Jeremy Corbyn’s closest aides interfered with investigations into Labour members accused of anti-Semitism, former party officials have told BBC Panorama.
The hour-long documentary, entitled Is Labour Antisemitic? was broadcast last night and features claims from eight former staff members who say the supposedly independent disciplinary process was interfered with.
Labour has insisted the leader and his circle of aides have had no role in judging conduct, including anti-semitism complaints about members.
Emails shown to Panorama reveal that Seumas Milne, Mr Corbyn’s director of communications, tried to instigate a review of how anti-semitic complaints were being dealt with, telling Labour’s Disputes Team in March last year that “something’s going wrong and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism ... I think going forward we need to review where and how we’re drawing the line”. This message was interpreted by Sam Matthews, at the time Labour’s head of disputes, that this was “the Leader’s Office requesting to be involved directly in the disciplinary process”.
Mr Matthews has been issued with a legal warning from Labour’s solicitors, Carter-Ruck, not to speak to the media as it would breach his non-disclosure agreement with the party. Four of the eight officials have spoken publicly to Panorama despite signing gagging clauses.
The documentary also features emails suggesting general secretary Jennie Formby tried to interfere in who was on a panel investigating a high-profile case.
Mike Creighton, the former head of Labour’s disputes team, claims that in 2016 Mr Milne laughed in response to Mr Creighton’s suggestions of how Mr Corbyn should tackle anti-semitism in the party. Mr Creighton told Panorama: “I thought he actually wanted to know how we tackle anti-semitism within the Labour Party. I think what he actually meant to say was ‘how do we deal with the bad publicity we’re getting?’”
In a statement to the BBC, Labour disputed this conversation had ever taken place and described it as “false and malicious”. A leaked email chain suggests Ms Formby tried to influence the selection of a disciplinary panel in the case of Jackie Walker, the former vice chair of Momentum who was eventually expelled in March over anti-semitism. In an email dated 5 May 2018, Ms Formby said: “The National Constitutional Committee cannot be allowed to continue in the way that they are at the moment and I will also be challenging the panel for the Jackie Walker case.” Later in the chain, Ms Formby wrote she had “deleted all trace of the email”, adding: “Too many eyes still on my Labour [e-mail] address.”
The Labour Party said in a statement: “The Leader’s Office did not intervene..”