Published: Fri, July 12, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

UK Labour Party in turmoil over new anti-Semitism claims

UK Labour Party in turmoil over new anti-Semitism claims

"The Panorama program and the BBC have engaged in deliberate and malicious representations created to mislead the public", the party said in response to allegations made in the program that senior Party members - particularly general secretary Jennie Formby and Jeremy Corbyn's communications director Seumas Milne - interfered with anti-Semitism whistleblowers.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday, Watson urged Corbyn to immediately introduce changes including automatic exclusions and said he was the only person who could tackle the problem.

Eight former Labour officials told the BBC's Panorama program their work in the disputes team was obstructed and punishments were downgraded.

Labour has insisted the claims were inaccurate and made by "disaffected" former staff.

The program detailed numerous upheavals that the party has faced, including former London mayor Ken Livingstone's false claim that Zionists collaborated with Hitler, for which he was only temporarily suspended; activist Jackie Walker's claim that the Jews controlled the trans-Atlantic slave trade; and a general atmosphere of antisemitic attitudes toward Israel and its Jewish supporters.

JVL is a network for Jewish Labour members.

"Even if some in the party did not want to hear what they had to say, it is unacceptable to attempt to undermine their integrity and characters in this manner".

Ms Formby said she was "very concerned" by the distress suffered by some former staff members shown in the Panorama documentary, but added that "we were not made aware of these issues at the time".

The BBC dismissed the complaints, stating that Labour was criticizing "a program they have not seen" and maintaining that it "adheres to the BBC's editorial guidelines".

The Labour Party must move to a fully independent complaints procedure, free from political interference from Jeremy Corbyn and Jennie Formby.

He said he is not surprised the Equality and Human Rights Commission is investigating Labour over whether it discriminates against Jewish people.

"In line with those, the Labour Party has been given the opportunity to respond to the allegations".

Importantly, the programme raised the issue of the party's use of non-disclosure agreements and if these had been used appropriately, which merits a much bigger conversation.

"We completely reject any claim that Labour is antisemitic".

Labour, which has been braced for the accusations, wrote to BBC director-general Lord Hall to complain ahead of the broadcast.

Mr Watson told Sky the "Panorama programme was a watershed moment" and said a new independent complaints system "made up of people of standing from the Jewish community" should be brought in.

"We met with Jeremy Corbyn as I've said over 12 months ago". - What the BBC didn't report is that the communications chief had been asked his opinion on a case of a Jewish Labour member, with a Holocaust survivor parent who was yet being accused of antisemitism.

A Labour spokesperson said the party is "determined to tackle antisemitism and root it out".

The leadership has been accused of failing to get to grips with the problem, with allegations of hundreds of complaints against members remaining unresolved.

She also said she had offered Mr Watson the chance to view the document sent to the anti-Semitism inquiry and denied accusations that she had deleted emails relating to cases of anti-Semitism. For example, JVL said Panorama "fingered" people like Jackie Walker as antisemitic despite "no charge of antisemitism" being upheld against her. JVL also says the programme failed to mention that Walker is Jewish.

"Since Jennie Formby became general secretary, the rate at which anti-Semitism cases have been dealt with has increased more than four-fold", the spokesman added.

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