Labour expected to apologise to ex-staffers over Panorama response

Elliot Chappell
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As publication of the EHRC report on Labour antisemitism nears, bits of information will trickle out. The Guardian’s front-page splash today reports that Labour is set to settle its case with antisemitism whistleblowers and issue an apology. “No final settlement has been reached but sources said an agreement was imminent,” according to the paper.

Seven of eight former Labour staffers who appeared in a Panorama documentary on antisemitism in the party last year took legal action, claiming that senior figures had attacked their reputations and suggested they had personal motives to undermine the party. A Labour spokesperson at the time had described them as “disaffected officials who have always opposed Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively undermine it and have both personal and political axes to grind”.

Legal advice issued to the leadership under Corbyn suggested that Labour could win the case, The Guardian reports, and settling will prove controversial within the party. It is worth noting that during the leadership contest, at a Jewish Labour Movement hustings, each of the four candidates in the running at the time disavowed Labour’s response to the Panorama programme. Even Corbynite candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “We should apologise for how we behaved. We should settle any claims that were made.”

What has changed since then? Well, for some on the Labour left, the leaked report makes a difference, and indeed this is raised by sources in The Guardian write-up. The contents described a “hyper-factional” environment and alleged that disciplinary cases were mishandled in order to undermine Corbyn’s leadership. That internal report is currently the subject of its own investigation, being chaired by Martin Forde QC, now due to conclude in September at the earliest.

In other news from the labour movement, Unite’s Steve Turner has written for LabourList on the need for government to “embrace positive interventionist action to support UK manufacturing” and fix the apprenticeship levy. He tells Rishi Sunak to put the “billions of pounds currently sitting there doing nothing to good use”. The demands follow gloomy news that a ‘v-shaped recovery’ is not taking place. GDP rose by only 1.8% in May, compared to a record slump of 20.3% in April. Labour has called for urgent action and more targeted support, but also reiterated that the party is “not calling for tax rises – we’re calling for growth“.

Sunak spent an uncomfortable afternoon yesterday in front of the Treasury committee, where Labour MPs challenged him on the job retention bonus scheme, and slammed him for the lack of support for female workers in the pandemic. Labour is continuing to focus on this theme today, with shadow minister Tulip Siddiq predicting a “wave of nursery closures”. Labour is urging the government to focus financial support on the sector, or risk a setback to the country’s recovery.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson’s ruthless approach to party discipline has been evidenced again. Julian Lewis has lost the Tory whip because he dared to beat Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling, No 10’s pick, to become chair of the intelligence and security committee – a post for which Lewis has relevant experience and Grayling did not. And it just so happens that the committee is meeting today to discuss publication of the long-awaited Russia report. We could find out as soon as next week whether there are embarrassing details in it that the Tories have been desperately trying to hide.

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