Leaked documents appear to show that Labour was warned that the internal report on antisemitism gave an intentionally “misleading picture” and had accessed messages through a “clear and unacceptable breach of confidence”.
The Guardian reports that an email from Labour’s former head of the governance and legal unit Thomas Gardiner registered his concerns with former general secretary Jenny Formby on April 11th.
According to the newspaper, Gardiner told Formby that he objected to the internal report because its authors were trying to “lay false blame” on him for problems in the party’s complaints process.
He added: “I also object further on the grounds that large sections of the report have been compiled using email searches which were not authorised for the authors to undertake including improper searches of my email account.
“The report also includes confidential private WhatsApp and other messages – a clear and unacceptable breach of confidence. Further, these messages are presented selectively and without their true context in order to give a misleading picture.
“I realise it will not be helpful not to further use the report, given that it has apparently been leaked in a previous version, but I must register this formal objection.”
Formby told The Guardian: “I authorised the searches which were legitimately carried out. The information used in the internal report into the handling of antisemitism complaints came to light when searches were undertaken in response to Equalities and Human Rights Commission requests.”
She added: “The EHRC asked the Labour Party to search all its internal systems, including WhatsApp groups where possible, and the party’s staff handbook makes clear that staff communications on internal party systems can be searched in this way.”
The 851-page document was leaked in April this year. It alleges that antisemitism complaints were deliberately mishandled by party staffers in order to undermine Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The dossier is subject to an inquiry, which the national executive committee has agreed will look into how it was put into the public domain despite containing personal data. LabourList published the terms of reference in full.
The investigation, chaired by Martin Forde QC, has now been delayed and is expected to be completed at the end of the year. Its call for evidence has now been extended by two weeks, with a new deadline of August 7th at 5pm.
Lawyer Mark Lewis, who acted against Labour in the Panorama case, revealed in an interview with BBC Newsnight that former general secretary Iain McNicol is suing the Labour Party over the content of the report.
He told viewers that “there are 32 people who have instructed me to take action. Their actions are in respect to data breaches, misuse of private information… McNicol is named in the report and is blamed for things that simply didn’t happen.”
According to The Telegraph, potential financial settlements for further legal action being taken against the Labour Party, many related to the leaked antisemitism report, could amount to £8m.
Thomas Gardiner has been approached for comment.