Jeremy Corbyn has insisted that Labour does not have “anything to hide” over its action on anti-Semitism, after an equality watchdog began enforcement action which could lead to it gaining access to internal communications between staff handling complaints.
In a dramatic heightening of Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced on Thursday it was launching an enforcement process which could lead to a formal investigation.
Labour has been given a fortnight to respond to the body’s concerns that it “may have unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs”.
A decision will then be made on whether to launch an investigation, which would involve interviews with key party figures and the EHRC obtaining documents and records relating to the issue.
Speaking during a visit to a housing project in north London on Friday, Mr Corbyn said Labour will give the EHRC its “fullest possible co-operation” if the body decides to investigate.
“We welcome it, we will co-operate with it – we do not believe we have anything to hide at all,” said the Labour leader.
“Anti-Semitism has no place whatsoever at all in the Labour Party or the Labour movement.”
He said he was “absolutely determined” that “all people that join the Labour Party are welcome”.
Meanwhile, a shadow cabinet minister rejected claims by a member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee that the EHRC is a “failed experiment” which should be abolished.
Huda Elmi stressed that she would like to see the EHRC broken up into the separate rights bodies – the Commission for Racial Equality, Equal Opportunities Commission and Disability Rights Commission – whose responsibilities it took over on its creation in 2007.
Writing on Twitter, the Momentum-backed NEC member said: “The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a failed experiment. If tomorrow it were to cease in existence, most of the people it was created to support wouldn’t even notice.
“We need to abolish it and bring back separate, well resourced governmental bodies for each equality strand.
“The argument that different equality agendas are best dealt with individually is one shared by distinguished equality campaigners, lawyers and academics. There is desperate need for conversation about EHRC’s purpose and how to reform it.”
She added: “The Labour Party has said it will fully co-operate with the EHRC, and I completely support that approach. The more scrutiny on prejudice within politics and action to tackle it, the better.”
Asked about Ms Elmi’s comments, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said that the NEC member was “entitled to her opinion”.
But Ms Rayner told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think it is a failed experiment. I don’t think it should be abolished. I think they should have the resources to do their job effectively.”
Ms Rayner said organisations promoting equality and human rights should be “strengthened not weakened”.
“We should celebrate the fact that we have these bodies, but also strengthen them to ensure that they can carry out their role effectively,” she said.