Could Chakrabarti Be On Corbyn’s Frontbench?

By Tamara Cohen, Political Correspondent

Shami Chakrabarti may be appointed to Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench when she joins the House of Lords.

The human rights campaigner has been engulfed in an honours storm after the Labour leader nominated her for a peerage, shortly after she did an “independent” report into anti-Semitism in his party.

The report – described as a “whitewash” by critics – concluded that Labour was “not overrun” by anti-Semitism or other forms of racism, despite an “occasionally toxic atmosphere”.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn did not deny she may be asked to serve in his shadow justice team – which has several vacancies after the recent wave of resignations.

The aide said: “There are vacancies. It is not something that’s being discussed at the moment, but I can’t rule it out.”

Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has led fierce condemnation of the decision to elevate her to the House of Lords, saying it left the credibility of her report “in tatters”.

Miss Chakrabarti, a highly respected lawyer and the former director of pressure group Liberty, has been accused of suppressing an interview with Mr Corbyn in the document published on June 30.

The report concluded that Labour was “not overrun” by anti-Semitism or other forms of racism, despite an “occasionally toxic atmosphere”.

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In an interview with a Jewish TV channel last month Miss Chakrabarti admitted she had interviewed Mr Corbyn during the course of her inquiry about why he famously described leaders of Hamas as his “friends” during an event he hosted in Parliament.

She had concluded it was “an attempt to be inclusive” during a “difficult meeting”, but said she chose not to mention their discussion in her report at all saying: “I was not adjudicating on Mr Corbyn or his leadership, or any other individual in the party. I felt it was for him to make those statements publicly”, she told J-TV.

Keith Vaz wants to know when Shami Chakrabarti was offered a peerage

The campaigner said she believed the Labour leader’s answers to be “genuine”.

But Labour MP John Mann called for her to publish the transcript of the interview in order to be transparent.

When asked if she had been offered or would accept a peerage during the TV interview on July 14, Miss Chakrabarti said: “I don’t know whether I want to talk about my future ambitions… You can ask the question but I’m going to evade it at this point.”

Keith Vaz, the senior Labour MP who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee – which is also carrying out an inquiry into anti-Semitism – said he had written to Miss Chakrabarti to ask when she was offered the peerage.

He said it would “seriously prejudice” the inquiry it if transpired the offer was made during the inquiry.

Mr Vaz told Sky News: “We were told that this was an independent inquiry and if it transpired that Shami Chakrabarti was offered her peerage before she was appointed or during the time she was appointed to conduct that inquiry then we needed to have been told.”

Chief Rabbi Mirvis, who rarely intervenes in politics, tweeted on Thursday: “Shami Chakrabarti has a proud record of public service, but in accepting this peerage, the credibility of her report lies in tatters and the Labour Party’s stated intention, to unequivocally tackle anti-Semitism remains woefully unrealised.”

Ms Chakrabarti led Liberty until earlier this year and has been one of the country’s leading human rights campaigners for the last 15 years, working across party lines on civil rights issues.

She was appointed to lead an independent inquiry into claims of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party following the suspension of MP Naz Shah and ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone.

The report was criticised by Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush as ”weak on the demonisation of Israel” and for omitting “any mention of party figures who have displayed friendship towards terrorists”.

It did not mention Mr Livingstone – who claimed Adolf Hitler was a Zionist – or Miss Shah who made anti-Semitic remarks on social media.

Mr Corbyn defended her nomination to the Lords while on the leadership campaign trail.

He said: “She will make a great contribution to the House of Lords for two reasons. One, she’s a brilliant lawyer who will bring those skills to the House of Lords and secondly, she’s committed to the abolition of the House of Lords and its replacement with a democratically elected assembly, otherwise I wouldn’t have dreamt of supporting her nomination.”

Miss Chakrabarti has been contacted for comment on her potential frontbench appointment.

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