A group of Labour MPs have criticised the party’s decision to take no further action against Oxford University Labour Club students accused of anti-Semitism.
At a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday, John Mann, Ruth Smeeth, and Ian Austin all raised concerns about the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) ruling to suspend any further action towards the pair of OULC members implicated in anti-Semitism by Labour peer Baroness Janet Royall’s investigation last year.
Baroness Royall’s eleven month inquiry, summarised in a report last May, was triggered by the resignation of OULC co-chair Alex Chalmers in February 2016 after the club voted to endorse the controversial Israel Apartheid Week (IAW). He claimed some members of the club “have some kind of problem with Jews.”
Speaking about the NEC’s decision not to take further action, Chalmers told Cherwell: “This latest move by the party leadership is disappointing but unsurprising considering its track record on the subject.”
In response to the NEC’s decision not to take further action, Baroness Royall said: “I am deeply disappointed by the outcome and fear it will further harm relations between the Jewish community and our party by confirming a widely held view that we do not take anti-Semitism seriously.”
John Mann, one of the Labour MPs who railed against the NEC’s decision and chair of the All-party parliamentary group against anti-Semitism, told Cherwell: “Having spoken at Oxford Labour club and to Jewish students, I well understand what has been happening at Oxford. I am extremely disappointed that no action has been taken and that communication with Jewish students throughout the process has been so dismal. Simply put this is not good enough. If our party is to be taken seriously as an antiracist institution, we must act. I will continue to call out inaction and reassure Jewish students and others that apathy to anti-Semitism will not be tolerated by me or many other Labour MPs.”
Oxford’s Jewish Society stated: “The Labour NEC Disputes panel decision to clear two individuals of from OULC of anti-Semitism is utterly shameful and demonstrates yet again that the Labour Party is unwilling to confront the anti-Semitism in its ranks. This decision is bitterly disappointing and will only continue the trend of Labour spaces becoming increasingly frightening and alienating for Jewish students. It is hard to believe that following Baroness Royall finding that the incidents in the OULC took place, that the NEC decided to drop the case.”
An anonymous source told Cherwell: “The total dropping of this investigation seems like the final straw, undermining the very serious allegations made by both myself and my peers.
“Whilst the party and indeed Oxford Labour club may not be, as has been concluded in the past, institutionally anti-Semitic, it certainly has endemic problems that need to be tackled and the only way I truly believe these problems can be solved is if there is full awareness of the facts on the ground and an honest relationship between the party and its Jewish members. What I experienced in OULC was extremely humiliating, demoralising and profoundly unpleasant and I am utterly appalled that justice will never be served.”
Ian Austin and the OULC were contacted for comment. Ruth Smeeth declined to comment.