The Jewish Chronicle

‘If Labour wants fight, bring it on'

● Journalist says Labour’s attempt to discredit his Panorama film on the party’s handling of Jew-hate is a ‘very big mistake’

- BY ROSA DOHERTY

JOHN WARE, the veteran reporter behind the BBC’s Panorama programme on Labour’s handling of antisemiti­sm, has said that if the party leadership wants “a fight” over the documentar­y then “by all means bring it on, because I am ready”. Mr Ware ( left) was responding to formal complaints made to

the BBC by the Labour Party — and to Jeremy Corbyn, who has said there were “many, many, inaccuraci­es” in the documentar­y and that it had adopted a “predetermi­ned position” before it was aired.

The investigat­ion revealed that the Labour leader’s office intervened in antisemiti­sm cases and that overworked party staff had been left demoralise­d by the leadership’s failure to tackle anti-Jewish racism.

Former Labour staffers Sam Matthews and Louise Withers Green were among those who broke non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to take part in the documentar­y. Mr Matthews revealed that he had been left suicidal by his time as head of disputes.

Labour responded to the claims by accusing the whistleblo­wers of being “disaffecte­d former officials... who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively to undermine it and have both personal and political axes to grind. This throws into doubt their credibilit­y as sources.”

The pair have now instructed

media lawyer Mark Lewis to pursue what he described as “very serious libels”.

Speaking to the JC, Mr Ware said the party’s decision to attack the programme even before it was broadcast was “breathtaki­ng”. Both in advance of its screening and afterwards, supporters of Mr Corbyn across social media launched vitriolic personal attacks on Mr Ware. He was accused of being “the BBC’s Islamophob­e in chief” and a “far-right journalist”.

In its complaint, Labour said his reporting was “seriously inaccurate” and alleged he had selectivel­y used and edited quotes to change their meanings.

Mr Ware said Labour had responded with “Stalinist levels of paranoia. I expected them to be very cross and criticise the programme but they went beyond that. The degree of paranoia and personal invective that has become part of their briefing on this is staggering.

“That any political party, let alone one that aspires to be in government, would accuse our eight whistleblo­wers

of being ‘disaffecte­d’ as opposed to being against racism is really pushing it.” .” Mr Ware said that the only editing of quotes was what a “sub would do on a newspaper in order to make things clear. Labour don’t seem to understand how this process works. This is a team effort, this isn’t just John Ware — it is just about the most experience­d programme team that Panorama can muster.

“It is the editor, the producer, the assistant producer, it is the editorial compliance people, it is the legal people — everyone had access to everything in the programme. This is the BBC.

“The notion we would collective­ly or individual­ly invent quotes is extraordin­ary.”

Mr Ware said that the most editing that he and his team did was correct the “odd spelling mistake or sometimes change ‘he’ for ‘Jeremy Corbyn’. At no stage would we ever have dreamt of distorting the meaning, to the extent that when we made any tweaks at all they were all about clarifying Labour’s position.”

He said the allegation­s made by the party about his and the BBC’s ethics “could not get any more serious than that. It is a very big mistake and a stupid thing to do.”

One specific complaint was that the BBC edited an email sent on March 10 last year by Mr Corbyn’s adviser Seumas Milne following a decision to suspend a Jewish member of the Labour party, Glyn Secker. Labour complained the programme “misreprese­nted” the internal email sent by Mr Milne, in which he said, “something’s going wrong, and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism... I think going forward we need to review where and how we’re drawing the line.” Labour said in its response that this email was in fact about “caution being exercised when taking action against Jewish people accused of antisemiti­sm” and that because the BBC omitted Mr Milne’s earlier words — “if we’re more than very occasional­ly using disciplina­ry action against Jewish members for antisemiti­sm” — the meaning was deliberate­ly changed.

Mr Ware defended the decision to show only part of the email for clarity: “When you unpack what we left out of that email and the events that led up to it, the picture that emerges is much darker than our summary goes.”

Others have pointed out that the full email shows Mr Milne suggesting that Jews should rarely be suspended for antisemiti­sm — in other words, attempting to protect members of the Corbynite group Jewish Voice for Labour such as Mr Secker.

“Why they quoted that in their defence I don’t know. Their analysis of that email is so disingenuo­us it beggars’ belief,” Mr Ware said, describing the complaint as “utterly prepostero­us. Never mind me, why would the legal department at the BBC sanction deliberate­ly misleading the public?”

Mr Ware was shocked that Labour’s complaint had “suggested that some of the whistleblo­wers had quite deliberate­ly generated emails requesting advice from Mr Corbyn’s office on antisemiti­sm cases so they could later smear him.”

He added: “That level of Stalinist paranoia is breathtaki­ng. It is like dealing with a cult. They ascribe the darkest of motives to both us and the whistleblo­wers and that is just really stupid.”

Mr Ware said that Labour had briefed journalist­s that the BBC was “scrambling around to cover their backs in the wake of the programme” — an allegation that was completely false.

He continued: “In fact the total opposite has been the case. Rarely have I seen the BBC’s high command so relaxed in the face of such an onslaught from any political party — because they know we got it right.”

Mr Ware said he had lost “respect” for Jon Lansman, the Momentum founder, who was among those to attack Mr Ware personally. “Momentum issued a pretty slyly edited video about me before the programme had aired and I noticed after the programme one of the criticisms Jon Lansman made was that our quotes flouted basic journalist­ic rules.

“Well, that video his group produced didn’t even ask me about the allegation­s they were making. It included statements that were untrue, which is seriously flouting journalist­ic rules. No one asked me about the things they alleged in the video.”

Why would the BBC legal team sanction misleading the public?’ That level of Stalinist paranoia is breathtaki­ng’

 ?? PHOTO: BBC ??
PHOTO: BBC

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