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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Corbyn under fire

It takes a special talent for an opposition leader, faced with a divided, chaotic and incompetent government, to dominate the headlines with his own internal party troubles, rather than with the sort of scathing and constructive criticisms of the ruling party he should be leading on. But that is where Jeremy Corbyn finds himself this morning, with no sign of the turmoil within the Labour Party over anti-Semitism and Brexit coming to an end any time soon.

As the Guardian reports, the Labour leader has come under renewed pressure as more than 200 former and current staff challenged him to resign if he could not renew trust in Labour party’s dealings with employees:

Labour is to hold an extraordinary shadow cabinet meeting next Monday to address concerns on antisemitism and Corbyn will address MPs on the issue on the same day.

The party leader and his shadow ministers are raking over the fallout from the BBC’s Panorama programme on Labour antisemitism. Labour’s leaders in the House of Lords issued a veiled challenge to Corbyn’s authority on Monday, warning him that without decisive leadership antisemitism was a “cancer that will continue to grow”.

The four senior peers wrote to Corbyn with an offer to establish a panel to review the allegations of former party staffers made on Panorama and to “provide advice and support on how a properly independent complaints process could be set up and run”.

The peers – Angela Smith, the party’s leader in the Lords, her deputy, Dianne Hayter, the chairman of the peers’ group, Toby Harris, and Tommy McAvoy, the chief whip – set out their view amid consternation about the Panorama allegations that the leader’s office interfered in complaints about antisemitism. Eight former employees appeared on the programme to discuss the handling of complaints. The party denies the allegations and complained to the BBC about the programme.

Corbyn's problem of course is that instead of responding to the allegations in the Panorama programme, his staff decided to attack the messengers. As a result, anger about the Panorama programme, and the party’s response to it, spilled over from a meeting of MPs on Monday:

The chair of the parliamentary Labour party, John Cryer, said attacking former Labour staff who appeared on the documentary was “a gross misjudgment” from the party. “The bottom line is we have got racists in our party and they are not being dealt with,” he said.

The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, told the meeting he endorsed Cryer’s view and that the party should be as transparent as possible with the Equality and Human Rights Council’s investigation.

“Throw open the books, throw open the files, and access to any member of staff,” he said. “We cannot circle the wagons.”

In their letter, the four Labour peers say of antisemitism in the party: “It is now a toxic and endemic problem that we have failed to eradicate.

“It is deeply saddening, but not surprising, that three of our valued colleagues recently resigned the Labour Lords whip. The scale of abuse that they and others have suffered is heartbreaking.”

They also criticise the party’s “heartbreaking” reaction to the Panorama allegations. They say: “Whilst there may be genuine concerns about the making of the programme, the accounts of members and former staff [were] powerful and shaming. We understand that any employer requires former staff not to disclose sensitive data, but non-disclosure agreements should never be used to silence criticism or to avoid embarrassment – especially by the Labour party.”

It appears that Labour faces its own summer of discontent, effectively neutralising it as an opposition party.
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