Labour’s decision to settle with former party officials looks like a politically motivated attack on the left, writes Alex Snowdon
Jeremy Corbyn, unjustly maligned for years, has described a Labour Party decision to strike a deal - costing at least £600,000 - as “a political decision, not a legal one”. He was referring to a legal settlement with former party officials and a journalist - over allegations of antisemitism - announced by Labour today.
Labour has apologised to seven former party officials and John Ware, the presenter of last year’s BBC Panorama programme that featured claims by the former officials, and agreed to pay them “substantial damages”.
At the time of Panorama’s broadcast, a Labour spokesperson referred to the programme as ‘malicious’ and ‘selective’, saying its sources were ‘disaffected, politically hostile former employees’. Today, the party has apologised and said it “unreservedly withdraws these allegations”. Yet no new evidence had emerged to substantiate the claims of ‘institutional antisemitism’ or Corbyn’s complicity in it.
The leaked Labour Party report which emerged in April demonstrated the intransigent hostility of a layer of former senior party officials to Corbyn. It showed the lengths they would go to in order to sabotage his political project and to falsely create the impression that his leadership team was tolerant of antisemitism. New leader Keir Starmer has failed to take serious action in response to the revelations that report exposed.
Corbyn has said that today’s settlement “risks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations”. Keir Starmer has repeatedly made comments giving such attacks on the left credibility . That is part of an assault on Corbyn and his political legacy.
Corbyn and the wider left were stigmatised with exaggerated claims of antisemitism for most of the duration of Corbyn’s leadership. The internal party report leaked in April showed how unjust those claims were, indicating that it was in fact right wing officials who undermined efforts to deal with allegations of antisemitism.
Keir Starmer’s recent sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey showed that the cynical weaponising of antisemitism is not over. Her sacking, supposedly due to tweeting an antisemitic conspiracy theory (that was nothing of the sort), was designed to reinforce the smear that the left is associated with antisemitism. The Labour right is intent on demonising the left and trying to bury the experience of the Corbyn years.
The entire left should stand with Jeremy Corbyn in defiance of the renewed attacks. Making concessions to smears has only served to embolden those responsible for promoting them.
This may be merely a prelude to the even more serious attacks which could accompany the forthcoming publication of the EHRC report into supposed Labour antisemitism. It is time to defy the attacks.
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Alex Snowdon is a Counterfire activist in Newcastle. He is active in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and the National Education Union.
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