that’s mendacious.”
But Ms Formby’s letter from February this year reveals that 220 complaints of antisemitism against members “did not have sufficient evidence of a breach of party rules to proceed with an investigation”.
In any event, claiming to have “investigated every single case” is not as impressive as it seems.
Sources with detailed knowledge of Labour party processes told FactCheck that by definition, a complaint only becomes a “case” once an investigation is launched.
So if you thought Mr Corbyn’s claim that the party has “investigated every single case” meant that every allegation of antisemitism has received a full investigation by the Labour party, you’d be wrong.