Cor­byn ally in fresh anti-semitism row

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Harry Yorke PO­LIT­I­CAL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Whis­tle-blow­ers last night ac­cused Labour’s gen­eral sec­re­tary of in­ter­fer­ing in one of the party’s most high-pro­file cases of anti-semitism. Jen­nie Formby, one of Jeremy Cor­byn’s clos­est al­lies, is at the cen­tre of a fresh row over the han­dling of com­plaints against mem­bers, while Seu­mas Milne, the Labour leader’s di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and strat­egy, was ac­cused of “laugh­ing in the face” of a for­mer of­fi­cial who had of­fered ad­vice on deal­ing with the party’s prob­lems.

LABOUR’S gen­eral sec­re­tary was last night ac­cused by whis­tle-blow­ers of in­ter­fer­ing in one of the party’s most high-pro­file cases of anti-semitism.

Jen­nie Formby, one of Jeremy Cor­byn’s clos­est al­lies, is at the cen­tre of a fresh row over al­leged po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in the han­dling of com­plaints against Labour Party mem­bers.

Sep­a­rately, Seu­mas Milne, the Labour leader’s di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and strat­egy, was also ac­cused of laugh­ing in the face of a for­mer of­fi­cial when they of­fered ad­vice on how to deal with the party’s prob­lems.

Ac­cord­ing to Mike Creighton, Labour’s for­mer head of dis­putes, Mr Milne “laughed” down his sug­ges­tion in 2016 that Mr Cor­byn make a speech de­fend­ing Is­rael’s right to ex­ist.

Mr Creighton claimed that Mr Milne had ap­peared more con­cerned with how to deal with “bad pub­lic­ity” than “how we tackle anti-semitism”.

The al­le­ga­tions were broad­cast last night in a BBC Panorama doc­u­men­tary that saw eight for­mer Labour of­fi­cials speak pub­licly for the first time.

Seven of those in­volved pre­vi­ously worked in Labour’s com­plaints team with four de­fy­ing non-dis­clo­sure agree­ments to speak. The whistle­blow­ers claimed that the com­plaints process had been un­der­mined by al­leged po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence from above.

The pro­gramme pro­voked a fu­ri­ous re­sponse from Mr Cor­byn’s team, who had de­manded the BBC sus­pend it from be­ing aired. Labour ac­cused Panorama and its pre­sen­ter John Ware of bias, and re­vealed last night that it had filed an of­fi­cial com­plaint to Lord Hall, the BBC’S di­rec­tor-gen­eral.

It came as Ms Formby, who is re­spon­si­ble for over­see­ing Labour dis­ci­pline, faced ac­cu­sa­tions of in­ter­fer­ing in the case of Jackie Walker, a hard-left ac­tivist who claimed Jews were the “chief fi­nanciers” of the slave trade.

In an email leaked to Panorama, Ms Formby said she would be per­son­ally “chal­leng­ing” the selec­tion of a panel cho­sen by Labour’s the na­tional con­sti­tu­tion com­mit­tee – the party’s high­est dis­ci­plinary body – to rule on Ms Walker’s case.

Ms Walker, who was sus­pended twice and placed un­der a two-year in­ves­ti­ga­tion, was ex­pelled in March this year.

Later in the email, which was sent to Mr Cor­byn’s per­sonal email ac­count, Ms Formby said she had “deleted all trace” of the email, ex­plain­ing that there were “too many eyes still on my Labour [email] ad­dress”. Two ex-of­fi­cials also re­vealed how the cri­sis had im­pacted on their men­tal health.

One said they had suf­fered a “break­down”, while an­other, Sam Matthews, the party’s for­mer head of dis­putes, claimed he had con­sid­ered com­mit­ting sui­cide by jump­ing off Ms Formby’s of­fice bal­cony.

Labour dis­puted that the con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Mr Milne and Mr Creighton “ever took place”, de­scrib­ing the al­le­ga­tions as “false and ma­li­cious”.

Tom Wat­son, the Labour Party deputy leader, said the rev­e­la­tions were “har­row­ing”.

“I am shocked, chilled and ap­palled by what I’ve just seen on Panorama,” he tweeted. “Hear­ing the tes­ti­mony of party mem­bers and for­mer staff was har­row­ing. They are not ‘dis­af­fected’, they have been in­cred­i­bly brave. Very se­ri­ous ques­tions now have to be an­swered.”

Shortly af­ter the pro­gramme ended, the Labour press team’s of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count ap­peared to be hacked.

In a mes­sage that was swiftly deleted, the ac­counted posted a mes­sage that stated: “There we have it folks, proof if any was needed that the Labour Party is in­sti­tu­tion­ally racist and will be un­til Cor­byn and his cronies go.”

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