Antisemitism is a deadly serious issue – but ‘allegations’ relating mostly to actions of old, right-wing regime and some as thin as ‘interpretations’ and disagreements about definitions do nothing to help the fight against it
Information on the claims to be broadcast in this evening’s Panorama attack on the Labour Party reveals a distinct lack of substance in the programme’s claims – and the distinct misdirection of attempting to use it against the current administration.
In fact most relate to the party’s old right-wing regime under its unlamented former general secretary, Iain McNicol – and those that don’t are as thin and insubstantial as someone being grumpy or a disgruntled ex-staffer’s ‘interpretation’ of an email.
A BBC article published minutes ago reveals what the programme offers in terms of support for its much-trailed ‘revelations’, saying of the supposed whistleblowers – who almost all quit the party as soon as Jennie Formby was appointed to replace McNicol and the rest soon after:
Dealing with the ‘claims’ in order:
Angry and obstructive
Apart from being so entirely subjective – and so unverifiable – an assessment as to be meaningless, these poor, sensitive ex-staffers seem to have been upset at a grumpy response from overworked aides in the leader’s office.
Many of the same ex-staff, incidentally, were more than happy to participate enthusiastically in the suspension of members during successive ‘purges‘ of left members before each of the two leadership elections.
Many of those same ‘whistleblowers’ were also so determined not to contribute to any solutions that they quit as soon as their old boss was replaced. One quoted by the BBC, Sam Matthews, managed to cling on for around three months and then quit.
Most crucially, departing ex-staffers also destroyed thousands of documents relating to complaints, while taking copies to release to the media, hampering Labour’s attempts to deal with them.
Corbyn’s aides may well have had ample reason to be angry and uncooperative toward those ex-staffers.
Overruled decisions, slap on the wrist
Again, context is key. Right-wing staff under McNicol were recommending summary expulsions and the referral of cases to the NCC (Labour’s ultimate disciplinary committee) that were found to be without evidence or substance.
Shami Chakrabarti’s report on the handling of antisemitism cases made recommendations to the party that were meant to be completely implemented by the McNicol regime. The report specifically stated that offences of varying seriousness should be handled in a range of ways. In a section on sanctions for members found in breach, the report states:
In the event of a member being found in breach, the NCC should be encouraged to consider greater use of a wide and creative range of sanctions. These may include a warning, the requirement for apologies and/or some other form of sensitive reparation to another member or person or persons, a public warning or reprimand, suspension from the Party for up to two years, and expulsion.Chakrabarti report, page 19
However, Chakrabarti was almost entirely ignored by the old right-wing machine. The ‘overruling’ of recommendations by that right-wing machine was entirely appropriate in those circumstances – and disgruntled ex-staffers busy ignoring Chakrabarti’s process clearly regarded anything short of summary expulsion as ‘a slap on the wrist’.
Mr Milne laughed
See the previous section. “Long-serving party officials” were the very people who had been ignoring the Chakrabarti report – a report that even Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis had said should be implemented in full and without delay.
Laughing at the pronouncements of obstructive right-wingers who had failed to implement any of the Chakrabarti report would be an appropriate response, when the Labour left was working hard to try to improve the mess left by the old regime.
Ordered batches of complaints to LOTO
Here the claims fly off into fantasy. A significant number of the McNicol apparatus had simply quit in pique when he was removed. Some had shredded thousands of documents relating to live disciplinary cases to hamper the party. Short-staffed and deprived of vital documents, Labour went into an ‘all hands to the pumps’ mode to attempt to manage the chaos.
As part of that effort, some of Corbyn’s staff – along with others – were temporarily allocated to trying to get things back on track until new staff were recruited.
These staff were not demanding documents, they were requesting them to help deal with a backlog created by the actions of the same right-wing quitters who had shredded documents on their way out.
What Panorama won’t mention
The fact that departing staffers destroyed thousands of documents to hamper Labour, while taking copies they could leak to the media, was exclusively revealed by the SKWAWKBOX almost two months ago, but is easily checked by any journalist contacting the right party officials.
In spite of having plenty of time to investigate this right-wing, antisemitic vandalism, it is unlikely in the extreme that Panorama will mention it at all, let alone challenge any of its ‘whistleblowers’ on whether they played any part in it.
The BBC also omitted the fact that ‘interference’ alleged by Jennie Formby in one case was actually Formby asking for the case to be sped up, selectively quoted emails – and left out that ‘witness’ Matthews had dismissed another case:
The BBC article this evening also attributes significant weight to NDAs (non-disclosure agreements).
Sam Matthews, who appears to be a key ‘witness’ in the Panorama programme, released a letter to the Sunday Times that he had received from the party’s lawyers, referring to the NDA he signed. The Times claimed the letter had been sent by Labour in the run-up to the Panorama programme in an attempt to curb his participation.
In fact, the letter was three months old and dated to the time Matthews first started feeding information to the media for attacks on the Labour Party. The date of the published letter was blacked out, disguising its age.
The programme appears to be aware of the thinness of its material, adding in the frankly feeble in an attempt to pad it out. In an attempt to support a claim of interference by Corbyn aide Seumas Milne, the BBC article reports:
But Sam Matthews, the party’s former head of disputes, said he interpreted an e-mail sent by Mr Milne – the Labour leader’s communications chief – in March 2018, calling for a review into how complaints were handled, as “an instruction”.
A “call for a review” – no doubt driven by the determination of the previous right-wing administration not to implement the Chakrabarti processes – was ‘interpreted’ by Matthews as “an instruction”.
A disgruntled ex-employee says something with its own clear meaning was in fact something else – and Panorama is so short of substance for its programme that this merits mention as an allegation.
The Panorama programme has been trailed by the BBC as a major exposé – and treated by other media and assorted enemies of Labour’s leadership as some kind of ‘Holy Writ’.
Instead, the BBC itself seems to have revealed that it is so thin and so transparently political that any embarrassment should be on the faces of those responsible for it – and of those demanding that the rest of the country treat it as substantial.
The issue of antisemitism anywhere is a deadly serious one – but Labour has done more to tackle it in the past year than previous leaders did in the previous century.
And the misrepresentation of claims by disgruntled former staff at political odds with the Labour leadership will do not one thing to advance the genuine fight against the horror of antisemitism.
Jeremy Corbyn and his team, by contrast, have taken Labour to a place of genuinely world-leading processes and policies that make the party the safest place for its members of any ethnicity or religion. He meant what he told the party’s annual conference last autumn:
But you won’t hear that on tonight’s Panorama.
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