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EHRC Exposed Part 4: ‘Impartial’ watchdog probing Labour plans to invite Tory spin doctors to board meetings

THE official investigation into anti-semitism in the Labour Party faces a credibility crisis today as the Morning Star can reveal that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) plans to invite Tory spin doctors as “guests” to its board meetings.

In the fourth part of our series EHRC Exposed, we can now reveal that the watchdog’s leadership want “a ministerial or SpAd guest at a board meeting.”

A SpAd is a special adviser who often helps ministers devise political attack lines.

EHRC documents show the controversial idea “was being explored” five days after the Campaign Against Antisemitism demanded an investigation into Labour last November.

Downing Street SpAd Jean Andre Prager had already attended an EHRC sub-committee meeting in September 2018, a move which “pleased” the watchdog’s board members.

Mr Prager is an adviser to the Prime Minister on disability and earns up to £70,000 a year from the taxpayer.

He worked directly for the Conservatives before taking up the role, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Although the EHRC claims “we are an independent regulator and take our impartiality very seriously,” the presence of Tory advisers at its internal meetings are a cause for concern.

The revelation comes at time when the regulator is conducting one of its most controversial probes, into anti-semitism in Labour.

The integrity of that probe has come under serious pressure this week with the Star exposing a series of conflicts of interest at the heart of the EHRC.

We showed our latest findings to Corruption Watch executive director Andrew Feinstein, who said the EHRC’s plans for Tory spindoctors at meetings were “appalling and unacceptable.”

Mr Feinstein, whose mother was a Holocaust survivor who lost 39 members of her family in the nazi death camps, is concerned over the EHRC’s approach towards Labour.

“They cannot continue an investigation into one political party while they are engaging with another,” he told the Star.

“They should launch an investigation into anti-semitism and Islamophobia in all political parties.

“If they continue an investigation into only anti-semitism in the Labour Party their credibility will be shredded — and rightfully so.”

An EHRC spokeswoman insisted there was no foul play, stating: “Part of our statutory role is to advise the government of the day and it is normal to engage directly with ministers, advisers and officials in order for us to inform changes in equality and human rights legislation.

“It is categorically untrue to suggest any details of our investigation into the Labour Party have been shared with anyone who is not directly involved in that work.”

Whilst it is true that under the Paris Principles, the UN criteria for national human rights bodies, representatives of government departments may participate “only in an advisory capacity,” it is unclear whether this allows for the Prime Minister’s aides to attend internal meetings.

The probe into Labour has been discussed at one EHRC board meeting already, raising the prospect that if Tory spin doctors are invited as guests then they could hear details of the investigation.

The watchdog’s chairman, David Isaac, has met separately with Tory Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt, who “was keen to be kept aware of the Commission’s draft Strategic Plan, and its current litigation work and other legal activity.”

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