I’d like to first of all emphasise that I have a great deal of respect for the Board, which I have worked with in the past and I wholeheartedly share their aim to eradicate anti-Semitism from British society in general and the Labour Party in particular.
As the Labour Party should be a safe place and the natural home of the Jewish community. I believe that Labour has badly let down the Jewish community. We did not act quickly enough and did not have robust processes in place early enough to combat the anti-Semitism we saw. It’s right that party representatives apologised. I know more action is needed to tackle it and win back the trust of our Jewish brothers and sisters. Given our historic mission of fighting for equality for all and against bigotry, our failure in this area is particularly devastating. People, rightly, expected more from us. If I thought that signing these 10 pledges would help solve the problem, I would do it. It would no doubt be the easy thing for me to do and I know the attention not doing so will bring. I endure racism on a daily basis. I know what it feels like. I have dedicated my career and life to doing just that, including in my current role as Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities.
That’s how I know that the easy route is not always the best route and I must do what I think is best. I fear that signing the pledges without further discussion will result in no positive change and I fear it will just be a token gesture. I do not think it is right that we pre-empt the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) investigation into the Labour Party. The EHRC investigation is unprecedented – we are the only party other than the BNP to be investigated - and brings shame on us all. That’s why I have pledged unequivocally to implement the recommendations of the EHRC’s report in full. It would be wrong to sign up to any pledge before the EHRC has reported its findings since we have no idea how compatible the recommendations will be with the pledges we’re being asked to sign. We need a sustainable and substantial solution to a longstanding problem.
So I would rather wait and do what makes sense in the fight against anti-Semitism rather than what is expedient for my campaign. What I can commit to is working with the Jewish community and organisations, including the Board of Deputies, to discuss this issue and to look at implementing the 10 pledges once we begin the process of implementing the EHRC’s recommendations. That would be the appropriate time. As we do that, we will need to have difficult conversations – about how a fully independent process will work in practice, data protection and how that’s compatible with transparency on individual cases, who should be named and who shouldn’t, and more. The detail is important. Moreover, what emerges from this process should be comprehensive and consistent so that Labour’s rules work to support all those who face discrimination, bullying and harassment. Socialists have a proud tradition of standing firm against bigotry and prejudice; there is a feted tradition within the Jewish community of making alliances with other oppressed groups and working within the socialist movement. We risk losing something very important if we do not get this right. But we can get it right, and I vow to do everything in my power to make sure we do. It will be a long hard slog, but together we can do it.
Dawn Butler MP