World, Europe

Leaked Labour document rocks UK's main opposition party

Report says 'hyper-factional' behaviour of party staff against leader curbed attempts to deal with anti-Semitism complaints

Karim El-Bar   | 14.04.2020
Leaked Labour document rocks UK's main opposition party FILE PHOTO


An internal Labour Party document leaked this week has further deepened the rift between the left and right wings of Britain’s main opposition party.

The 860-page report was a review into Labour’s governance and legal unit between 2014-19.

It was meant to be sent as an annexe to Labour’s contributions to an inquiry by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the U.K.’s human rights watchdog, into Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism complaints.

The Labour’s lawyers then intervened and prevented the report from being sent to the EHRC, arguing it was out of the scope of its investigation; the report was subsequently leaked to local media, and then released on social media.

Former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure of the Labour Party was dogged by accusations of tolerating anti-Semitism. Corbyn, who hails from the more stridently socialist wing of the party, denied the allegations.

The report was dated March 2020 and completed in the final months of Corbyn’s leadership of the party.

Hyper-factional atmosphere

The report said that there was “abundant evidence of a hyper-factional atmosphere prevailing in party HQ in this period, which appears to have affected the expeditious and resolute handling of disciplinary complaints.”

The “abnormal intensity of factional opposition,” the report said, “inhibited the proper functioning” of the party leading to a “litany of mistakes” in its system for dealing with complaints.

The Labour Party machinery was “more obstructive than it was constructive.”

It also said complaints as a whole were poorly dealt with, rather than just anti-Semitism complaints being poorly dealt with.

Explosive revelations

The leaked document contained 10,000 separate emails and thousands of private WhatsApp messages.

Senior staffers were found to call their colleagues a variety of derogatory names. They also made fun of government minister and Corbyn ally Dianne Abbott for crying in a toilet and tipping of media of the incident, among others.

The report also showed that the senior staffers were shocked and disappointed as the party performed better than expected in the 2017 election, when they had diverted resources to right-wing MPs even if they were in safe seats as part of a “secret key seats team.”

The report said this data showed that in 2017 “some key staff even appeared to work against the party's core objective of winning elections.”

The Conservatives lost their majority in the 2017 election, but were still the largest party in parliament.

The report said some had “taken a view that the worse things got for Labour, the happier they would be since this might expedite Jeremy Corbyn's departure from office.”

Left-wing Labour MPs expressed their anger at the party machine not fully supporting attempts to win elections; and many of the party’s young and left-wing members have quit or threatened to quit, enraged their membership fees and time have been apparently wasted by a party machine working against them.

Some defended the leak as essential context to the EHRC’s investigation, but Jewish groups and senior Labour figures opposed to Corbyn said the report was leaked in a petty attempt to distract from Corbyn’s failures and to cast blame on others for the long-running anti-Semitism scandal that took place under his leadership.

New leadership

Recently elected Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer released a joint statement with his deputy Angela Rayner regarding the leaked report.

The pair said there would be an “urgent independent investigation.”

The investigation would look at the “contents and wider culture” the report exposed, but it would also look at the “background and circumstances” of the document as well as how it was leaked.

The statement added: “We have also asked for immediate sight of any legal advice the Labour Party has already received about the report.”

“In the meantime, we ask everyone concerned to refrain from drawing conclusions before the investigation is complete and we will be asking the general secretary to put measures in place to protect the welfare of party members and party staff who are concerned or affected by this report,” the statement added.

Starmer had previously apologized to the Jewish community for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

Last week, Jewish leaders praised Starmer for having “achieved in four days more than his predecessor in four years.”

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