Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn‘s team repeatedly interfered in disciplinary cases relating to anti-Semitism, the BBC reveals in a new documentary quoting Labour whistleblowers.
Corbyn was personally copied into emails in which Jennie Formby, the party’s general secretary, appeared to promise to interfere in a case involving an activist who had claimed Jews were responsible for the slave trade, the documentary on the network’s “Panorama” program reveals.
In another case, Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s director of communications, told party staff they were “muddling up political disputes with racism” and said Labour needed to “review where and how we’re drawing the line.”
The documentary contains evidence from eight whistleblowers, including four who are breaking non-disclosure agreements to speak out. Many of the former staffers had direct responsibility for dealing with cases of alleged anti-Semitism.
One former investigator, Dan Hogan, said that in a number of cases staff members appointed by Formby “overruled us and downgraded what should’ve been a suspension to just an investigation or worse to just a reminder of conduct, effectively a slap on the wrist.”
Labour disciplinary investigations are supposed to be independent of the party leadership, but former party officials told the BBC that there had been increasing levels of intervention since Corbyn became leader in 2015.
Labour denied that Corbyn’s team had intervened in disciplinary cases, saying the claims had been made by “disaffected former officials...who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership”.
A Labour spokesperson said in response, “This is a staff resourcing matter. Staff have been seconded into GLU (the Governance and Legal Unit) at various times and from a variety of different departments in the organization.”“These staff were always under the management of GLU staff while carrying out this administrative work. This in no way contradicts the separation of functions within the organization and it does not contradict the party’s position that the complaints process operate independently of the Leader’s Office,” added the spokesperson.
On allegations of interference, the party insisted, “The Leader’s Office did not intervene. These former disaffected employees sought the view of staff in the Leader’s Office, which was compiled with in good faith.”
"These disaffected former officials include those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively undermine it, and have both personal and political axes to grind. It is simply untrue to say that there were any significant number of disagreements about what constituted anti-Semitism," it added.
Dozens of Labour members have been suspended over their anti-Semitic statements in recent years.
In May, Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, the country’s foremost government watchdog on racism, launched an investigation into Labour’s anti-Semitism problem.
Corbyn himself has been accused of holding anti-Semitic views by senior UK Jewish leaders. Corbyn has also been criticized for calling Hamas and Hezbollah his "friends" and for outright refusing to condemn those two terrorist organizations despite being urged to do so by local Jewish groups.
Much of the criticism against Corbyn is over his playing down the anti-Semitism in his party and alienating Jews, but he insists he is not an anti-Semite and claims he has opposed it his entire life.