Labour is set to name and accuse five former party staffers – Seumas Milne, Karie Murphy, Georgie Robertson, Harry Hayball and Laura Murray – of leaking a controversial internal report, LabourList can exclusively reveal.
In response to the move by the Labour Party, the five individuals are “considering bringing legal claims against the party over its victimisation of them and for breach of their confidentiality”, according to well-placed sources.
Sources say the party is planning to name the five ex-staffers, who strenuously deny the claim that they leaked the Labour report last year, as part of its defence to legal action brought by individuals suing the party over the leak.
The unredacted 860-page report, entitled “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019”, was distributed online and to journalists in April 2020, leading to legal action by those named in the report.
The paper was originally intended to be a submission from the Labour Party to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which conducted an investigation into Labour antisemitism that concluded in October 2020 and found Labour responsible for unlawful acts.
It was not sent to the EHRC on the basis of legal advice, but the document was leaked in full and this prompted two investigations by Labour – one by an independent external investigator and another by Martin Forde QC.
The release of the Forde report has been delayed indefinitely since the chair announced in February this year that the probe had “recently been made aware” that the Information Commissioner’s Office is investigating the same leaks.
It is understood that the five accused of leaking the report have been interviewed by both investigations but neither have concluded that the five were responsible for the leak. Sources say at least 20 people had copies of the report before it was distributed widely.
The five have said they “entirely reject these baseless claims” and their lawyers have described the party’s actions as an attempt to “deflect on to them its own liability in claims brought by a group of claimants who are suing the party over the leak”.
Emilie Oldknow, a former Labour executive director, is one of the individuals named in the report who has taken legal action against the party over its leaking. Her barrister earlier this year described the report as a “one-sided factional attack” on ex-staffers.
Earlier this year, Labour said it did not want to reveal information about the leakers without being ordered to do so by the court. Oldknow applied for a ‘Norwich Pharmacal order’ to force disclosure but this was unsuccessful.
The application was dismissed partly because Labour was asked to identify individuals it “reasonably believes” was responsible for the leak. Labour said it could not show beyond any doubt that a particular individual was responsible.
The judge, Justice Tipples, said at the time there was a “real risk” that if Labour were ordered to name individuals suspected of leaking the report, individuals innocent of wrongdoing could be identified.
A spokesperson for the former Labour employees today said: “They entirely reject these baseless claims. They did not leak the report, and fully cooperated with the party’s independent investigation by an external investigator, and the inquiry led by Martin Forde QC. They understand that neither of those investigations concluded that they were responsible.
“The party acknowledged in court that it cannot be certain who leaked the report and that its “case” against them is circumstantial. But it is now trying to make them foot the bill for legal action brought against it.
“The party should be focusing on the deeply troubling evidence contained with the leaked report, rather than trying to wrongly scapegoat and victimise former staff who documented it, and who have not been accused by either of the independent investigations.”
Carter-Ruck, the solicitors representing the five, said: “To the extent that the Labour Party has explained its proposed action, it is clear that it will be naming the individuals in an attempt to deflect on to them its own liability in claims brought by a group of claimants who are suing the party over the leak as well as the party bringing a related claim direct against the five.
“The party apparently admits that its case against the individuals is purely circumstantial and inferential, but has failed even to set out that case properly in correspondence, despite its obligations to do so under the relevant Court Protocol.”
The Labour Party was contacted for comment.