The Labour Party has made a formal apology – and paid out a six-figure sum – to former staffers who contributed to the infamous Panorama programme about Labour’s so-called ‘instiutional anti-semitism’.
This settlement with seven ex-employees and journalist John Ware, who led the ‘investigation’, was announced in court today. Party representatives were present “to apologise unreservedly” on behalf of Labour.
The former staffers had been looking to sue the party for ‘defamation’ and ‘libel’. They claim that senior Labour figures had publicly attacked their motivations for appearing in the scandalous BBC programme.
Papers like the Guardian have described these bureaucrats as ‘whistleblowers’ – a term with heroic associations. But these individuals are far from heroic.
Several of them have been named in the Labour leaked report; implicated in the plot to undermine Corbyn and sabotage the chances of a Labour election victory. And yet they were employed – with activists’ membership fees – precisely in order to help secure a Labour win.
By issuing an apology and paying them off, Keir Starmer and the Labour right-wingers want to bury the story. And it is not hard to see why. They do not want to go down a path that would reveal that these individuals are not the innocent parties they claimed to be in the Panorama programme.
Instead, by apologising and settling the claim, the right wing wants to ‘draw a line’ under the defamation case and brush the whole scandal under the carpet.
This is utterly shameful – and yet not remotely surprising – behaviour from Starmer and the new Labour leadership. They should not be apologising to these treacherous ex-staffers, nor using party funds to pay them. This is a slap in the face to grassroots members; a move designed purely to discredit and embarrass the Corbyn movement.
Jeremy Corbyn and his former director of communications Seamus Milne are reported to be considering a legal challenge to this outrageous settlement. As Corbyn has correctly stated on social media: “The Party’s decision to apologise today and make substantial payments to former staff...is a political decision, not a legal one.”
The simple narrative that Starmer and the Labour right wing have been working with is that the left are entirely to blame for an influx of anti-semitism into the party. This line of attack culminated in the recent sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey, the one remaining significant left-winger in the shadow cabinet, on trumped up charges of anti-semitism.
But the leaked report upsets this whole argument and is a cause of discomfort for Starmer. It shows that, in fact, it was the right-wing cabal operating within Labour HQ who actively ignored genuine cases of anti-semitism in order to make the left leadership look inept.
The emails and WhatsApp messages are fully detailed in the report. A number of the people named are among those who had threatened to sue the party for defamation – the so-called ‘whistleblowers’.
The leaked report – officially entitled The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014-2019 – was produced at the behest of Jenny Formby, Labour’s general secretary at the time. It was to be a part of the party’s submission to the investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into supposed ‘institutional anti-semitism’ within Labour.
A government funded body, the EHRC is meant to be impartial. Yet whilst showing indecent haste in looking into these charges against Labour, this ‘independent’ body has consistently ignored a comprehensive dossier detailing institutional racism within the Conservative Party, put forward by the Muslim Council of Britain.
The EHRC’s report on the findings of its anti-semitism investigation was recently sent to Labour for the party’s review. No doubt this too will be leaked at a time most appropriate for the establishment and the Labour right wing. Although inside sources suggest that the contents are not as critical of Corbyn and his staff as right-wingers would have hoped.
The leaked Labour report has rightly provoked outrage amongst ordinary party members. Such was the backlash that the party’s new leadership was forced to launch the Forde Inquiry.
But this is rightly viewed by grassroots activists as a whitewash. Its remit, for example, is mostly concerned with the circumstances of the leak, rather than the criminal behaviour of the right wing. And the inquiry’s panel is a rogue’s gallery of ex-officials, party grandees, and Labour Lords, including Baron Larry Whitty, an arch-Blairite and former general secretary under Kinnock.
The panel was meant to rule on the validity of the report’s contents by 15 July. But this has now been pushed back until September. In all likelihood, the right wing will attempt to kick the whole question into the long grass, hoping that the issue will eventually blow over.
Many left-wing activists are understandably considering ripping up their membership cards in protest against the rightward shift in the party led by Starmer. The new leadership’s indifference towards the scandalous racism and bullying detailed in the leaked Labour report has no doubt added to this disgust.
But it is important that we learn the real lesson from these events: the left needs to be equally ruthless as the right. Attempts to appease the Blairite saboteurs in the name of party ‘unity’ have not worked.
The ‘unity’ we need is one based not on compromises with the right, but on grassroots members, around a clear socialist programme. The Labour Party still has over 500,000 members – the majority of whom support the last two radical manifestos. We must organise to stop the right from dragging the party backwards to Blairism.
As lockdown eases, the party’s democractic structures will reactivate at local level. We must seize this opportunity to mobilise and fight the careerists in the Parliamentary Labour Party and the right-wing bureaucracy in Labour HQ.