Batches of antisemitism complaints were assessed by staff working in Jeremy Corbyn’s office – despite claims the Labour leader and his team had no involvement in the process, it has been revealed.
BBC’s Panorama programme will broadcast claims on Wednesday evening that there was an order from the leader’s office to bring details of antisemitism complaints from the party HQ to his office in parliament for processing by his aides.
The Labour Party does not dispute the order went out, and insists that it was merely a “staffing resource matter” – which saw employees from different departments seconded into the unit which was processing the complaints.
Eight former Labour staff members spoke to the programme, set to be broadcast on BBC1 at 9pm on Wednesday, with some breaking non-disclosure agreements.
Panorama also claims to have seen evidence of interference by the party’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, regarding who should sit on a panel to assess the case of Jackie Walker – who was under investigation for antisemitism.
On 5 May 2018, an email from Formby states: “The NCC [National Constitution Committee] cannot be allowed to continue in the way that they are at the moment, and I will also be challenging the panel for the Jackie Walker case.”
Copied into these emails was Jeremy Corbyn – at his personal email address -, Seumas Milne, the leader’s director of communications and Karie Murphy, the Corbyn’s chief of staff.
Later referring to the email chain, Formby writes to the group: “I’ve permanently deleted all trace of the email. Too many eyes all on my Labour address. Please use my Unite address.”
Former party officials gave interviews to the programme, including Kat Buckingham, who served as the chief inspector in the disputes team.
She told Panorama the problem of anti-Semitism complaints was “massive” and “real” and “wasn’t constructed by embittered old Blairites as we were frequently described as….. It would make no difference because …we had standards, we had clear rules that we had to try and uphold.”
She said she had a breakdown and decided to leave the Labour Party: “I was stuck between …an angry and obstructive Leader’s Office and an arcane disciplinary system…I couldn’t hold the tide and I felt so powerless and I felt guilty and I felt like I failed …and yeah I had a breakdown.”
Former Disputes Officer Louise Withers Green also left the Labour Party after being signed off with depression and anxiety.
In return for not having to work her notice period she signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).
Withers Green said: “(The NDA) was really tight.
“When I first read it, I wondered how on earth, I’d be able to apply for jobs because it was so prescriptive in not speaking about anything that I had heard of or happening in the Labour Party.”
She said she defied the NDA because she wouldn’t “be able to live with myself unless I speak up about the horrendous things that I know have been happening.”
Even before the programme was broadcast Labour lodged a complaint with the BBC, claiming it is “unlikely to meet the BBC’s obligations of fairness, balance and political impartiality”.
A Labour spokesperson said: “The Leader’s Office did not intervene.
“These former disaffected employees sought the view of staff in the Leader’s Office, which was compiled with in good faith.
“These disaffected former officials include those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively undermine it, and have both personal and political axes to grind. It is simply untrue to say that there were any significant number of disagreements about what constituted anti-Semitism.
“The emails… are simply about ensuring the NCC is held accountable for the length of time they take to hear cases and about protecting the Party against any successful legal challenge on the basis of perceived bias if the same panel is used in high profile cases.”