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THE Labour Party is taking legal action against a renegade former employee, who it accuses of leaking a “substantial volume” of confidential information to media outlets including the Mail.
The move will be welcomed by loyal party members who are fed up with insider leaks and comes as a reactionary smear campaign seems set to intensify on Wednesday night with the inflammatory BBC Panorama show “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?”.
A Labour spokesman has warned that Panorama interviewed “disaffected former officials including those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively undermine it, and have both personal and political axes to grind.”
Panorama has said: “We are confident the programme will adhere to the BBC’s editorial guidelines.”
The controversial programme is expected to air allegations by Sam Matthews, who spent two years as head of Labour’s disputes unit from 2016 to 2018, regarding numerous complaints about anti-Semitic members that he says were not acted on quickly enough.
His job was terminated just months after Corbyn ally Jennie Formby succeeded Iain McNicol as Labour’s general secretary in Spring 2018.
Ms Formby reorganised the disputes unit to make it more efficient. It led to Mr Matthews leaving his post in July 2018, when he signed a legally binding non-disclosure agreement with the party.
He is now accused by Labour’s lawyers of breaching that deal and leaking private “email exchanges” he had with colleagues.
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has criticised his own party for taking legal action.
But shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said it was important to stop former staff from leaking information in a “partisan way for political purposes.”
The emails leaked by Mr Matthews were quoted selectively by right-wing media outlets to accuse Mr Corbyn’s supporters of interfering with the party’s complaints process.
Other leaked emails from the unit appear to show that it was Mr Matthews himself who failed to handle complaints of anti-semitism.
Mr Matthews was sent evidence, a year before he left his post, of a Labour council candidate posting anti-semitic material.
Mr Matthews issued a “notice of investigation” but did not suspend the member.
Mr Matthews received more evidence months later indicating that the same member had posted an article on Facebook claiming that the Holocaust was a hoax.
Mr Matthews once again decided against a suspension.
It was only on March 22 2018, just days after Ms Formby was elected as general secretary, that Mr Matthews and his unit agreed to the member’s suspension.
He finally acted after concerns were raised by Laura Murray, a Corbyn aide, who wrote exasperatedly: “Should he not be suspended pending investigation?”
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