JEREMY CORBYN’S key allies rejected concerns about rising levels of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and tried to interfere in independent investigations, according to former staff speaking out last night.
Communications director Seumas Milne allegedly laughed at a colleague who suggested Mr Corbyn and the party needed to do more to allay concerns, it is claimed.
He also dismissed a number of complaints of anti-Semitism as ‘muddling up political disputes with racism’, while party general secretary Jennie Formby tried to influence the membership of a panel reviewing the high-profile cases, the ex-staff members claimed.
The allegations were made last night in a BBC Panorama documentary, Is Labour Anti-Semitic? They prompted a furious response from Labour, which had complained in advance about the programme and its producer John Ware.
Members of Mr Corbyn’s office were accused by former party officials of being ‘angry and obstructive’ about the soaring number of anti-Semitism cases raised with the party since he took over as leader in 2015.
Ms Formby is said to have sent her own staff to sit on ‘independent’ panels, allegedly over-ruled decisions and downgraded punishments to ‘a slap on the wrist’.
The Panorama team spoke to eight former Labour officials, including seven who worked for the party’s complaints and disputes department. Four spoke out despite previously signing non-disclosure agreements with the party.
Mr Milne is said to have laughed at one official who suggested Mr Corbyn make a speech affirming Israel’s right to exist and that the party deal with anti-Semitism cases ‘more swiftly and much more robustly’.
Mike Creighton, a former head of disputes, told the programme: ‘He actually laughed at me. I thought he actually wanted to know how we tackle anti-Semitism within the Labour party.
‘I think what he actually meant to say was, how do we deal with the bad publicity we’re getting?’
Dan Hogan, an investigator in the disputes team, said people brought in by Ms Formby ‘over-ruled us and downgraded what should have been a suspension to just an investigation or worse to just a reminder of conduct, effectively a slap on the wrist’.
She was also accused of sending emails attempting to intervene in the selection of a panel covering the case of Jackie Walker, a Labour activist and former vice-chair of left-wing campaign group Momentum.
Ms Walker was expelled by Labour in March for ‘prejudicial and grossly detrimental behaviour against the party’.
Another ex-party worker, Kat Buckingham, told how she suffered a nervous breakdown as she struggled with the ‘massive’ and ‘real’ burden of complaints coming into the disputes team.
Last night Labour hit back, accusing the BBC of ‘deliberate and malicious representations designed to mislead the public’. A spokesman said: ‘The Labour Party at all levels is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism and is determined to root out this social cancer from our movement and society.’
It denied the conversation with Mr Milne had taken place as described and said Mr Corbyn had ‘repeatedly expressed his support for Israel’s right to exist and for a two-state solution’.
It also said Panorama had ‘deliberately misrepresented’ Mr Milne’s email about ‘muddling up political disputes with racism’.