Corbyn ally in fresh anti-semitism row
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.”