Labour anti-Semitism whistleblowers vow to SUE the party for claiming they took part in damning Panorama expose to damage Corbyn
- Labour has been reeling from Panorama expose about handling of anti-Semitism
- Party tried to dismiss whistlebowers as motivated by harming Jeremy Corbyn
- Two former officials are now threatening to sue the party for defaming them
Labour anti-Semitism whistleblowers today threatened to sue the party for suggesting they were motivated by damaging Jeremy Corbyn.
Former officials Sam Matthews and Louise Withers Green said they had been defamed by Labour in its response to a bombshell Panorama explose.
The damning programme – shown on Wednesday – included claims that senior figures, including general secretary Jennie Formby, interfered in anti-Semitism investigations.
Deputy leader Tom Watson described the allegations as ‘chilling’ and demanded action from the party.
But Labour hit back by insisting the allegations came from ‘disaffected former officials’ opposed to Mr Corbyn’s leadership who had ‘personal and political axes to grind’, casting doubt on their ‘credibility’ as sources.
The whistleblowers have now upped the ante by accusing the party of trying to ‘destroy reputations’.
Veteran MP Margaret Hodge today branded the reaction to the documentary ‘deplorable’, saying the leadership appeared ‘doggedly determined’ to avoid tackling the issues.
Meanwhile, Labour backbencher Rosie Duffield has warned that the party is ‘institutionally anti-Semitic’ and urgent change was needed.
Former officials Sam Matthews and Louise Withers Green said they had been defamed by Labour in its response to a bombshell Panorama explose
Labour claimed the allegations in Panorama were made by ‘disaffected former officials’ opposed to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn (pictured last week)
Mark Lewis, the media lawyer acting for the pair, told The Observer: ‘These are very serious libels.
‘Those representing the Labour party have acted in a way that set out to destroy the reputations of the whistleblowers.
Labour MPs condemn treatment of staffers who blow whistle on anti-Semitism
Yvette Cooper is among 28 Labour MPs who have signed a letter condemning the party’s treatment of anti-Semitism whistleblowers.
The Home Affairs committee chair and her colleagues on the Tribune group said they were ‘shocked’ by the revelations in the Panorama documentary.
‘We support former employees in speaking out and commend their bravery in doing so,’ the letter said.
‘The Labour Party has always and always will support whistle blowers in coming forward when they are concerned about wrongdoing.
‘We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and with Jewish members of the Labour Party in these very difficult circumstances. It is totally unacceptable that Jewish members no longer feel welcome or safe in the Labour Party.’
‘In their effort to destroy these people, they have left it for the courts to decide who is telling the truth.
‘It is ironic that the bosses at the workers’ party have decided to go against the workers.’
Mr Matthews and Ms Withers Green – who broke non-disclosure agreements to speak out – were among eight former party employees featured in the programme.
Mr Matthews told The Observer: ‘The Labour party is choosing to ignore the central charges of anti-Semitism raised by myself and other whistleblowers on Panorama, and instead, they have engaged in a concerted campaign to damage my name.’
Ms Withers Green told the paper she was ‘incredibly disappointed’ that the party had not taken action on the issues raised in the programme.
‘This should be a stark wake-up call about our collective duty to root out racism. But instead the party has used its full weight to discredit us, with untrue, libellous statements,’ she said.
Labour denied the comments were defamatory and said it would contest any legal action.
‘These are justified statements of opinion. Any claims will be vigorously defended,’ a spokesman said.
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson (pictured) described the allegations as ‘chilling’ and demanded action from the party
Labour backbencher Rosie Duffield has warned that the party is ‘institutionally anti-Semitic’ and urgent change was needed
Labour has continued to contest the Panorama findings, with Mr Corbyn claiming it contained ‘many, many inaccuracies’.
In a speech to the Durham Miners’ Gala on Saturday, he said: ‘The programme adopted a pre-determined position on its own website before it was broadcast.’
As tensions escalate within the party, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey launched a blistering attack on Mr Watson for criticising Ms Formby for her handling of the issue while she was undergoing treatment for cancer.
‘I have a simple message for Tom Watson and his pals in the media – a simple message to Tom and his pals: You should f****** well be ashamed of yourselves,’ he said to cheers from the crowd at Durham Racecourse.
‘Jennie, our message to you is that the Durham Miners’ Gala stands with you.’
Ms Duffield, MP for Canterbury, was asked on the BBC’s Politics South East programme today whether she agreed that Labour was ‘institutionally anti-Semitic’.
‘I am afraid it probably is true,’ she said. ‘We absolutely have to deal with this urgently now. No more excuses, no more kicking it into the long grass.’