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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Labour's anti-Semitism row deepens

It is al kicking off in the Labour Party, with the Observer reporting that the Labour high command is to be sued by former employees who broke cover last week to criticise the party’s handling of cases of alleged antisemitism in a dramatic escalation of the row engulfing Jeremy Corbyn’s party:

Two of the whistleblowers who featured in last week’s explosive BBC Panorama programme entitled Is Labour Anti-Semitic? – Sam Matthews and Louise Withers Green – contacted the Observer last night to say they had instructed the prominent media lawyer Mark Lewis to act on their behalf because they believed the party had defamed them in its response to their claims. Others who spoke to Panorama are also understood to be considering contacting Lewis to represent them in libel actions.

On the evening the programme was aired, a Labour spokesman said: “It appears these disaffected former officials include those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively to undermine it and have both personal and political axes to grind. This throws into doubt their credibility as sources.”

Lewis, who works for Patron Law, and is well known for his role in pursuing phone-hacking cases and for representing the family of murdered teenager Millie Dowler, said: “It is incredible that after the programme Labour wilfully attacked the whistleblowers, falsely accusing them of making deliberate, malicious representations, and misleading the public, while also calling them disaffected former officials whose credibility as sources was in doubt.”

He added: “These are very serious libels. Those representing the Labour party have acted in a way that set out to destroy the reputations of the whistleblowers. In their effort to destroy these people they have left it for the courts to decide who is telling the truth. It is ironic that the bosses at the workers’ party have decided to go against the workers.”

Labour has raised complaints at the highest level of the BBC about the Panorama programme, in which eight whistleblowers spoke out, claiming it was slanted and unbalanced. The allegations from whistleblowers included claims that key aides, including the director of communications, Seumas Milne, and the general secretary, Jennie Formby, interfered with investigations.

Both Matthews, the party’s former head of disputes and Withers Green, a former disputes officer, decided to break non-disclosure agreements that they were asked to sign when leaving the party last summer. They insisted they decided to speak out in the public interest.

Matthews, who said he was left feeling suicidal because of the pressures placed on him, said last night: “The Labour party is choosing to ignore the central charges of antisemitism raised by myself and other whistleblowers on Panorama, and instead, they have engaged in a concerted campaign to damage my name. I have instructed Mark Lewis to ensure that the defamation and intimidation of whistleblowers is not allowed to continue.”

It is now getting to the stage where this row is effectively crippling to Labour Party's ability to act as an opposition. If this legal action happens then it could embroil the party in further controversy for months to come.
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