LABOUR’S decision to settle out of court with former employees who made allegations of anti-semitism to a BBC Panorama episode is, as Jeremy Corbyn points out, political.
Unite leader Len McCluskey makes it clear that the party’s advice was that it would win in court against the so-called whistleblowers.
He is right to draw attention to the leaked report on the party’s handling of anti-semitism complaints.
That report demonstrated in exhaustive detail the way in which the party leadership’s efforts to process allegations were undermined by members of staff hostile to Corbyn.
Individuals at party headquarters fed the leadership inaccurate statistics, sat on complaints for months and bombarded the leader’s office with emails asking for advice on handling cases – only to later point to replies as evidence that the leader was seeking to interfere in disciplinary matters. This is all now a matter of record.
Though Keir Starmer will claim the two are unrelated, the evidence that senior Labour staff were deliberately seeking to sabotage Corbyn’s leadership is directly relevant to the value of their testimony on the programme.
And the programme was not an example of the “fair and impartial reporting” that the BBC laughably claims to uphold in today’s self-righteous statement.
It presented accusations of anti-semitic behaviour from figures including Ella Rose, a former employee of the Israeli embassy, and Alex Richardson, then working for anti-Corbyn MP Joan Ryan, without divulging these affiliations to the audience. The “expert witness” Alan Johnson’s work for the British Israel Communications and Research Centre was not mentioned.
It was a hatchet job that illustrated “a collapse in journalistic standards at the BBC,” in the words of the Media Reform Coalition’s Justin Schlosberg.
Shadow attorney-general Lord Falconer says that settling means the party can “focus now not on litigation ... but on championing the things that matter to the public.”
Yet conceding the case in this way “risks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations,” as Corbyn states. It perpetuates a narrative – built up over years in the monopoly media – that Labour developed a significant anti-semitism problem under his leadership.
That narrative can be shown to be false. Labour members were not statistically more likely to hold anti-semitic views than the population at large, and were less likely to do so than Conservative Party members. The prevalence of anti-semitic views declined in Labour under Corbyn’s leadership.
Pointing out these facts usually draws accusations of indifference to addressing anti-semitism, which exists on the left as it does elsewhere. It should not be an excuse for inaction.
But ignoring them has given free rein to the malicious lie that Corbyn’s Labour was a haven for anti-semites that posed a threat to Jews. The purpose was to discredit the most consistent anti-racist ever to lead Labour and undermine the most prominent socialist movement Britain has seen for many decades.
By conceding to it Starmer is perpetuating a slander of tens of thousands of ordinary Labour members.
And he takes another step away from his leadership campaign pledges to maintain Labour’s socialist policies.
The party is “under new management,” Starmer said at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions when attacking Boris Johnson over the non-story that the government failed to investigate whether Russia interfered with the EU referendum.
The insinuation that Corbyn was beholden to Moscow revives another dishonest line of attack propounded by the Establishment media; while Starmer’s demand that Downing Street review broadcasting licences for Russia Today puts him on the side of increased state censorship and the suppression of non-mainstream opinion.
There is no need to endorse the channel to see the threat this poses to free media and the liberal elitism that inspires it. Brexit, like Corbynism, was a rude shock to the Establishment. Gullible commoners must have been duped by malign actors. We must not be exposed to such dangerous ideas again.
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