LABOUR CIVIL WAR EXPLODES
++ Gag on ex-staff as party braces for bombshell TV probe into anti-Semitism ++ McDonnell tells leader to back second Brexit poll ++ Corbyn allies are warned against mass cull of MPs
LABOUR was on the brink of civil war last night as Brexit and anti- Semitism threatened to split the party.
Jeremy Corbyn has been rocked by fierce and high-level infighting on both issues ahead of a nightmare week.
And the Labour leader is braced for a bombshell Panorama documentary into the party’s botched handling of the anti-Semitism crisis.
In a sign of panic, officials are taking legal action to stop former staff blowing the whistle before the BBC broadcast on Wednesday.
The tactics were condemned as ‘stupid’ by deputy leader Tom Watson while backbencher Wes Streeting warned he would use parliamentary privilege to defeat any gagging orders.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is heaping further pressure on Mr Corbyn by pushing him to back a second referendum and continued EU membership. In other developments:
Mr McDonnell was forced to deny claims that he has also been trying to force Mr Corbyn to sack his two closest aides;
John Cryer, who chairs the Parliamentary Labour Party, warned Mr Corbyn’s allies against mass attempts to deselect MPs;
Trade union leaders prepared to meet today to
discuss whether the party should change its Brexit stance;
Gordon Brown called on Mr Corbyn to eliminate anti-Semitism in the party and said the Jewish community deserved an unqualified apology.
Labour was last night accused of hypocrisy over its attempts to enforce gagging orders to prevent former employees speaking out on anti-Semitism.
Up to half a dozen are believed to have breached non- disclosure agreements they signed with the party so they can talk to Panorama.
Law firm Carter-Ruck – acting for Labour – has written to Sam Matthews, the party’s ex-head of disputes, warning he could face legal action for breaking his NDA by talking to the media.
A letter from the firm, leaked to the Sunday Times, warned that the party ‘cannot be expected to and will not tolerate its former employees wantonly disregarding their obligations by selectively leaking information to the media’.
Responding to the legal warning, Mr Watson said: ‘Using expensive media lawyers in attempt to silence staff members is as futile as it is stupid. It’s
LABOUR would split the Treasury and base part of it in the North, John McDonnell claimed yesterday. The Shadow Chancellor said he would base a national transformation fund in northern England so ‘better decisions will be made’ for the region. ‘Need to express a view now’
not the Labour way and I deplore it.’ Mr Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North, appealed for anyone silenced by the party to come forward so he could speak out on their behalf in the House of Commons.
He tweeted: ‘ Labour opposes NDAs yet seems to impose them. I’m protected by parliamentary privilege. I’ll whistleblow in House of Commons for anyone who needs me to do so.
‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant. No more excuses or hiding places.’
Mike Katz, chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, said: ‘Given Labour has called for scrapping of NDAs and greater legal protection for whistleblowers, it’s both hypocritical and just plain wrong of it to set expensive lawyers on former staff who are acting in the public interest to shine a light on institutional antiJewish racism.’
But Mr McDonnell defended the party’s use of gagging orders and threats of legal action, telling the BBC: ‘What they’re trying to do is just remind them of their confidentiality agreements.’
Barry Gardiner, the party’s international trade spokesman, yesterday savaged the Panorama programme.
He told Sky News it was ‘not a balanced and objective investigation into anti-Semitism’ but ‘a very partial view from a few members of staff who have a political axe to grind’.
Entitled ‘Is Labour AntiSemitic?’, the BBC programme will feature interviews from key insiders.
A spokesman for the show said: ‘The Labour Party is criticising a programme they have not seen. We are confident the programme will adhere to the BBC’s editorial guidelines.
‘ In line with those, the Labour Party has been given the opportunity to respond to the allegations.’
Mr Cryer yesterday warned that Labour had failed to address anti-Semitism in its ranks and needed to act much more quickly on the issue. He said procedures had improved under the party’s current general secretary, Jennie Formby, but told the BBC that not all anti-Semites were being kicked out.
‘We’ve failed to address antiSemitism,’ he said. ‘The bottom line is, are we kicking people out of the party who are anti-Semitic?
‘In some cases yes we are, but in some cases no. If you’re a racist, you shouldn’t be in the Labour Party.’
It was claimed yesterday that Mr McDonnell and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott have tried to force Mr Corbyn to sack his chief-of-staff Karie Murphy and communications chief Seumas Milne.
The pair are accused of holding Mr Corbyn ‘captive’ in his office and blocking him from changing the party’s position on Brexit.
But Mr McDonnell denied the reports, telling the BBC: ‘I’ve not told anyone to be sacked or anything like that.’
Yesterday he warned that the party’s attempt to find a compromise position on Brexit that appeals to both former Leave and Remain voters ‘has not worked’.
He said: ‘We need to express a view now. I will vote Remain, I want to campaign for Remain.’
Mr McDonnell added: ‘I’ve said to Jeremy, if Boris Johnson does call a general election in September we won’t even have a conference to decide these matters.
‘ That’s why we need to decide early and get on with it and that’s why he is talking to people now to bring them together.’