Labour Antisemitism Row Becomes Crisis

Even before last Wednesday’s broadcast of the BBC Panorama programme on antisemitism within the Labour Party, one whistleblower received a letter from a lawyer, the Labour Party demanded the BBC’s Director General ‘suspend and reconsider the planned broadcast’ and campaign group Momentum conducted a pre-emptive strike on the programme’s presenter John Ware.

When the programme was broadcast, the reasons for these actions became obvious. The programme levelled serious charges against the party, most important of which was that senior people close to Jeremy Corbyn, including the party’s General Secretary, Jennie Formby, interfered in the disciplinary process.

Momentum’s pre-emptive action took place on the day of the broadcast. The campaign group tweeted a video accusing the BBC of being biased against Mr Corbyn. The video claimed that:

“Tonight’s episode of Panorama is attacking Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.
But questions have been raised about the impartiality of the show’s producer, John Ware.”

Screenshot of Momentum tweet


Later on a spokesman for the Labour Party attacked the former officials who were interviewed in the programme, saying:

“It appears these disaffected former officials include those who have always opposed
Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively undermine it, and have both personal
and political axes to grind … This throws into doubt their credibility as sources.”

That counterattack seems to have plunged Labour deeper into trouble. Two of the former officials who criticised the party’s handling of cases of alleged antisemitism are now planning to take legal action against it.

Sam Matthews and Louise Withers Green, who both featured in the Panorama investigation, believe they were defamed by Labour in its response to their allegations. Their lawyer, Mark Lewis, 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.”

Ms Withers Green said:

“I am incredibly disappointed that the Labour party has not reflected on
or engaged with the troubling situation of inaction on anti-Jewish hatred
that fellow whistleblowers and I have raised."

“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.”

Then on Sunday, Emily Thornberry spoke passionately about the issue, saying to the BBC’s Andrew Marr that she wanted the party to sort this out. Crucially, she acknowledged that Labour must heed “the message” on antisemitism, not attack the “messengers”.

Emilly Thornberry speaking to Andrew MarrEmilly Thornberry speaking to Andrew Marr

She also admitted that:

“Nobody can pretend there isn’t an ongoing problem within the Labour Party
with antisemitism, about our processes for dealing with it”.

And now several Labour peers have written to Jeremy Corbyn, condemning the party’s decision to attack former Labour staff who took part in the Panorama programme and calling on him to do more to tackle the party’s “endemic” antisemitism problem

They also echoed Tom Watson’s call for Labour’s evidence to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to be made public. The EHRC is investigating alleged discrimination by the party against Jews.