Co-bylined with Camilla Turner
Labour is no worse than any other party when it comes to anti-Semitism, Shami Chakrabarti has claimed, adding that her report is more respected within the Party because she is an “insider”.
The Shadow Attorney General said the debate on anti-Semitism has been “weaponised”, which she suggested was part of a wider “civil war” within Labour.
Baroness Chakrabarti, whose report was branded a “whitewash” by critics after clearing the Party of anti-Semitism, said she had no regrets about announcing her affiliation to Labour while presiding over the review.
Speaking at the Oxford Union on Wednesday night, she said: “The problem that I was asked to look at was a problem inside our party.
“I thought it was quite important that there were people in the Labour Party, some of whom needed to change their conduct, their behaviour and their attitudes, knew that it was coming from an insider.”
She added: “It’s too easy to diminish criticism as coming from the outside or from someone who is politically suspect, and I have finished my cross party job, I was going to do this anyway, and my view was that change has to come from within.”
Ms Chakrabarti, former director of Liberty, the civil liberties group, was asked by Jeremy Corbyn to look into claims of anti-Semitism in Labour after the suspension of Naz Shah, an MP, and Ken Livingstone, a former London mayor.
The report, which Ms Chakrabarti published in the summer, found the party was not overrun by anti-Semitism or other forms of racism, but there was an “occasionally toxic atmosphere”.
Addressing an audience of around 200 students in the Oxford Union debate chamber, she said: “By the way, I don’t believe that Labour is much worse than any other party, but I’m not getting into the competition.”
She went on: “I’m saying to my fellow Labour Party members, there’s some work to do here. And I’m saying it in a moment when I know that the debate is to some extent weaponised.
“People within any political party, and I’ve been learning this in recent times as a new member of a political party, will hunker down and say that every criticism is from the outside, every criticism is from an opponent, because that’s what people do, in a civil war, or where there’s a war going on.”
Earlier this year it emerged that Jeremy Corbyn had given Ms Chakrabarti, civil liberties campaigner, a peerage weeks after she published a report that cleared the Labour Party of anti-Semitism.
The decision by Mr Corbyn to offer a peerage to Ms Chakrabarti so near to the publication of her report was described as “appalling” by Labour MP John Mann.
Last month, Wes Streeting MP called on the Labour peer to set out clearly when she was made aware that her name was on a longlist of peers drawn up by Mr Corbyn and when the Labour leader first spoke to her about the honour.
It came after claims that Baroness Chakrabarti was aware that she could be given a peerage before she was invited to investigate allegations of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the party.
The shadow attorney general has strongly denied the claims and a spokesman for Mr Corbyn has said the first conversation between the pair about the peerage came after the report was concluded.