Labour’s proposed new antisemitism code will penalise members who make “vexatious” claims on the grounds that many complaints about antisemitism have been made “as part of a factional agenda”.
The nature of the penalties are not spelt out in the proposed code, which was leaked to Skwawkbox, a conspiracy theorist website that has a direct line to the leader of the opposition’s office and appears to be genuine.
The fact that the code, drawn up after Labour was criticised for failing to adopt the internationally-accepted IHRA definition of antisemitism, states that some complaints are politically motivated will infuriate those who are unhappy about how the crisis has been handled.
Key figures from across the political spectrum have repeatedly pointed out that dismissing accusations of antisemitism as political rather than acknowledging it exists within the party and taking action against those who perpetrate it undermines the leadership’s claim that it is acting to stamp it out.
As recently as Sunday afternoon, Momentum – which was created to support Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership – tweeted: “We must listen to Jewish people when they express concerns, & work with them to resolve this’ and added: “Let’s engage with respect and empathy, and call out abuse when we see it”.
Introducing penalties for calling out antisemitism if it is subsequently decided complaints have no merit is likely to discourage party members from making complaints in the first place.
The controversial passage in the draft code is headed: “Penalties for vindictive accusations”. It says: “Labour must be tough on vexatious claims made about its members and must never accept such behaviour becoming the norm. In the current climate some accusations of antisemitism have become a means of throwaway abuse and that cannot be allowed to continue”.
It concludes by saying that many claims are factional and promises to “put a stop to this abuse”.
The fact that part of the proposed code is more concerned about punishing members who make allegations about antisemitism than with punishing antisemitism itself is certain to prove contentious and is highly likely to cause a row when it is discussed by Labour NEC at its next meeting in September.
There are currently no similar rules that are designed to punish members for making “vexatious” complaints about any other issue.
The row about antisemitism and Labour’s response to it has rolled on all summer. The idea of introducing penalties for complaints – rather than simply dismissing them as unfounded – may guarantee it continues well into the autumn.