The Labour Party is the subject of an investigation into allegations of antisemitism by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
How embarrassing! - though officials at party HQ have come up with a novel way of diverting attention away from these claims by suspending the former head of the equalities watchdog, Trevor Phillips, over allegations of Islamophobia.
The former Labour cabinet minister Charlie Falconer criticised the move from party officials with the following tweet:
@TrevorPTweets suspended as a matter of “urgency” on laughable grounds.
@campbellclaret expelled, illegally. Both criticised @jeremycorbyn.
Faith completely gone in a disciplinary process that targets the leadership’s critics and fails to fight Antisemitism.
I agree with Charlie Falconer, I have to say, because it looks awfully like Labour HQ is taking a leaf out of the Tories political playbook by throwing a dead cat on the table at an awkward time.
Labour’s suspension of Trevor Phillips is Orwellian, says Lord Mann
Trevor Phillips has been suspended over accusations of Islamophobia - CHANNEL 4
By Steven Swinford, Eleni Courea and Matt Chorley - The Times
Sir Keir Starmer and other Labour leadership candidates must weigh in against the “Orwellian” suspension of Trevor Phillips, Lord Mann has said amid outcry from members and campaigners.
Mr Phillips, an anti-racism campaigner and former head of Britain’s equalities watchdog (EHRC), has been suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of Islamophobia.
Lord Mann, who is a crossbench peer and prominent former Labour MP, and has clashed with Mr Phillips in the past, said that the move was totally unfair. “There’s only one word to describe this action — it’s Orwellian.”
Mr Phillips is a member of Sir Keir’s constituency Labour party in Holborn & St Pancras. Lord Mann said: “In Starmer’s case he should either be backing the expulsion or vigorously defending him. He’s the local leader, it’s his local party.”
The party faces accusations that it has been quick to punish Mr Phillips while failing to act decisively on members accused of antisemitism.
Stephane Savary, national vice-chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), said: “I’ll be honest, it doesn’t look good that we suspend the former chairman of the EHRC whilst we are under investigation by them for institutionalised antisemitism.
“I hope those who did this have evidence to back this up. If not, it will look like this was politically motivated.”
Mr Savary said that even if it presents evidence that Mr Phillips has made Islamophobic statements, Labour “can’t maintain this position given the refusal of our party to suspend high-profile antisemites”.
A spokesperson for the JLM suggested the group did not have faith in the party’s disciplinary process. “We await the outcomes of Labour’s leadership election and the EHRC investigation before we can begin to take the Labour Party’s disciplinary process seriously,” they said.
A Labour staffer said that the incident “tells you everything you need to know about the toxic and dysfunctional organisation that the Labour Party has become under Jennie Formby and Karie Murphy’s management”.
“Whilst shamefully and repeatedly failing to throw out antisemites and racists, and at the same time ensure huge numbers of people receive their ballots in a leadership election, they have instead found spurious grounds to try to stop a renowned anti-racism campaigner from voting who incidentally has also been critical of the Labour Party they run.”
Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said in a paper called The Trial: the strange case of Trevor Phillips, published by the Policy Exchange think tank today: “It was with no small measure of astonishment that I learnt that my own party, the Labour Party, had initiated proceedings against Trevor Phillips on grounds of ‘racism’ and ‘Islamophobia’.
“The charges are so outlandish as to bring disrepute on all involved in making them; and I fear they further add to the sense that we, as a party, have badly lost our way.”
Mr Phillips has been suspended over public statements he made that include expressing concerns about Pakistani Muslim men sexually abusing children in northern towns such as Rotherham.
Comments by Mr Phillips about the failure by some Muslims to wear poppies for Remembrance Sunday and the sympathy shown by a substantial proportion in an opinion poll towards the “motives” of the Charlie Hebdo killers also form part of the complaint.
Mr Phillips told Today on BBC Radio 4 this morning: “I’m surprised about what is and always has been an open and democratic party deciding that its members cannot have healthy debate about how we address differences of values and outlooks.
“Let us be clear about this. They say I’m accusing Muslims of being different. Well, actually, that’s true. Muslims are different and, in many ways, I think that’s admirable.”
A Labour Party spokeswoman said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints about Islamophobia extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”