The British Labour Party has admitted it defamed Jewish whistleblowers who spoke to the BBC Panorama program about anti-Semitism in the party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
The program featured a number of Jewish whistleblowers who condemned the party’s practices on anti-Semitic complaints under the direction of Corbyn, claiming that several high ranking officers in the party interfered with investigations into alleged perpetrators who were members of the party.
Labour responded at the time by accusing those who participated in the program of just being “disaffected former staff” who harbored “personal and political axes to grind” and made malicious and false claims in order to damage the party.
Seven of the whistleblowers and the Panorama program presenter John Ware then sued Labour for defamation. In Ware’s suit, he claims that Labour defamed him when they accused him and his team of “deliberate and malicious representations designed to mislead the public.”
Labour’s 28-page complaint to the BBC complained that the program contained “the tendentious and politically slanted script; the bias in the selection of interviewees; and the failure to identify the political affiliations or records of interviewees in a highly controversial, sensitive and contested subject produced a programme that was a one-sided authored polemic.”
Allegations of anti-Jewish racism dogged the Labour Party under Corbyn, although he always denied it. One Jewish lawmaker quit the party over his failings, he was linked to anti-Semitic speakers and Facebook posts, and he was widely condemned for failing to drive anti-Semitic members out of the party.
On the day that Keir Starmer was elected to replace him, the new Labour leader announced that convincing the Jewish community that the party had changed was his top priority. He said he would root out anti-Semitism in the party. The latest step in that process was to retract their incendiary complaint made to the BBC, and admit they had defamed and mistreated the whistleblowers.
“We acknowledge the many years of dedicated and committed service that the Whistleblowers have given to the Labour Party as members and as staff,” the statement, issued Wednesday, reads. “We unreservedly withdraw all allegations of bad faith, malice and lying. We would like to apologise unreservedly for the distress, embarrassment and hurt caused by their publication. We have agreed to pay them damages.”
The statement goes on to admit that anti-Semitism within Labour has “been a stain” on the party in recent years. “It has caused unacceptable and unimaginable levels of grief and distress for many in the Jewish community, as well as members of staff.”