Chakrabarti denies anti-Semitism code 'sullied' by extra statement

Media caption,
Labour MPs Margaret Hodge and Shami Chakrabarti discuss the future of Labour and Jewish relations

Critics of Labour over anti-Semitism should "come back into the room" now it has changed its guidelines, Baroness Chakrabarti says.

The shadow attorney general defended extra wording added to an international definition of anti-Semitism, which has now been adopted in full.

The statement says the definition and examples should not undermine free speech on Israel.

Critics say the new code has been "sullied" by the extra wording.

Separately, Labour MPs held their own vote to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition in full, with no caveats, by 205 votes to eight, with 12 spoiled ballots.

The extra statement to the code adopted by the National Executive Committee says that "this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians".

Baroness Chakrabarti, who carried out a review into anti-Semitism in Labour for Jeremy Corbyn, told the Today programme: "There was no sullying.

"The words were not a caveat, were not a dilution. The words are true, which is that accepting these examples, in my view, in no way negates reasonable free speech around these difficult issues around Israel and Palestine."

After the executive meeting on Tuesday night, it emerged that Mr Corbyn had proposed a more detailed statement - which would have allowed criticism of the foundation of the state of Israel as racist - a move described as "deeply concerning" by one of his critics.

Mr Corbyn's longer wording was not accepted by the executive committee.

Asked if she thought it was acceptable to describe the circumstances around the foundation of the state of Israel as racist, Lady Chakrabarti said: "It depends how you do it. People have called Britain racist.

"There has to be a space for disagreement in a reasonable way, otherwise we cannot move forward around one of the biggest geopolitical problems of my lifetime."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Rival protesters gathered outside Labour's headquarters as its senior officials discussed the issue

By the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg

Perhaps this marks the beginning of the end of this sorry mess. But what makes an early resolution tricky is the caveat that Labour has included alongside.

It will be important to many of Mr Corbyn's supporters who want the right to criticise Israel.

But for those campaigning against anti-Semitism, it still sends a message that Labour might want to make exceptions, that the party is saying "yes, but", rather than "yes, of course", to loud demands from the Jewish community that they take the strongest action possible against those who would foment tension.

The adoption of all of the examples of anti-Semitism cited by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance comes after a long-running row about the party's code of conduct.

The previous version, adopted in July, was criticised for not including, in full, all of the examples in the IHRA version.

In a message to Mr Corbyn's critics, including some Labour MPs and Jewish community leaders, Baroness Chakrabarti added: "We have accepted these examples. It took so long because of genuine anxieties - however misplaced - about free speech on one of the most intractable problems in the world.

"Come back into the room. I will open the door. I will put the kettle on. But come back into the room because it's time for reasonable debate."

But one critic, MP Dame Margaret Hodge, said it appeared that Mr Corbyn had sought a "get-out clause" from the IHRA wording and that his had "sullied" its adoption.

She said the leader "now has to own the problem, he has to act and he has to start rebuilding trust".