More minority commissioners

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers his first keynote speech at Labour conference, 2018. The EHRC is investigating allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party. (Jewish News)
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers his first keynote speech at Labour conference, 2018. The EHRC is investigating allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party. (Jewish News)

Some catch phrases stand the test of time. One such is in Laurel and Hardy films. At some point Hardy will say “Another fine mess you’ve got me into Ollie.” Well, I think there is a first class mess on the horizon, so you might find a little clarification useful.

Fifty years ago there were more than 40 Jewish Labour MPs. Now there are a handful, and the Chief Rabbi told us not to vote Labour in the last general election because they were antisemitic.The Labour party is now being investigated for institutional racism by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which was set up by Tony Blair as part of the Equalities Act in 2006. It’s highly ironic that an organisation set up by a Labour government is investigating the party. The report is supposed to come out imminently.

So what is this commission? Its finances are totally independent of the government. There isn’t a single Commissioner who is an MP. It has 10 members, of whom seven are women; Caroline Waters, OBE who is the Deputy chair, Suzanne Baxter, Pavita Cooper, Susan Johnson OBE., Dr. Leslie Sawyer and Rebecca Hesenrath, who is the Chief Executive,. The three men are the Chair, David Isaac, CBE., Alisdair Henderson and Mark McLane.

Which makes the Chair and the Chief Executive Jewish, and apparently no Blacks, no Hindus, no Muslims, no Buddhists and one Sikh – Pavita Cooper. Mind you, you cannot criticise the CVs of the commissioners. They, one and all, have excellent records on fighting for human rights, going back yonks years.

When he was appointed in 2016 Mr. Isaac was accused by Harriet Harman, the long-serving Labour MP, of having conflicting interests. His law practice did have government contracts, so Mr. Isaac, very properly, declared he would have nothing to do with the contracts and would not be included in those of the firm’s profits which came from working for them. We still have two of the most senior members of the Commission who are Jewish, when their organisation is investigating antisemitism. I guarantee that Ms. Harman won’t comment. Anti-capitalism, maybe, but antisemitism never.

I must admit I wouldn’t have bothered to investigate the Labour party. I have total confidence that we Brits don’t do antisemitism. Yes, there are antisemites among our 60 plus million. There are millions of Scots who want to get out of the United Kingdom, but more want to stay and when it comes to the vote, they outnumber the dissidents. There has never been a Fascist MP elected to parliament, but never. We have not been subject to discriminatory taxation or suffered pogroms. The government let in my grandfather in 1880 and I’m still grateful.

A lot of the Welsh also aren’t terribly fond of the English and the results of the last General Election show just what we Brits think of antisemitism. This is a good country. Under Keir Starmer, Jeremy Corbyn will soon be a footnote in history.

Now what are the EHRC going to decide? I’ve no idea; there are court cases coming up though which could bankrupt Labour, but for democracy to work, there has to be an opposition.

If the enquiry finds the Labour party guilty as charged, what can the EHRC actually do? They say about their powers:

“We only use our legal powers when other approaches are not effective and normally in support of strategic objectives with wider import than individual cases.”

That looks to me like the right to have a quiet word in a smoke filled room and agree amicably that the party will sort out the mess without disastrous adverse publicity for Parliament itself. You can imagine what the Russians and the Chinese would make of a draconian report.

Well I’d still appoint a few more ethnic commissioners besides Sikhs and Jews. ”

About the Author
Derek is an author & former editor of the Jewish Year Book