I have now read my way through all 851 pages of the suppressed and leaked Labour Party report on its handling of anti-semitism complaints. It is an important document, that is fundamental to understanding a major turning point in UK history, where Northern European social democracy failed to re-establish itself in the UK.
If whoever leaked the document still has access to the vast amount of original source material on which it is based, this is documentation of immense historical value. I would strongly urge them to send the original thousands of emails, texts and messages to Wikileaks to ensure that this is preserved for the public record.
More mundanely, the report is of obvious value as evidence to the Equality and Human Rights Commission as part of its investigation into anti-semitism in the Labour Party. The fact that it has not been officially adopted by the Labour Party does not make any difference to its value as evidence; nor does its status as regards copyright or data protection law.
If, for example, I were to discover evidence of blatant racism, and send that to the EHRC, the EHRC would not refuse to look at that evidence on the grounds it breached the racists’ copyright or rights under the Data Protection Act. These excuses for suppression of the report are just that. I am accordingly myself sending a copy on to the EHRC making just that point. I find it rather troubling that Keir Starmer seems more interested in suppressing this report than acting on its alarming findings – and I say that as someone who is not initially hostile to Starmer.
What are the key points we learn from the report? Well, firstly that there did exist among Labour Party members examples of genuinely shocking and indisputable anti-semitism. It is also true that in many cases the processes of dealing with these individuals did drag on for months or even years. Much of the report is concerned with precisely whose fault that was within the Labour Party.
The report does conclusively refute the accusation that delays were occasioned by Jeremy Corbyn or his office, or that his office displayed any sympathy for anti-semitism. In fact, the opposite is the case. Corbyn’s office showed a proper hatred of anti-semitism, but also an alarming willingness to throw good people under the bus on very flimsy allegations of anti-semitism. pp306-7 The report shows a serious inability to distinguish between real, nasty anti-semitism and opposition to the policies of Israel. Furthermore, this is the attitude of the authors of the report themselves who in many scores of examples take for granted that the accusations of anti-semitism are sufficient to consider the case proven, and accept a number of specified opinions as proof of anti-semitism which are anything but.
The headlines of course have been grabbed by the report’s stunning exposure of the fact that Labour HQ was staffed by right wingers so vehemently anti-Corbyn that they actively wanted the Conservatives to win elections. I think it is important to understand just how right wing they really are. Senior members of staff were messaging each other opposing any increase in corporation tax and opposing re-nationalisation of the railways as “Trot” policies.
The case of the horrible and very right wing John McTernan is instructive. McTernan had taken to writing articles in the Daily Telegraph praising the Tories and attacking Labour, but the Governance and Legal Unit of Party HQ refused to take action against him. They finally took action when he wrote an article urging the Tories to “crush the rail unions” for hampering the operations of private railway companies; but the action taken was to suspend a member who called McTernan out on his Tory support. p.140
John McTernan, meanwhile, formerly involved in New Labour and a delegate to 2016 party conference, was repeatedly reported from 25 July onwards for abusive language on Twitter and elsewhere, including describing Labour MPs who nominated Corbyn as “morons”; tweeting twice that Corbyn was a “traitor”; describing “Corbynistas” as racist; telling an SNP MP that he should “Come down to Peckham and try saying that, mate”; calling Corbyn a “Putin-hugging, terrorist-loving, Trident-hater”; and writing in the Daily Telegraph that all of Corbyn’s supporters were “online trolls”.368
No action was taken, and McTernan received the staff decision “No action – removed at referral”. On 18 August, however, Dan Hogan did report a member of McTernan’s CLP, Omar Baggili, who – in response to an article by McTernan in “The Telegraph” urging the Conservative government to “crush the rail unions once and for all” – tweeted at him “seriously John why haven’t you got yourself a Tory membership card. They’re anti unions & pro privatisation like you.”369 Baggili was suspended for “abuse”.
This is by no means an isolated example. One of my favourites is the case of Andy Bigham (pp538-45), who initially came to the attention of the Governance and Legal Unit for suggesting Corbyn was a traitor and Diane Abbot should be “locked in a box”. This was considered insufficient for action to be taken against him, and incredibly this stance was still maintained even when he subsequently posted that he had voted Conservative, urged others to vote Conservative and became the administrator of a Conservative Party Facebook Group.
Meanwhile left wingers were being thrown out of the party for having advocated a Green vote years before they joined, or for calling MPs who supported the Iraq war “warmonger”. The report makes an overwhelming case that the Governance and Legal Unit of the Labour Party failed to take action on accusations of anti-semitism because it was devoting all of its energies to a factional effort to remove Corbyn supporters from the party.
These right wing staff were hoping for Labour electoral defeats in order to get rid of Corbyn. Senior Labour staff were actually hoping Labour would lose its seat in the Manchester Gorton by-election.
27/02/2017, 16:53 – Patrick Heneghan: Just had discussion at strategy meeting We will meet Steve and Andy next Monday – we are looking at all 3 in May but select in Gorton within 4 weeks Katy will speak to you/Iain
27/02/2017, 16:53 – Patrick Heneghan: From karie
27/02/2017, 16:54 – Patrick Heneghan: They didn’t include us in the discussion.
27/02/2017, 16:54 – Patrick Heneghan: Well let’s hope the lib dems can do it….113
It has long been known that there was tension between Corbyn and Labour HQ staff over allocation of resources to key marginals in the 2017 general election. What I had not known prior to this report is that HQ staff set up another organisation (p.92), based in another building, to divert party funds and secretly channel them to the campaigns of their favoured right wing MPs. On p.103 is detailed the horror expressed by Labour Party HQ staff at the Labour Party’s good performance in the 2017 election. People were “sickened” by the exit poll showing the Tories losing their majority.
The emails and messages quoted throughout the report are a tiny percentage of those available and are, of course, the selection of the authors of the report. That is why I call on them to dump the whole cache, which they say is many tens of thousands, to Wikileaks. One theme which continually crops up in the selected passages for quotation, but a theme on which the authors of the report scarcely comment, is that support for British military attacks abroad appeared to be the touchstone issue for who was “in” and who was “out” with Labour Party HQ staff.
The Manchester terror attack occurred in the middle of the 2017 General Election campaign. Corbyn bravely, and correctly, stated something that had been unsayable in mainstream UK political discourse – that British invasions abroad provoke terrorism at home. Labour Party HQ staff hoped and believed this would sink Corbyn and were actively wishing Labour to fall in the polls. pp 96-7
Jo Greening 09:12: and I shall tell you why it is a peak and the polling was done after the Manchester attack so with a bit of luck this speech will show a clear polling decline and we shall all be able to point to how disgusting they truly are
(now obviously we know it was never real – but that isnt the point in politics!)
Francis Grove-White 09:13: Yeah I’m sure that’s right
Francis Grove-White 09:16: My fears are that: a) the speech won’t go down as badly as it deserves to thanks to the large groundswell of ill-informed opposition to all western interventions. And b) they will use that poll to claim they were on course to win and then Manchester happened. And whether or not JC goes, lots of the membership will buy that argument. Like after the referendum when they distorted the polling and claimed we had overtaken the Tories before the “coup” happpened
Jo Greening 09:17: if this speech gets cut through – as I think it may – it will harden normal people against us definitely in the face of a terror attack normal people do not blame foreign intervention they blame immigration whats more – all they will hear is we dont want to respond strongly we want peace with ISIS it all plays into a bigger picture of how they see corbyn so I have a feeling this will cut through you are right on the second point it has to be up to the MPs though to demonstrate how toxic he is on the doorstep throughout but that this speech particularly was toxic and Manchester had happened when that poll was in the field on the supporters I personally think we are going to do very badly in deed and I think it will shock a lot of them how badly we do including JC so everyone has to be ready when he is in shock it has to be clean and brutal and not involve the party at all in my opinion those crazy people who now make up our membership never want us to win in anycase they are communists and green supporters even if Manchester hadnt happened and we got smashed they would have never changed their minds
Francis Grove-White 09:23: Yeah that’s true
My emphasis added to show just how right wing thinking is at Labour Party HQ.
To return to the failure to deal with cases of anti-semitism, a great deal of the problem appears to have arisen from sheer incompetence of staff. The Labour HQ staff had been inherited from the Blair years, and factional loyalty and a history of right wing political activity related to the Progress agenda were much more important in employment decisions than qualifications or competence. The Governance and Legal Unit, which handled the complaints of anti-semitism, was staffed by vehemently anti-Corbyn right wingers and was a bad actor; but it was also just useless.
The most basic systems were not in place, like a log of complaints/allegations – there was no log at all, let alone by category – and there was therefore no system for tracking the progress of individual cases. Emails went unanswered or even unread for many months, sometimes in email boxes which nobody attended. The epicentre of this incompetence was Sam Matthews, who was to be the star of the BBC’s Panorama programme “Is Labour Anti-Semitic” and the primary source of the allegations that Corbyn’s office was preventing action and protecting anti-semites.
It is impossible to read this report – and I have ploughed through all 851 pages – without coming to the conclusion that Matthews himself was responsible for a great deal of inertia. The report hints throughout that the failure to deal with anti-semitic Labour Party members was a deliberate act by party HQ staff in order to make Corbyn look bad. This evidence does not make that case conclusively, though it certainly does nothing to undermine it. The report expresses the suspicion most clearly in a passage on a period where Sam Matthews started inundating Corbyn’s office with requests for input on anti-semitism cases only later to produce the replies to him as evidence of unhelpful interference. This is a key passage of the Report (LOTO = Corbyn’s office):
However, Matthews’ emails reveal that he was the person who initiated a process of asking LOTO for their views on cases, on the basis that he was asking for their “help”, explicitly saying “it’s really helpful to have your input”. Matthews has also asserted:
“I had been privy to emails where Jeremy Corbyn’s Chief of Staff, Karie Murphy, was responding on a case by case basis on antisemitism in order to not suspend someone who they all knew damn well should be suspended.
I thought I just can’t countenance this.”1290
Matthews’ assertions about Murphy are also untrue. Murphy responded to GLU-GSO on just one case, Craig Allaker, agreeing with Emilie Oldknow’s suggestion of a membership rejection. Murphy’s other emails indicate that she did not want GLU involving LOTO in disciplinary cases and she questioned why Matthews had suddenly started involving them.
The conclusion of the Labour Party is that Matthews and possibly others in GLU-GSO instigated this process of consultation with LOTO, and proposed suspensions in some cases for conduct which GLU had previously not considered to merit any form of disciplinary action. This was later used by the same staff to accuse LOTO of involvement in antisemitism cases or of letting off antisemites, blaming LOTO and Jeremy Corbyn for GLU’s inaction on antisemitism complaints.. It may have been GLU and GSO’s intention to make this accusation when they initiated this process of consulting LOTO.
The report proves conclusively that Matthews’ allegations of unwarranted interference from Corbyn’s office to block anti-semitism action are malicious lies. It does not however conclusively show that his motive for asking for input from Corbyn’s office was to generate material to appear to substantiate his lies, not does it show conclusively that his incompetence and that of the Governance and Legal Unit in general was a deliberate ploy to make Corbyn look bad. These are not, however, unreasonable inferences.
What this report proves beyond any doubt is that the entire thrust of John Ware’s infamous Panorama episode, Is Labour Anti-Semitic, was simply wrong. Corbyn’s office was not responsible for lack of action over anti-semitism. The people responsible were the very people whom Ware chummed up with to make the allegations.
All involved were bad actors, including John Ware. He made no attempt to fairly assess or present the facts, or to hear the counter-arguments of those close to Jeremy Corbyn, and appears at the very best to have accepted an extremely selective presentation of written material from Matthews without proper question. But it is of course worse than that.
John Ware, a freelance journalist, was hired by the BBC to make that documentary despite a long history of anti-Muslim, and specifically anti-Palestinian, propaganda that had previously brought the BBC into disrepute and cost the license fee payer money.
In 2006 a John Ware produced Panorama programme Faith, Hate and Charity made deeply damaging false accusations about involvement with terrorism by Palestinian relief charity Interpal and caused the BBC to have to pay substantial damages to the director of another charity, Islamic Relief. Both Interpal and Islamic Relief have continually been targeted by the Israeli government.
John Ware has frequently been labeled an Islamophobe, including repeatedly by the Muslim Council of Britain. There is a double standard at play here. I suggest to you that it is simply the case that the BBC would never commission somebody denounced as “anti-semitic” by the Board of Deputies, more than once, to film a Panorama.
John Ware is proud of his activism for zionism. In 2016 Ware had a paid propaganda tour of Israel as part of a “Commitment Award” from the World Women’s International Zionist Organisation. Ware is perfectly entitled to write articles for the Jewish Chronicle attacking the BDS movement, and he is entitled to his views. But in the BBC Panorama Is Labour anti-Semitic? programme, Ware posed not as a strong pro-Israel propagandist, but as an independent journalist conducting unbiased investigation. In so doing, he allowed Sam Matthews and numerous other Labour staff members to put forward lie after lie after lie, which Ware appeared to validate, as is conclusively proven by this 851 page report.
I am not in a position to know whether John Ware knowingly connived in the lies, or whether he was so blinded by his deeply felt zionist ideology that he allowed himself to be taken in. I do know that today John Ware is engaged in fronting an attempt to takeover the Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News, which has drawn criticism from within the Jewish community because the source of its finance is secret. It was plainly wrong for the BBC to hire somebody with the obvious axe to grind of John Ware to make a Panorama documentary on this subject.
Like the rest of the mainstream media, and like Keir Starmer, the BBC has taken the excuse of this Labour report “breaching the data protection act” to avoid reporting the contradiction of the lies the BBC spewed out for years. You wont find Nick Robinson, Laura Keunssberg or Andrew Neil tweeting enthusiastically about this story. Never have journalists been so united in refusing hard news information because of the dubious legal basis – though unquestioned first rate source and access – of the leak. The Guardian for four years ran up to twenty “Corbyn anti-semitism” stories and columns a week. Their only action on this report has been to denigrate it by reporting gleefully that the Labour Party may be sued for large sums under the Data Protection Act.
To turn to the report itself, it contains so many examples of Corbyn’s office pressing the Governance and Legal Unit to shove alleged anti-semites out of the party quickly, that I am not going to detail them here, but it includes all the high profile cases including Ken Livingstone, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker etc. It is plain from reading the report that the Governance and Legal Unit were both lackadaisical and incompetent – complaints against anti-semitism were a minority of complaints they received, and complaints of sexual harrassment were receiving even less action (p.264). But sporadically the party machinery appears more concerned to give a fair hearing than Corbyn’s office, who would just shoot anyone the Guardian requested.
There are horrific examples of anti-semitism within the report, but also instances where I would query the categorisation as anti-semitism not only of Labour HQ at the time, but of this report.
At p.214 a case is given of somebody deemed an anti-semite for quoting the Rothschild involvement in Genie Energy fracking in the Golan Heights. Now I claim to be the person who first broke this story to a wider audience, (after finding it in the trade press), and it is completely true. Here is Genie Energy’s own press release.
Mineral exploitation of the occupied Syrian Global Heights by the occupying power is illegal in international law. Shale gas drilling is highly problematic environmentally. It is Genie Energy’s own company press release which led with the involvement of Jacob Rothschild (and Rupert Murdoch).
Claude Pupkin, CEO of Genie Oil and Gas, commented, “Genie’s success will ultimately depend, in part, on access to the expertise of the oil and gas industry and to the financial markets. Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch are extremely well regarded by and connected to leaders in these sectors. Their guidance and participation will prove invaluable.”
“I am grateful to Howard Jonas and IDT for the opportunity to invest in this important initiative,” Lord Rothschild said. “Rupert Murdoch’s extraordinary achievements speak for themselves and we are very pleased he has agreed to be our partner. Genie Energy is making good technological progress to tap the world’s substantial oil shale deposits which could transform the future prospects of Israel, the Middle East and our allies around the world.”
I perfectly accept that there is a fundamental strain of anti-semitism that accuses the Rothschilds and other “Jewish bankers” of controlling world capitalism, and that this is dangerous and harmful nonsense beloved of the Nazis. The Labour report actually gives some examples of precisely that. But you cannot move from there to the position that any criticism of any specific action of the Rothschild family is therefore anti-semitism. To criticise their involvement in illegally fracking on the occupied Golan Heights is perfectly legitimate journalism. It is not an anti-semitic trope.
Similarly it is cited repeatedly (eg p.461) as “anti-semitism” to claim Israeli involvement with ISIS. Why is that? Nobody seriously disputes that the most important diplomatic change in the Middle East of the last decade has been the de facto alliance of Israel and Saudi Arabia (together with most of the GCC), aimed squarely at Iran. Nobody seriously disputes that ISIS, Daesh and Al Nusra have all been enabled at a fundamental level by Saudi and GCC funding and supplies. Some, but very few, analysts genuinely deny western assistance to those jihadi factions when operating against Syria. Nobody disputes the hostility between Isis/Daesh/Al Nusra and not only Hezbollah but also Hamas.
ISIS/Daesh/Al Nusra are the allies of Israel’s allies and the enemies of Israel’s enemies. It is not in the least irrational, nor anti-semitic, to posit possible cooperation. Personally I doubt there has been much – the Israelis are not as foolhardy as the Americans. The odd supportive air strike at Saudi urging, or targeted aid, or intelligence feed perhaps. There may be more. But the idea that it is anti-semitic to suggest Israeli aid to ISIS is wrong, and brings inyo play the question of the use of accusations of anti-semitism to chill legitimate analysis and criticism of Israel.
On Ken Livingstone, I do not think in the least that Ken is an anti-semite. I do however think he is wrong. I have always found the discourse around Nazi/Zionist links disturbing and generally anti-semitic in motivation. Of course there may have been contact at some early stage between Nazis who wished to eradicate Jews from Europe, and Zionists who wished Jews to move to Israel. But what purpose is there in pointing that out? The Jew-hatred of the Nazis is indisputable, and any misguided Zionist who tried to deal with them was not therefore a Nazi supporter. It is a pointless discussion with highly unpleasant undertones. How Ken was entrapped into it I struggle to understand.
The report is desperate to be seen as approving Labour’s now toughness on anti-semitism, and therefore endorses the characterisation of people as anti-semites whom I know not to be. Several instances are given of quoting or linking to Gilad Atzmon as evidence of anti-semitism, seemingly with no need felt to analyse the particular Atzmon article being quoted. Atzmon is of course an Israeli Jew of controversial views particularly on Jewish identity, but it ought not to be axiomatic that to refer to Atzmon is anti-semitic.
Some of this is troubling. We are all more aware nowadays of historic involvement in the slave trade. The BBC recently did some excellent programmes on Scotland and the slave trade. Yet the report contains an analysis by the Community Security Trust p.363 that states that to discuss Jewish involvement in the slave trade (in the instance in question, it was a Jewish person discussing) is an anti-semitic trope. The dangers of this approach are obvious. I have not studied it, and I doubt that Jewish involvement in the slave trade was as bad as Scottish. But I do not doubt it existed, and it ought to be equally as open as Scottish involvement to investigation and comment. You cannot dismiss just everything that may show any group of Jewish people in a bad light as “an anti-semitic trope”.
In short, in my view the report correctly identifies the existence of genuine antisemitism from a small minority of Labour Party members. It correctly identifies that the Labour Party machinery was highly incompetent in dealing with the vast majority of complaints of anti-semitism. It identifies that almost all input from Corbyn’s office was demanding tougher and firmer action. But it makes the error, in its desire to clear the Labour Party of any taint of anti-semitism, of enthusiastically endorsing definitions of anti-semitic behaviour which are so wide as to chill legitimate free speech.
So what conclusions can we form? Well, the first is that Corbyn failed to be sufficiently ruthless in clearing out the quite extraordinarily right wing Blairites that he had inherited as Labour Party HQ staff. The Labour Party is a horribly complex institution, with elected committees, and powerful unions to appease who control the purse strings. But Blair and Brown had managed to create a machine in their own right wing image, and it is hard to read this report without concluding that Corbyn lacked the ruthlessness required in a leader to spot enemies and be rid of them.
But then, his not being a ruthless bastard is why so many people flocked to support Corbyn in the first place.
The second point is that Corbyn’s tactic of constantly attempting to appease the media on anti-semitism was never going to work. The right wing press and TV had no genuine interest in anti-racism, other than as a tool to prevent the possible election of a European style social democratic government. Neither the media nor the Blairites were ever going to reconcile to Corbyn. We will never know what would have happened if he had come out and denounced the witch-hunt as an attempt to stifle supporters of the Palestinians, and spoken openly of Israel’s move to apartheid. He had the nerve to take on the establishment narrative when he stated that British military invasions cause terrorist blowback at home, and won public support. Whether a firm line on Palestine and calling out the witch-hunt would have had a better result than giving way before ten thousand unfair attacks, we can never know.
There are more general points therefore to consider about the nature of power and of political parties. I intend to address these in a further article – including some very worrying similarities with the staff and orientation of SNP HQ.
With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible.
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