EX-LABOUR PARTY leader Jeremy Corbyn has hit out at Labour’s ‘political’ decision to apologise and award damages to party whistleblowers who took part in a Panorama documentary on anti-semitism.
The former Labour leader waded into a major party row after it issued an ‘unreserved’ apology in the High Court and agreed to pay six-figure damages to former party staff and a BBC journalist over a documentary into the party’s handling of alleged anti-Jewish abuse.
In a statement of his own, Corbyn said the apology and payments could prompt ‘misleading and inaccurate allegations’ about action taken to tackle anti-Jewish abuse during his time as leader.
His comments came as Unite boss Len McCluskey accused Labour of ‘misusing’ funds to settle the case.
Corbyn said: ‘Labour Party members have a right to accountability and transparency of decisions taken in their name, and an effective commitment from the party to combat antisemitism and racism in all their forms.
‘The Party’s decision to apologise today and make substantial payments to former staff who sued the party in relation to last year’s Panorama programme is a political decision, not a legal one.’
Pointing to a leaked report on anti-semitism complaints, believed to have been prepared for the party’s former general secretary amid an ongoing inquiry by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, Corbyn said: ‘Our legal advice was that the party had a strong defence, and the evidence in the leaked Labour report that is now the subject of an NEC inquiry led by Martin Forde QC strengthened concerns about the role played by some of those who took part in the programme.’
The ex-party leader added: ‘The decision to settle these claims in this way is disappointing, and risks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations about action taken to tackle antisemitism in the Labour Party in recent years.
‘To give our members the answers and justice they deserve, the inquiry led by Martin Forde must now fully address the evidence the internal report uncovered of racism, sexism, factionalism and obstruction of Labour’s 2017 General Election campaign.’
Meanwhile McCluskey branded the settlement ‘a misuse of Labour Party funds to settle a case it was advised we would win in court’.
The Unite general secretary said: ‘The leaked report on how anti-semitism was handled tells a very different story about what happened.’
Labour agreed to pay a reported six-figure settlement to seven former staff, saying it had withdrawn ‘all allegations of bad faith, malice and lying’.
It apologised for the ‘distress, embarrassment and hurt’ caused by a 3,000-word press release sent out by the party before the broadcast of the documentary.
The party also agreed to pay damages to BBC journalist John Ware over ‘defamatory and false’ allegations made against him.