Labour set to formally apologise to seven antisemitism whistleblowers

Labour is set to formally apologise to seven antisemitism whistleblowers who appeared in BBC Panorama probe after they sued party for defamation

  • Labour will apologise to its former staffers who called out antisemitism 
  • The party looks set to settle the case, despite Jeremy Corbyn’s vow to defend 
  • BBC’s Panorama made allegations on Labour’s reaction to antisemitic abuse

Labour will make a formal apology to seven of its former staffers who called out antisemitism within the party in a BBC Panorama investigation last year.

The whistleblowers took legal action against the Labour party soon after the documentary aired last July, claiming senior figures in the party had made defamatory statements about their characters and motives.     

Now the party will apologise as part of a settlement, despite Jeremy Corbyn faithfuls accusing Keir Starmer of yielding to the former staff’s demands, reports The Guardian.

The programme, Is Labour Anti-Semitic?, made allegations surrounding Labour’s handling of antisemitic abuse within the party. 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer faced his first challenge as antisemitism row raged on. He’s pictured above jogging through the streets of north London, April 18

Panorama also claimed that Miss Formby attempted to interfere in the workings of the National Constitution Committee, (NCC) which decides if members are expelled following behaviour such as antisemitism.

Leaked email chains appeared to show that she tried to influence the selection of the panel for the case of Jackie Walker, a former vice-chairman of pro-Corbyn group Momentum, over claims of anti-Semitic comments.

On May 5 last year, Miss Formby wrote: ‘The NCC cannot be allowed to continue in the way they are and I will also be challenging the panel for the Jackie Walker case.’

Copied in were Mr Corbyn on his personal email address, director of communications Seamus Milne and Mr Corbyn’s chief of staff Karie Murphy.

Iain McNicol, Miss Formby’s predecessor as general secretary, told Panorama: ‘The emails you’ve shown me are really important… the issues that are raised should ring alarm bells across the party.’

A Labour spokesman said: ‘The party is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism.’ He added: ‘The leader’s office did not intervene. These former disaffected employees sought the view of staff in the leader’s office, which was complied with in good faith.

‘The emails… are simply about ensuring the NCC is held accountable.’

Now the party looks set to settle the case, despite Jeremy Corbyn (right) faithfuls accusing Keir Starmer (left) of yielding to the former staff’s demand

Former Labour staff who have taken legal action against the party now include former head of disputes Sam Matthews, former head of compliance Mike Creighton; former disputes team investigator Dan Hogan, and former disputes officer Louise Withers Green. An eighth staff member, former general secretary Iain McNicol, appeared on the programme but is not taking action.

A statement made by the Labour party, soon after the broadcast of the former staff’s allegations, accused them of having ‘political axes to grind’ with the party’s leader and of being ‘disaffected former officials’.  

Up until now 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 days after the show was aired Corbyn said: ‘The programme adopted a pre-determined position on its own website before it was broadcast.’

After a case was issued by the whistleblowers’ media lawyer Mark Lewis Labour continued to vehemently contest the allegations.

A spokesman for Labour said at the time: ‘These are justified statements of opinion. Any claims will be vigorously defended.’ 

It is believed legal advice offered to the party while Corbyn was leader stated that the party could win the case.

The Guardian spoke to one former member of its ruling national executive committee who said: ‘It was clear advice: we were told that the Labour party would win the Panorama case. Then Keir came in and he seems to have decided to settle.

‘If the legal advice has changed, it should be shared with the NEC, and they should be allowed to ask whether it is a good use of a significant sum of money.’  

The BBC stood by its decision to air the programme while Ofcom rejected 28 complaints claiming the programme was bias, Ofcom stated the programme had been ‘duly impartial’.

The move to settle the case against the whistleblowers comes as another separate case brought by Panorama’s presenter John Ware, who claims the party defamed him following the show, is reportedly likely to be settled.

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