Peerage for Shami Chakrabarti provides new attack line against her leader

Written by Tom Smithard on 5 August 2016 in Diary
Diary

Anti-Corbyn MPs criticise peerage just weeks after the civil liberties campaigner presides over a "whitewash" into Labour anti-Semitism.

Shami Chakrabarti’s elevation to the Lords last night raises fresh questions over Jeremy Corbyn’s integrity – but also continues the trend for high-profile advocates to enter parliament.

Anti-Corbyn MPs are using the confirmation of the civil liberties campaigner’s peerage as a new stick to beat him with, given the Labour leader previously said he would not nominate anyone to the Lords.

He made the pledge during his leadership campaign last year but changed his mind after asking the former director of Liberty to chair an inquiry into anti-Semitism within Labour, which reported back earlier this summer.

But today the Board of Deputies of British Jews slammed the report, its vice president Marie van der Zyl describing it as a “whitewash”:

“It is beyond disappointing that Shami Chakrabarti has been offered, and accepted, a peerage from Labour following her so-called 'independent' inquiry. The report, which was weak in several areas, now seems to have been rewarded with an honour. This 'whitewash for peerages' is a scandal that surely raises serious questions about the integrity of Ms Chakrabarti, her inquiry and the Labour leadership.”

Labour MPs have been just as forthright. Wes Streeting wrote today: “She may be one of the country’s leading campaigners for civil liberties, but we shouldn’t pretend that everything about the timing and nature of this appointment doesn’t stink.”

While Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader, distanced himself from the decision in an interview on Radio 4’s Today:

“I wasn't aware, I wasn't consulted on whether Shami was going in. I didn't know we'd provided citations for this particular round, and I do think it's a mistake."

A spokesman for Corbyn defended the appointment, saying: “Shami Chakrabarti shares Jeremy’s ambition for reform of the House of Lords. Her career has been one of public service and human rights advocacy. Her legal and campaigning skills, and the trust that she has gained from many ordinary Britons, will be a considerable asset to the House of Lords.”

Chakrabarti is the latest high-profile advocate to enter parliament, with two former directors of public prosecution also taking party whips: Keir Starmer on the green benches for Labour, Ken Macdonald on the red benches for the Liberal Democrats.

Other big-name transfers into Westminster include Ros Altmann, the former Saga director general who took a peerage last year to become pensions minister, resigning last month.

In 2010 a host of well-known faces entered into the Commons. Tristam Hunt swapped his celebrity historian status for the Labour education brief, Gloria de Piero arrived from GMTV along with former breakfast presenter Esther McVey, who lost her seat last year. The highest profile arrival though was chick-lit author Louise Bagshawe – who lasted a mere two years before quitting parliament to move back to New York.

Picture by: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/Press Association Images

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