Yesterday, the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker were acting as if the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre were still in the editor’s chair at the Daily Mail, as they homed in on the Labour leadership with another thundering and instantly judgmental front page splash. “Now equalities watchdog set to probe allegations that Labour IS anti-Semitic - and may have broken the law … CORBYN’S FINAL HUMILIATION”, it told readers.
There was, sadly, one minor problem: the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has not, as the supporting article concedes, decided to probe anything. The dead giveaway came with the line “The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) will now consider whether to launch a formal probe”. Also, “Labour said it will co-operate fully with the EHRC, but said it rejects ‘completely’ any suggestion it has acted unlawfully”.
So why has the EHRC become involved? Ah well. “The EHRC - which was founded by the Blair government - said it acted after receiving two dossiers showing examples where anti-Semitism was not dealt with properly by Labour. One was from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, and the other was from the Jewish Labour Movement”. Zelo Street regulars will need no further introduction to the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism.
Gideon Falter and his pals have been shouting the odds at The Red Team for some time from the safety of their increasingly draughty glasshouse: as I pointed out last year, six of their Honorary Patrons have either exhibited racist behaviour, used racism for their own ends, or been singularly unwise in their choice of language in areas concerning race.
Now, the most prominent cheerleader for an EHRC probe is barrister Adam Wagner, who is unusually keen to see a full inquiry into Labour. The problem is that he is far from a disinterested party, having been instructed by the CAA “to produce detailed legal and factual submissions to the EHRC over recent months”.
Wagner’s enthusiasm, and his apparent reluctance to consider the full spectrum of evidence, is already causing concern. It is not just, as David Rosenberg put it, “Before EHRC investigates the Labour Party it should do due diligence on the Campaign Against Antisemitism” (the CAA left several highly defamatory comments made about Jeremy Corbyn by signatories to a website petition live before eventually removing them).
There is also that approach to evidence. As Simon Maginn put it, “Here's @AdamWagner1, who will represent CAA/LAAS at the EHCR enquiry, talking to me. He says seeking evidence is 'hair-splitting'. He's a barrister, apparently. Chilling”. The comment came as Maginn questioned the reliability of Rachel Riley’s claims.
As he put it, “Her accusations are so broad, so imprecise, so personal, so uninformed and so capricious, whilst being so *very* specifically targeted, it would take a generous heart to not just laugh it out of court … The interview with @krishgm, for instance. She 'become aware of it in March'. She 'saw a poster at a bus stop' (it had nothing to do with Labour). She says 'Holocaust denial' but cannot name a name”. And Wagner’s response?
“I'm not going to respond to this kind of hairsplitting. Zoom out, not in”. He has also resorted all too rapidly to throwing out the “Conspiracy Theory” claim (never a good sign), telling “Oh god the EHRC conspiracy theories have started”. And there is more.
Wagner wants the EHRC probe to go ahead: “I do hope that the EHRC goes ahead and investigates Labour as I believe it’s [sic] recommendations can be used for all political parties. Though labour also has some quite Labour-specific issues”. What “Labour-specific issues”? Is he pre-judging the outcome, attempting to lead?
Also, he needed prompting to admit that he is on the EHRC’s Panel of Counsel, admitting in response to that prompting “Ok, that is on my website, as you can see. This isn’t a conspiracy - the Labour Party has a significant racism problem, the EHRC are concerned about it as are many people in the country”. It does? Surely that is for any inquiry to ascertain? And how does he know the EHRC is “concerned about it”?
Has the EHRC made that opinion public? There are, already, rather more questions than answers where Adam Wagner, the CAA, and the EHRC are concerned. It certainly appears that he would be best advised recusing himself from any EHRC role if the Commission proceeds with an investigation into the Labour Party.
Moreover, the claim that “the Labour Party has a significant racism problem” gives the impression of pre-judgment to the point of potentially prejudicing any inquiry.
Perhaps I have read Adam Wagner wrong. But I fear that I have not.
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