Labour will apologise in court today for claiming whistle-blowers who criticised Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism were ‘disaffected former staff’ with ‘personal and political axes’ to grind
- Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party will make a formal apology to whistleblowers
- Move as part of a settlement is a clear breach with policy under Jeremy Corbyn
- Whistleblowers sued party for defamation after BBC Panorama probe last year
Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is today set to make a formal apology to anti-Semitism whistleblowers in a clear breach with the policy under Jeremy Corbyn.
The move is part of a settlement designed to draw a line under allegations made during his predecessor’s leadership that the party had allowed the overt hatred of Jewish people to fester.
The whistleblowers sued the party for defamation after a bombshell BBC Panorama investigation last year – and this will be settled in the High Court today.
Sir Keir Starmer (left) and Jeremy Corbyn at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton in 2017
It comes nine days after Labour received a copy of a long-awaited report into whether it victimised Jews during the Corbyn years.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s draft conclusions have not yet been made public, but insiders expect them to be ‘damning’.
The watchdog said when it launched its official inquiry last May that it ‘suspected’ that Labour had committed ‘unlawful acts’ in its handling of its anti-Semitism crisis.
The BBC Panorama investigation, ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’ was screened in July last year and made a number of serious claims about the party’s internal culture for dealing with complaints of anti-Semitism.
In a statement when the programme was broadcast, a Labour spokesman – acting for Mr Corbyn – called the whistleblowers ‘disaffected former officials’ and said they had ‘worked actively to undermine’ the leader and had ‘both personal and political axes to grind’.
Both Mr Corbyn and the Momentum founder, Jon Lansman, also suggested in statements following the programme that it had a pre-determined outcome.
Following those statements, seven of the eight whistleblowers, who are all former Labour staffers, instructed the prominent media lawyer Mark Lewis to take action against the party.
They claimed senior figures had issued statements attacking their reputations and suggesting they had ulterior political and personal motives to undermine the party.
Among the former Labour staffers taking action are the former head of disputes Sam Matthews; the former head of compliance Mike Creighton; Dan Hogan, a former disputes team investigator; and Louise Withers Green, a former disputes officer.
Iain McNicol, the former general secretary who was the eighth interviewee on the programme, is not involved in the action.
It is understood a formal apology has been requested from the party, to be read in open court.
Labour is expected to settle a separate case with the veteran journalist John Ware, who led the Panorama investigation and who sued over a statement by Labour that the BBC had engaged in ‘deliberate and malicious representations designed to mislead the public’ in its broadcast.
Ofcom rejected 28 complaints against the programme for alleged bias, concluding that the programme was ‘duly impartial’ and included the Labour party’s response prominently throughout.
Last month Sir Keir told his hard-left former leadership rival Rebecca Long-Bailey to resign after she retweeted an online interview which contained an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
There was fury over a passage in Maxine Peake’s offending article where the actress said the US police had learned the tactics that killed George Floyd from the Israel secret services.