Council leader says investigation into Labour’s handling of anti-semitism complaints is ‘sadly necessary’
Labour Party says Thomas Gardiner has been unfairly treated by Sunday Times
12 April, 2019 — By Richard Osley
COUNCIL leader Georgia Gould has called for an independent system to deal with complaints of anti-semitism within the Labour Party after a Sunday newspaper published new claims about the effectiveness of the disciplinary process.
Her comments mean she is criticising the unit headed by one of her own colleagues, Kilburn councillor Thomas Gardiner. She will not take questions from the New Journal on Mr Gardiner’s individual performance amid calls from some opposition councillors for him to have the party whip suspended.
But she broke cover on the issue on Monday evening when she tweeted: “More reports of Labour’s lack of action against vile anti-semitism show why an Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation is sadly necessary, and an urgent need for an independent complaints process to begin rebuilding trust. This isn’t a distraction from fighting for a much-needed Labour government, it’s the foundation.”
A claim that Mr Gardiner, in his role as head of compliance, had not fast-tracked a disciplinary probe into a member who made offensive comments about Dame Margaret Hodge and Labour MP Ruth Smeeth is being vigorously denied by the party.
In a counter-accusation, it has accused the Sunday Times of printing only a section of a leaked email exchange and insists that – in complete contradiction to what was printed – Mr Gardiner actually elevated the complaint to be dealt with more swiftly by marking it as anti-semitic.
Thomas Gardiner at Monday night’s meeting
Some Labour MPs and activists, however, are concerned by the claims and have now asked for the entire exchange to be released for their reassurance, but the full set of messages has so far not been revealed. It is understood party organisers believe this would breach data rules. The Sunday Times stands by its story.
The fallout in Camden was not detectable on the surface at Monday’s full council meeting, but behind the scenes there is a division among some Labour councillors. Allies say Mr Gardiner is being treated unfairly, while some of his detractors are sympathetic to calls from the Liberal Democrats for a suspension or some form of action.
For a second time, the Lib Dems used Twitter to call for action, tweeting: “More allegations against Thomas Gardiner make our demand for suspension from the Labour council group while they investigate more urgent. The council leadership needs to show they take this seriously. They can’t continue to ignore this.”
Labour finance chief Councillor Richard Olszewski has already called on Jeremy Corbyn to resign over the issue of anti-semitism complaints, while several colleagues have sent exasperated tweets or shared posts hinting that they believe a new leader or a disciplinary unit needs to be installed to restore confidence among the Jewish community.
The idea that Mr Corbyn should resign – or even that he does not care about the issue enough – is a view completely alien to another section of the Labour group. Some have privately questioned why Cllr Gould had commented following an article which the national party was disputing.
A Labour Party spokesman said it took all complaints of anti-semitism extremely seriously, adding: “We are committed to rooting it out. All complaints about anti-semitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures. We can’t comment on individual cases. This is another seriously misleading Sunday Times story.”