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Labour leader accused of ‘direct’ political interference in purge of party members

by Bethany Rielly

SIR KEIR STARMER’s office has been accused of “direct” political interference in a purge of Labour members in April.

It comes after his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn was hit by the same charge in the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report on allegations of anti-semitism in the party. 

The current Labour leader has promised to enact the report’s recommendations in full, among which are an end to political interference by the leader’s office in disciplinary cases. 

However, data accessed by former Labour member Rebecca Massey, including an email chain from officials in the complaints department, suggests that the leader’s office played a role in her expulsion. 

Ms Massey, a prominent Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) member, was expelled in May this year, along with others. 

The documents she received included a list compiled by the Board of Deputies of British Jews calling for her “permanent expulsion.” 

The secret document, entitled Outstanding Labour Anti-Semitism Cases, highlighted those of 11 Labour members which it claimed were “among the most serious we have seen.” 

Posts picked out by the board included Ms Bassey accusing former Labour MP Chukka Umuna of “swallowing the conflation of zionist with Jew.” 

Jewish Voice for Labour’s (JVL) Mike Cushman said that there was nothing in her posts that could be interpreted as anti-semitic.

“It is the right of anybody, including the Board of Deputies, to raise cases of any form of harassment or discrimination,” he told the Morning Star.

“It is not the right of anybody to extend their definition to cover items that they are opposed to politically but are not discriminatory.”

Ms Bassey was suspended exactly a week after the board’s document was submitted to the Labour Party. She told Electronic Intifada that she considered the document to be a “political hit list.” 

A chain of emails between officials in the party’s complaints department was also received by the campaigner. 

Correspondence discussing her suspension were forwarded to “LOTO” — a reference to the leader of the opposition’s office. 

This suggests that the Labour leader may have initiated the suspensions or known of them from the outset. 

“The direct political interference of Keir Starmer’s office in these cases is totally inappropriate. It is yet another case of ‘one rule for us, another rule for them’,” Mr Cushman added. 

“If Becky’s case is, as the BoD claim in their briefing paper, ‘among the most serious we have seen,’ it would suggest that any problem of anti-semitism in the Labour Party is far smaller than the Board of Deputies and their allies have been asserting.”

 A PSC spokesperson said that, in line with the EHRC recommendations, Labour must “must ensure that its complaints processes are fair, transparent and free of political interference.

“It must also ensure that it does not take any action that restricts the  rights of members to discuss the facts of the historical and ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people and to call for action, including via support for boycott, divestment and sanctions, to address that oppression.”

The Labour Party was contacted for comment. 

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