Corbyn and allies pressed to keep their names out of apology.
Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reacts as he speaks about Labour’s environment policies in Southampton, Britain November 28, 2019 / (photo credit: REUTERS/TOBY MELVILLE)
The UK Labour Party apologized and agreed to pay damages to seven whistleblowers who sued the party for defamation after they were denounced for telling the BBC’s Panorama about antisemitism in the party, despite pressure from former party leader Jeremy Corbyn to fight the case.
The party’s apology was issued in the High Court, including an admission that it acted to sully the former employees’ reputations after they spoke out against the efforts of then-leader Corbyn’s team’s attempts to undermine internal investigations into antisemitism in the party.
“Before the broadcast of the program, the Labour Party issued a press release that contained defamatory and false allegations about these whistleblowers,” Labour’s apology read. “We acknowledge the many years of dedicated and committed service that the whistleblowers have given to the Labour Party as members and as staff. We appreciate their valuable contribution at all levels of the party. We unreservedly withdraw all allegations of bad faith, malice and lying.”
The party added: “We would like to apologize unreservedly for the distress, embarrassment and hurt caused by their publication. We have agreed to pay them damages.”
Corbyn, his top adviser Seumas Milne and former Labour secretary-general Jennie Formby instructed lawyers, paid for by the UK’s largest labor union, Unite, to try to stop the party from settling the lawsuit, The Jewish Chronicle reported. They also sought to find out whether they were mentioned in the apology statement before it was read in court.
The former Labour leader reacted to the apology on Facebook, calling the decision political and not legal, and writing that “Labour Party members have a right to accountability and transparency of decisions taken in their name.”
The settlement “risks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations about action taken to tackle antisemitism in the Labour Party in recent years,” Corbyn wrote.
“Is Labour Antisemitic?” the Panorama episode that aired in July 2019, featured former Labour officials reporting a spike in antisemitism complaints after Corbyn was elected party leader in 2015.
They said senior party members who were close to Corbyn tried to obstruct their investigation into the complaints.
A Labour spokesman called the whistleblowers “disaffected former staff” grinding “personal and political axes” to hurt Corbyn.
Labour also apologized to John Ware, the journalist who reported on antisemitism in the party for Panorama.
“The BBC will always support fair and impartial reporting, exposing wrongdoing and holding power to account,” The BBC Press Team said. “The ‘Panorama’ program did precisely that, but was subject to an extraordinary and vitriolic attack by the Labour Party. We welcome today’s long overdue apology.”
Current Labour leader Keir Starmer has said he is committed to rooting out antisemitism in the party.
He recently sacked his party’s shadow education secretary, MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, for praising an interview with the claim that Israel trained US police in the methods resulting in the murder of George Floyd.
Starmer said “the article contained antisemitic conspiracy theories” and that sharing it “was wrong.”
Under Corbyn, Labour was repeatedly criticized for not doing enough to stamp out antisemitism within the party ranks.
Corbyn has made antisemitic remarks and participated in events honoring antisemites, such as laying a wreath on the graves of the terrorists who tortured and killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.