Jeremy Corbyn faced a fresh crisis last night after it emerged that one of his closest allies had declined to suspend a Labour member accused of anti- semitism and racially abusing a mixed-race employee.
Thomas Gardiner, Labour’s head of governance and legal, is also the subject of a complaint by a party employee about his management style.
The news comes on the eve of an emergency meeting of the parliamentary Labour Party, where MPs will challenge Corbyn over his personal failure to tackle discrimination against Jews and tell him the issue could cost him his leadership.
Leaked emails reveal that in January, Gardiner chose not to sanction a Corbyn supporter who allegedly said Labour MPs had a phone app that sent instructions from the Israeli Government.
The individual, a white man in his fifties, also allegedly described the former Labour MP Chuka Umunna as “black on the outside, blue on the inside”, before responding to an objection from a mixed-race staffer by saying: “You would say that, wouldn’t you?”.
Labour’s disciplinary unit, run by Gardiner, did not respond to a complaint about the incident for five months, citing an admin error and a “huge influx of cases”. It acted only after the mixed-race staffer said he was “concerned and disappointed” by the delay and could be racially abused at future events.
In an email dated January 2 this year, one of Gardiner’s aides wrote: “Thomas made a decision for a notice of investigation to be issued rather than a suspension. So this means the respondent is able to attend party meetings etc.” A further email stated: “Your comments below about anticipating further abuse will be passed on to the investigating officer.”
The individual remained a party member and posted incendiary material online, including an article in April saying Israel had been responsible for 9/11 and an illustration of an aeroplane emblazoned with the star of David heading for the World Trade Center.
A Labour source said Gardiner did not suspend the individual because his alleged remarks took place in person rather than online, so more investigation was required. Gardiner suspended him in April after the more recent online posts.
The Sunday Times is choosing not to identify the man because he has become terminally ill. He said he had not been notified of his suspension but that if it was true he would now fulfil his lifelong ambition of joining the Communist Party.
It is not the first time that Gardiner has come under pressure over his handling of anti-semitism. In March it emerged he had declined to suspend a woman who posted a far-right image of the Statue of Liberty being suffocated by an alien with the star of David on its back, saying it was only “anti-Israel”. He was also accused of “bullying” in his role as a councillor in Camden last year. He denies the claim.
The staff member who recently complained about Gardiner’s management is on leave and has not yet submitted a full statement to HR about their experience. They are in talks about a payoff. It is understood Gardiner has not been informed about the details of the claims.
Separately, the Labour MP Wes Streeting has compiled research showing more than a dozen shadow cabinet members have said nothing in response to the BBC Panorama programme on anti-semitism.
Tomorrow he will tell the shadow cabinet, alongside Ruth Smeeth, a Jewish MP, and John Mann, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on anti-semitism: “Collectively, you are the leadership of the Labour Party. It is time for you to step up to the mark.”
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