Jeremy Corbyn has set out new plans to ramp up the expulsion of antisemites from the Labour party to an emergency shadow cabinet meeting, though the proposal does not include independent oversight as demanded by senior MPs.
The proposal, which has been backed by the shadow cabinet, came before a potentially restive meeting of MPs on Monday night, at which several were expected to confront the Labour leader on the issue.
Earlier, Labour peers decided to halt a proposed no-confidence vote in the Labour leader, but sources in the Lords said they could resurrect the plan in September.
Corbyn told the shadow cabinet before a crunch meeting of the party’s ruling body on Tuesday that a new rule would refer members who had clearly committed the most egregious offences to a new panel of officials with the power to immediately expel them.
In a joint statement, the shadow cabinet backed Corbyn’s plan but said it also “supports the proposal to introduce independent oversight of our processes”.
The Guardian understands that any independent oversight was not part of Corbyn’s proposal, though a source said it was “under discussion and consideration”.
Labour released new figures on Monday, briefed by the general secretary, Jennie Formby, to the shadow cabinet, revealing it had referred 97 members to the national constitutional committee (NCC), the party’s highest disciplinary body, for possible expulsion since January, with an additional 41 given warnings and 49 given reminders of conduct.
Speaking in shadow cabinet, Corbyn said that complaints had often taken too long to deal with. “This is not good enough,” he said. “Our members don’t want to share their party with anyone who is racist – and they want to be able to demonstrate there is no place for antisemitism among them.
“Some of the hate and bigotry displayed on social media would count as gross misconduct in any workplace and must be treated similarly robustly in the Labour party.”
The party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, and the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, have both called for automatic expulsion for antisemitism in the wake of last week’s BBC Panorama programme when eight whistleblowers gave damning verdicts on the party’s disciplinary process.
Many Labour MPs have also said they back a more radical shift to an entirely independent complaints process.
Several national executive committee members, including Watson, proposed changes last week to instal an independent appointee with the power to automatically expel members for racism, antisemitism, homophobia, sexism or transphobia.
The change proposed by Corbyn on Monday would not give that independent oversight but would cut out the need to refer members to the NCC where hearings can take months, sometimes even years, to take place.
A Labour source said there were significant obstacles to giving independent oversight to the disciplinary process. “No other political party or trade union has outsourced its complaints process,” the source said. “It is unclear how it could logistically work and comply with our responsibilities under data protection legislation. It could also threaten the jobs of hardworking staff who have taken swift and robust action on cases.”
Corbyn’s preferred plan would mean those offences that met the criteria would instead be referred swiftly to a special panel including the general secretary and NEC officers.
Corbyn told the shadow cabinet that defining what constituted “an extreme case of hate and bigotry is of course a sensitive and complex area” and said the NEC would examine that in detail.
Speaking at the meeting, he said the party was “not immune” from racism within its ranks. “It is wrong to deny there is antisemitism in the Labour party. And those who deny that it does exist are part of the problem. We have to stand for a serious, anti-racist, inclusive socialism,” he said.
Corbyn insisted the party had done a lot of work to improve its disciplinary process. The party said there had been complaints against 625 Labour members, some receiving multiple complaints, but the party had also received complaints about 658 people who were not current members.
However, the figures also suggested that just 28 of those cases had been dealt with by the NCC, resulting in eight expulsions, three suspensions, four warnings and one not guilty finding. Twelve of those referred to the NCC had left the party of their own accord. The equivalent period in 2018 saw just 10 cases heard and seven expulsions.
“Publishing this data demonstrates the Labour party’s commitment to transparency in its efforts to root out bigotry and racism, going far beyond any other political party,” a Labour spokesman said.
“We are swiftly suspending individuals and the rate at which antisemitism cases are dealt with has increased more than four-fold since Jennie Formby became general secretary. These figures provide a complete and accurate picture and demonstrate that we are taking decisive and robust action against antisemitism.”
At their meeting on Monday, more than 80 Labour peers agreed not to take a symbolic no-confidence vote in Corbyn, which had been prompted by an advert in the Guardian signed by several dozen Labour peers suggesting Corbyn had made Jews unwelcome in the party.
“We want to give Jeremy Corbyn a message that he must taken action at the NEC tomorrow to include a fully independent complaints process and automatic expulsion where evidence of antisemitism by members is undeniable,” one Lords source said. “If he doesn’t support action on antisemitism, this vote will go ahead in September.”