LabourToo statement on EHRC investigation into anti-semitism in the Labour Party

LabourToo welcomes the EHRC’s report into anti-semitism in the Labour Party and its call for an independent process to handle and determine anti-semitism complaints.

We are pleased that the report reveals what we suspected, that the Leaders’ Office in the Labour Party was consulted on sexual harassment complaints. This is deeply inappropriate and is one reason why so few victims of sexual harassment have trust in the Labour Party’s complaints system.

We would like to express our solidarity with those members from the Jewish community who have had their complaints dismissed, not taken seriously enough or fundamentally undermined by political interference, and we look to the party to work on building a system where this can never happen again.

As campaigners for an independent sexual harassment complaints system in the Labour Party, we strongly believe that complaints regarding serious matters like anti-semitism and sexual harassment should be dealt with by a fully independent process to ensure a fair process and to restore trust.

While we recognise that the previous leadership of the Labour Party have taken some steps to remedy the situation faced by victims of sexual harassment which are noted in the EHRC’s report, we strongly believe that there remains much to be done.

The EHRC points to a “comprehensive training scheme” for Party staff handling sexual harassment complaints, however, this only covers a small proportion of the staff who are most closely involved in the formal process, and not all those who may be the first point of contact for someone wishing to report harassment. How those staff respond to someone seeking advice is absolutely crucial which is why LabourToo has recommended that all Party staff receive sexual harassment training, as well as elected politicians including MPs, Councillors and those representing Labour in devolved administrations, and elected party officers who have authority in local constituency parties. Bystander training should be mandatory for party member to ensure sexual harassment and abuse is not tolerated at all in the party.

The report also suggests that the Party acted “decisively” in implementing a bespoke process to deal with sexual harassment complaints – this was not our entirely our experience which involved many years of representation to party officials and the Leader’s office. We found that change only happened once campaigners started to brief the media on the issue.

In a recent review of the Party’s sexual harassment policy we found a number of issues with the current policy and procedures:

  • the process as it stands still requires complainants to call a Party staff member who is not independent, opening it up to abuse of process
  • there are no timelines so that all parties understand how long the process will take – a key issue for those complainants who have gone through the current system
  • there is no guarantee of confidentiality for complainants and respondents – some complainants going through the current process heard about their case from journalists before they heard from the Party. This is unacceptable and the Party needs to make clear that this will never be allowed to happen again.
  • The Party has not consulted on or adopted an Adult Safeguarding Policy to help protect victims who are experiencing domestic abuse or other predatory behaviour, so that fewer complaints are necessary in the first place.

As well as the urgent need to introduce a fully independent complaints system, we recommend that the Labour Party does still need to review their sexual harassment policy alongside those on bullying and harassment and child safeguarding. We would urge that the Party work with key stakeholders to draft an Adult Safeguarding Policy particularly in respect of other violence against women and girls offences e.g. domestic abuse including so-called ‘honour’ based abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour, FGM, modern slavery, harassment and stalking, misogyny, and manipulation of vulnerable adults including those with learning disabilities or mental health conditions.

We look forward to continuing to work with the Party to ensure that any new complaints process is truly independent and works for sexual harassment, as well as anti-semitism complaints and all cases of abuse and harm from which Labour Party members deserve to be protected.

ENDS

Notes to editors

Kick-started by the incredible #MeToo movement, the LabourToo project enabled Labour women to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse within the Labour Party anonymously so that we could build a compendium of the types of abuse women face which all too often are unseen, ignored or swept under the carpet.

We launched our call for submissions in October 2017, closing the survey in December 2017. In February 2018 we released a report of 43 anonymised stories submitted via our website to provide an insight into the experiences of sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination faced by women in the Labour Party and to convince those who run our Party to take these issues more seriously and create a consensus to change policy and cultural norms within our organisation. The report was sent to Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party; Iain McNichol, then General Secretary of the Labour Party; and members of Labour’s National Executive Committee. We did not include any stories in the report that specifically name individuals.

Members of LabourToo remain anonymous to protect team members’ safety, but we are happy to give further comment. Please contact: team@labourtoo.org.uk

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