UK's Labour faces risk of anti-Semitism probe by equality watchdog

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s opposition Labour Party must explain allegations of anti-Semitism that have been lodged against it, the country’s equality watchdog said on Thursday, escalating a crisis that contributed to lawmakers splitting from the party last month.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said it wanted to hear from Labour before deciding whether to launch a formal investigation.

Labour has faced accusations of anti-Semitism for over two years. Nine lawmakers quit the party last month citing the leadership’s handling of anti-Semitism in the party, as well as its Brexit stance, as their reason for leaving.

Last week, Labour suspended a lawmaker who is close to party leader Jeremy Corbyn and said it would investigate his conduct after remarks he made over the party’s handling of anti-Semitism accusations.

“Having received a number of complaints regarding anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, we believe the Labour Party may have unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs,” the commission said in a statement.

“Our concerns are sufficient for us to consider using our statutory enforcement powers … we are now engaging with the Labour Party to give them an opportunity to respond.”

A Labour spokesperson said the party rejected any suggestion that it acted unlawfully and would cooperate fully with the commission, which upholds Britain’s equality laws.

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