Gillian Merron & Simon Johnson: A tale of three inquiries

By Gillian Merron and Simon Johnson

Despite all the momentous events happening in the news, the issue of antisemitism in politics in general and especially in the Labour Party keeps on attracting comment. We would not be surprised if the community was finding it hard to make sense of it all.

There are three inquiries into antisemitism, for which there has been unprecedented cooperation between communal organisations.

With events moving so fast, the expertise of colleagues in the Board of Deputies, JLC, CST, UJS, BICOM, the Jewish Labour Movement, Holocaust Educational Trust and the All Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism and others have all been invaluable. Throughout our organisations there are experienced professionals trying to make sense of the fast moving developments, as the issue of antisemitism has become increasingly bound up with the controversy surrounding the leadership of the Labour Party.

We all submitted evidence to Baroness Royall’s Inquiry into antisemitism in the Oxford Labour Club and beyond. That has not yet been published in full. UJS and Jewish Labour Students are asking why.

Numerous organisations and individuals submitted evidence to the Chakrabrati Inquiry into antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of racism which was commissioned by the Labour Party. Ms Chakrabarti held several meetings with communal leaders and representatives, one of which was brokered by the Board of Deputies. Whilst there is satisfaction with many elements of the final report, there is disappointment that Ms Chakrabarti’s expressed good intentions are not fully reflected in the recommendations.  The Jewish Labour Movement is working to have the positive elements of the report implemented by the party.

There is, however, considerable concern at the way the report was released. A supposedly independent report was launched with the party leader alongside the author and a “rent a mob” in the room who thought they had been invited to some kind of a pro-Corbyn rally. Then, Ms Chakrabarti, the author of the “independent” report, did the rounds of the media defending Mr Corbyn and on Monday was reprimanded by the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee for passing notes to Mr Corbyn as he was grilled by MPs.

This brings us to the third inquiry- that of the Home Affairs Select Committee. This might be expected to have a wider brief on antisemitism, but has spent much time examining antisemitism in the Labour Party. Already, the President of the Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush, has given evidence. Next week, it will be the turn of the Chief Rabbi, Mark Gardner of CST, Sir Mick Davis, Chair of the JLC and John Mann MP, Chair of the APPG.

We do not know when the Committee will report or what it will recommend. Will it move the debate on antisemitism forward? You can be sure that we will be working closely together to advance our community’s interests.

Gillian Merron and Simon Johnson are Chief Executives of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council