My complaint to the BBC over its Panorama hatchet job (LONG)

I know. It’s nearly a month since the BBC broadcast Panorama: Is Labour Antisemitic? and I’m only getting around to submitting my complaint now?

You probably think I’m lazy.

But check out the size of this beauty!

I put a lot of work into it.

And then I found that the BBC’s online complaints form has a 2,000 character limit.

Clearly I must resort to a prehistoric method (snail mail) to send this, as the complaints team does not seem to have an email address it can call its own.

This means you get to see it first (if you have the stamina for it).

Here we go…:

I am a victim of the Labour Party disputes team as it was run by Sam Matthews and other former party members, whose evidence formed the backbone of the Panorama: Is Labour Antisemitic documentary screened on July 10. I am a social media journalist and run the Vox Political website. Comments I made on that website were taken out of context or selectively quoted in order to create a false case of anti-Semitism.

All of the allegations against me were false, yet the disputes team treated them as true, throughout the investigation period.

I watched your film in the hope that I would find information explaining why these people behaved towards me in the way they did. And I think I did.

This gives rise to several complaints regarding the accuracy and impartiality (or lack of those qualities) of the film. I wish to examine those inaccuracies and examples of prejudice, in chronological order as they appeared – and I require you to respond to them. I will not accept attempts to brush off criticisms such as the pro-forma “The BBC stands by its journalism and we completely reject any accusations of bias or dishonesty” that has been sent to others. I am involved in legal discussions with the Labour Party and the unsupported and biased claims made by your reporter John Ware may seriously prejudice the results of those discussions. So please provide responses to each of the following criticisms:

1. Ella Rose.

Panorama: Is Labour Antisemitic? featured a series of, for want of a better word, testimonies by people who often go unnamed. The first of these, I have discovered, was by Ella Rose – a former employee of the Israeli embassy to the UK who then became an executive director of the Jewish Labour Movement, which campaigns against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Is Panorama saying that Ms Rose was a member of the disputes team at the time under discussion? If so, this raises questions about the way my case was handled. One of the allegations against me refers to my coverage of the “Shai Masot” affair in which Mr Masot, an Israeli embassy employee, was found to have been plotting covertly to “take down” members of the government like Sir Alan Duncan, who were considered to oppose the Israeli government’s policies. This quite clearly conforms to the classic definition of conspiracy so that’s what I called it. I was then accused of employing the anti-Semitic trope of the international Jewish conspiracy, with reference to this situation.

If Ms Rose was a member of the disputes team at the time, it seems possible to me that her previous employment would have prejudiced her interpretation of my words in an unacceptable way, and it follows that she was likely to have behaved in that manner towards others as well.

But Panorama did not mention her previous affiliations, despite the fact that they are highly pertinent to the issues under discussion and strongly suggest that her comments are not to be trusted. It seems to me that the makers of the documentary ignored this issue in order to present a deeply prejudicial – in fact, false – story to the public.

I understand Ms Rose was once filmed threatening violence to another Jewish then-member of the Labour Party. It occurs to me that this would cast doubt on the veracity of anything she had to say about anti-Jewish behaviour in the party, as she seems to have been responsible for some of it herself. This went unmentioned in the documentary despite being important information, and suggests that the film was biased. Was any due diligence carried out on any of the contributors to this programme?

Seven Jewish Labour Party members appeared in the programme and all seven were also members of the Jewish Labour Movement, which is highly critical of Jeremy Corbyn. Was the programme planned in co-operation with this organisation? If so, why was this not made clear, in the spirit of full disclosure? If the JLM did not have direct influence on the programme, what other connections did these seven people have?

There appears to have been no attempt to provide balance – for example, by interviewing members of other Jewish organisations connected with the Labour Party like Jewish Voice for Labour. This suggests prejudice, rather than impartiality. What about ordinary rank-and-file members of the Labour Party who aren’t Jewish?

2. Ken Livingstone.

I was disappointed but not surprised to see Panorama repeat the false claims about Ken Livingstone from 2016. After being confronted with an image suggesting that Israel should be transplanted lock, stock and barrel into the USA (which itself was a response to a suggestion that the Israeli government should deport all Palestinians to Jordan, Syria, Egypt or any other Muslim/Arab country that would have them) he had simply pointed out that the German Zionists’ Federation entered into an agreement with Hitler’s Nazi government in the 1930s, in order to have German Jews transported to what was then British Mandate Palestine.

This was bizarrely perverted into an on-air claim that Mr Livingstone “has a history of false claims that Jews were in cahoots with Nazis in establishing Israel”. The information he quoted was correct. Reporter John Ware’s claim that this is a “gross misinterpretation of history” is not true. Panorama again presented a grossly prejudicial and false claim as fact.

The testimony from Kat Buckingham, about Mr Livingstone’s case, is odd. She appears to have been following an agenda of her own in ignoring the facts and treating him as guilty, no matter what the evidence was. We are not given any evidence to support her belief and must therefore conclude that there was no such evidence. Again, Panorama broadcast a false and prejudicial claim as fact.

Was Ms Buckingham a member of the disputes team who was involved in the mass purge of thousands of left-leaning Labour members for “crimes” like once retweeting a Green politician, admitting they voted for other parties long before they joined Labour, and liking the Foo Fighters too much? This happened in summer 2016, when Jeremy Corbyn was campaigning to become Labour leader for the second time in two years. If she was, then it suggests a bias against Mr Corbyn that is both highly political and unprofessional, and this should have been mentioned in the documentary. And it casts doubt on her claim that she is not a Blairite out for revenge against Mr Corbyn for taking over the party.

It is a matter of record that Ms Buckingham investigated Brighton and Hove Labour Party when it was suspended in 2016 over bogus charges of spitting at its AGM. Ms Buckingham refused to watch CCTV evidence proving the spitting allegation to be false. Considering this, it seems fair to cast doubt on her evidence to Panorama, but it was broadcast as though there could be no doubt about her reliability at all. This is not true and suggests severe bias by the programme-makers.

And Sam Matthews, former disputes team leader and head of governance and legal, claimed the party’s National Constitutional Committee, when it judged Mr Livingstone’s case in 2017 and gave him a two-year suspension, had said, “We acknowledge that what you said is anti-Semitic; we just don’t care.” This is a distortion of the facts.

Much of the discussion during that hearing had centred on the meaning of particular words, such as John Mann’s false claim that Mr Livingstone had said Hitler was a Zionist. The NCC had to concede that Mr Livingstone did not say that.

The issue was whether Mr Livingstone had been right to defend Naz Shah, who had been previously accused of anti-Semitism – and admitted that she had published some tweets with anti-Jewish intent. As she had done this, it would have been difficult to acquit Mr Livingstone for defending her. But his claim relating to the image of Israel transplanted to the USA was accurate.

And nobody mentions the other image, of a black man’s police mugshot with the words, “Everything Hitler did in Germany was legal” superimposed over it. That’s because – after (for example) Vanessa Feltz made a huge show of indignation over it when she interviewed Mr Livingstone on the radio, everybody discovered shortly afterwards that the man in the mugshot was Martin Luther King – probably the greatest campaigner against racism of the 20th century – and the words were pointing out that actions can be legal yet still be wrong.

So we can see a particular bias on the part of the people employed by Labour to investigate these allegations. Mr Livingstone did not, himself, say anything anti-Semitic in the evidence that was considered by Labour’s National Constitutional Committee in 2017 but your documentary allowed a highly-prejudiced and compromised (as I shall explain) witness to suggest otherwise without being challenged. This is false; this is prejudicial.

What about Marc Wadsworth, the – black – anti-racism campaigner who did so much to gain justice for the family of Stephen Lawrence but was accused of anti-Semitism because he criticised Ruth Smeeth over her over-familiarity with a reporter from a right-wing newspaper? Was he a racist? Why were none of those who have been expelled from the party given a right of reply on these claims? I am one of them. So is Mr Wadsworth. So is Ken Livingstone. So is Jackie Walker, who had an entire section of the programme dedicated to her, full of inaccurate information. Why were none of us approached? We are all easily-contactable. Is it because our evidence would have contradicted the entirely false and harmful impression your film-makers were trying to create about the Labour Party?

3. Complaints about anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.

The documentary states that, before Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader in 2015, complaints about anti-Semitism were rare. This may be accurate – proportionately – but your film was in danger of conflating “rare” with “nonexistent”. This often happens. Those of us who point out that actual instances of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party are extremely rare at the moment are often told we’re saying it doesn’t exist and that isn’t true either.

So, for example, when Ed Miliband – himself of Jewish heritage – announced that Labour would recognise Palestine as a state in its own right, complaints spiked. It seems this was a political response by supporters of the Israeli government.

The incident set a precedent, and it would have been logical to expect more such complaints when Mr Corbyn – a known campaigner against racism of all kinds and a supporter of Palestinian rights – became leader. It would have been reasonable to suspect a spike in such complaints to have been politically-motivated, to have investigated not just the allegations but their origin, and to have come to a conclusion based on all the facts available – but I see no evidence of that in the Panorama programme. I believe this can only have been intentional – to create a false impression. Did any such research take place at all? If not, why not?

And why did the documentary not mention the possibility that anti-Semitism may have been tolerated in the Labour Party before Mr Corbyn became leader – as evidenced by Alastair Campbell’s anti-Semitic attack posters portraying a Jewish political rival as a pig and a character similar to Fagin? Was it because this would contradict the film-makers’ claims, that anti-Semitism could only possibly have occurred in the Labour Party because of Mr Corbyn? This seems likely. The Campbell incident also throws doubt on the claims of every single ex-disputes team witness and gives rise to the possibility that they had other reasons for accusing him – political reasons, perhaps. A good journalist would have investigated this, rather than ignoring facts that did not fit his own prejudice.

It is true that party membership more than doubled (almost tripled?) after Mr Corbyn became leader. But the suggestion that the arrival of the new members “allowed breathing space for anti-Semitism to arise” is unsupported by evidence – especially if you look at the high-profile people who were accused: Ken Livingstone had been a member for decades. So had Marc Wadsworth. Jackie Walker was a long-term party member. I had been a member since 2010. There is a claim later in the programme that a war was taking place between members and new members, but there is no evidence to bear it out.

So Sam Matthews’s comment that there had been “the creation of a culture within the Labour Party that makes anti-Semites feel that it is their political home” is unsupported and must therefore be considered false. If the programme-makers had possessed real evidence, why did they not screen it? Excuses involving time constraints will not be acceptable as it is a reporter’s job to provide the facts and the evidence to support them.

Someone (were they named in the documentary?) stated many people on the left define it as anti-racist and the right as racist, so in their minds they can’t be racist because they’re left-wing. The suggestion was that these people are deluding themselves. But statistical evidence shows that anti-Semitism among left-wingers is low in comparison to that among those on the right. In Labour, it is known to have occurred in around 0.05 per cent of the membership – that’s less than one per cent of the national average. In fact, after the Corbyn-related membership surge, the level of anti-Semitic views within the Labour ranks fell dramatically, but the documentary makes no mention of this. Once again, it provides false and prejudicial information.

The voice-over claims that part of being anti-racist is considered to be unconditional support for the Palestinian cause. This, again, is unsupported by evidence. It is acknowledged that both Israelis and Palestinians have done appalling things to each other. But that doesn’t mean that Palestinians as a nation deserve the persecution heaped on them by the Israeli government.

There was an attempt to conflate Israel with Judaism: “They talk about Israel… but underneath, it’s the same [anti-Semitic] ideas.” On the screen, while this was being said, was a poster of a demon wrapped in the flag of Israel, holding a gun in one hand and a set of scales in the other, in which the head of a Palestinian man on one side was shown to be lighter than money on the other. Presumably we are supposed to see this as a representation of the anti-Semitic trope that Jews are obsessed with cash. But the side of the scales containing the money is also wrapped in a US flag; the poster appears to be trying to say that Israeli persecution of Palestinians is funded by the United States. Some would call that a legitimate claim – albeit presented in an inflammatory way. The fact that it was presented as proof of anti-Semitism shows insensitivity on the part of the documentary’s makers. They have perverted a comment about US money supporting Israeli military atrocities to make it appear to be an anti-Semitic trope. I hope you can appreciate that this is both inappropriate and offensive.

Next was Professor Alan Johnson with some credible information: “If you say Israel is an inherently racist endeavour, that should be abolished, that’s something different [to merely pointing out that the settlements on Palestinian land are wrong, for example].” True. But it is also perfectly reasonable to say that the current Israeli government is indeed racist and must be reformed or democratically removed – there would be nothing anti-Semitic in that. But this was not said, and the effect is prejudicial. Perhaps the reason it was not said is that Professor Johnson is an employee of BICOM, the UK’s main pro-Israeli-government lobby group? He’s editor of that organisation’s journal, Fathom. This was not mentioned either and, again, the effect is prejudicial.

4. Alex Richardson.

Let us move on to Alex Richardson: “It’s been a really nasty experience as a Jew in the Labour Party,” he said, going on to discuss “an individual” who he said claimed ISIS had been created by Israel. “I’d really like Jeremy Corbyn to show leadership on this issue.”

The trouble with this is that Mr Richardson is (or was) a member of the Jewish Labour Movement executive – an organisation within Labour that opposes Mr Corbyn at every opportunity – who was exposed in Al Jazeera’s 2017 documentary The Lobby, in which he not only fabricated a claim of anti-Semitism against another party member, but was also present when Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) chair Joan Ryan MP was offered £1 million by Israeli embassy conspirator (remember that this is the dictionary definition of what he was) Shai Masot to recruit Labour MPs to the side of the Israeli government.

None of this was mentioned, despite the fact that video evidence of it – including Mr Richardson’s involvement in it – is readily-accessible. Perhaps it was considered it would interrupt the narrative if it was revealed that Mr Richardson himself had been outed as a shill for the Israeli government? I hope you will accept that his evidence is unsafe.

5. Zionism.

Let us move on to the segment about Liverpool’s Riverside constituency and the investigation by Ben Westerman into complaints about MP Louise Ellman: “Westerman discovered that the word ‘Zionism’ had been weaponised into a term of abuse,” Mr Ware’s voice-over claims, and we’re treated to unattributed examples of such abuse. Apparently, attacks on Zionism are offensive to Jews because it is the movement by which they were able to establish “Israel as a secure Jewish homeland after centuries of persecution”. This may be true – although there have been implications that anti-Semites supported Zionism as a way of removing Jewish people from their own countries. And it also fails to account for the way Zionism has been used to justify the persecution of Palestinian people and the encroachment into their land by Israel over a period of decades.

Another commentator, Dave Rich, cropped up to claim that the words “Zionism” and “Judaism” have been swapped by left-wing anti-Semites and may now be considered interchangeable. Credited as “Author: The Left’s Jewish Problem” he is better-known as deputy communications director of the Community Security Trust, a charity established to secure the safety and security of the Jewish community in the UK. All charities must be apolitical – that is, they must not interfere with politics – and while their members may have their own political views, it is true that questions may – and should – be asked of an organisation that has been so strong in its opposition of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership and has such a man in a communications role. Panorama asked no such questions. Why not?

His claim is highly problematic as it threatens to stifle genuine criticism of atrocities (the word used by “Rachel”, another person who gave testimony to the programme) carried out in the name of Zionism beneath an accusation that anyone uttering such criticism is an anti-Semite.

I note that it was a claim that had previously been made by the programme’s reporter, John Ware, in a Jewish Chronicle article dated 2/8/2018 and seems to be his personal opinion, rather than a genuine phenomenon.

When I was accused of anti-Semitism by the Labour Party, one of the claims was that I had stated that the Jewish Labour Movement did not represent all members of the Labour Party who were Jews, but only those who were Zionists. You can see how this would link in with the claims by Messrs Westerman and Rich. But my statement was supported by fact. The Jewish Labour Movement was originally called Poale Zion (Workers of Zion) and the mission statement on its website mentions its support for Zionism and Zionist aims again and again. There was nothing anti-Semitic in my statement – I was just pointing out a self-evident fact – but it seems that, in broadcasting the comments of Messrs Westerman and Rich without providing balancing statements to show that Zionism had been used as an excuse for atrocities, Panorama was putting forward a biased and unsupportable view in a bid to prop up their false claims.

Ms Ellman told us that while she would come to meetings wanting to discuss domestic issues that are at the heart of Labour’s policy platform (like the NHS), she would be confronted about the Middle East, matters would become unpleasant and people would leave those meetings in tears.

She did not mention the fact that she has been a chair of the Jewish Labour Movement and vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel, and has been an active spokeswoman in Parliament on issues relating to the Middle East. Nor was it stated anywhere else in the documentary. It seems to me that questions about her opinions on this subject may well be justified in such a situation. Why, then, did the programme not mention her affiliations? As for the manner in which her discussions with other party members take place: We have no empirical evidence, just the statements of contributors to this documentary – and these have been demonstrably lacking in balance.

Mr Westerman related an account of an interview with a constituent that ended with that person asking where he was from: “Are you from Israel?” He said he assumed that this person was implying that he was “in cahoots” with the Israeli government. His account of this conversation has been conclusively disproved as there are recordings of the interviews he conducted. That particular interviewee (who was also Jewish) did not ask if Mr Westerman was from Israel, but in fact inquired as to which Labour Party branch he belonged. Panorama could have fact-checked Mr Westerman’s claims but did not. The fact that he told a falsehood here means all of his words, broadcast by Panorama, must now be treated as suspicious. Why did the programme-makers not check this and cut out his contribution, such as it was? I can only conclude it must be because it fitted the film-makers’ intended prejudice.

And as this part of the programme was discussing people “in cahoots” with the Israeli government, it is worth reminding you that the documentary had already featured words by two people who are known to have been “in cahoots” with that government in the past, namely Ella Rose and Alex Richardson – but they were not named as such by the film-makers. This strongly suggests a bias that is unacceptable in a BBC documentary.

6. Interference

Now we come to the heart of the documentary – the claim that the Labour leadership interfered with the disputes process: John Ware stated, “In an email, Mr Corbyn’s director of communications, Seumas Milne, asked for a review of the disciplinary process into anti-Semitic complaints. There was a risk, he said, of ‘muddling up political disputes with racism’.”

This email has been quoted selectively and out-of-context, it seems. I was lucky enough to have been listening to Radio 4’s PM when Evan Davis quoted the email in more detail.

He said: “There was one aspect we gave mention to… on our programme, and we thought you might like some fuller context. Now this is about an email from Seumas Milne, key aide to Jeremy Corbyn – in fact, the key aide to Jeremy Corbyn, you might say, and we quoted him as writing the following in an email: ‘Something’s going wrong, and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism.’ And we got that quote from a BBC press release yesterday (July 10), it was in the Panorama programme, and this would naturally be taken as evidence of political interference in the disciplinary procedures. He’s in the leader’s office; he’s not meant to be tampering with the uh… the investigations.

“But Labour have said this was a selective quotation. The full email actually concerned a specific case of charges of anti-Semitism against Jewish people. One Jewish member was under investigation – a Corbyn supporter, someone who, in fact, was the son of a Holocaust survivor – and Seumas Milne had been asked his opinion on this case.

“And the fuller quote from the email says this…: ‘If we are more than very occasionally using disciplinary action against Jewish members for anti-Semitism, something’s going wrong and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism. Quite apart from this specific case I think, going forward, we need to review where and how we’re drawing the line and if we’re going to have clear and defensible processes.’

“You’ll have to make up your own mind as to whether that amounted to interference on Milne’s part, and whether the BBC’s edited version was a reasonable edit or not.”

Of course it was not.

He was making the very clear point that it is wrong to suggest that a Jewish person, the son of a Holocaust survivor, hates Jewish people because they ARE Jewish people – and he was drawing the obvious conclusion that a disciplinary process that even suggests such a thing in more than a tiny minority of cases must be seriously – if not fatally – flawed.

The operative phrase is indeed “we’re muddling up political disputes with racism”, but without the vital piece of context – that he was referring to a case against a Jewish member – Panorama was inviting readers to leap to a false conclusion. His suggestion that “we need to review where and how we’re drawing the line and if we’re going to have clear and defensible processes” is a clear indication of his own opinion – that the party’s processes were neither clear nor defensible.

And even the PM report of the email isn’t complete.

Panorama’s selective quotation of it is a further example of bias and prejudice. Quoting selectively in such a manner is as good as lying – and I say this as someone who has suffered as a result of similar behaviour.

One of the Labour Party’s accusations against me was that I had stated, “If Jews in the UK identify with the state of Israel, why aren’t they Israeli citizens?”

The intention was to say I was being anti-Semitic by claiming that British Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country. But this was stated in a dialogue with another person and, later in that dialogue, I stated: “”How about applying the most simple answer: They aren’t Israeli citizens because they don’t identify with the state of Israel, to anything like the degree required. Possibly because they actually disagree with the actions of the Israeli government.”

So in fact I was making the very point that my accusers were suggesting I had contradicted. This was not mentioned in the disputes team’s report to Labour’s National Executive Committee and I was eventually expelled from the party on the basis of this false evidence, along with other examples I have mentioned elsewhere in this complaint.

Next up: Dan Hogan, another former member of the disputes team, claimed that “the leader’s office and Jennie Formby and her team wanted us… wanted us out.”

As the evidence I have put forward suggests that these members of the disputes team were following their own political agenda, rather than acting impartially, as they were expected to do, I would not be at all surprised if that were true. But this would have been a justified reaction to the misbehaviour of the disputes team’s members – misbehaviour that the Panorama documentary seems to have been trying to legitimise, falsely, and showing huge prejudice against the Labour Party and its leaders.

Was Mr Hogan a member of the disputes team who was involved in the mass purge of thousands of left-leaning Labour members for “crimes” like once retweeting a Green politician, admitting they voted for other parties long before they joined Labour, and liking the Foo Fighters too much? This happened in summer 2016, when Jeremy Corbyn was campaigning to become Labour leader for the second time in two years. If he was, then it suggests a bias against Mr Corbyn that is both highly political and unprofessional, and this should have been mentioned in the documentary.

Mr Hogan said people Ms Formby brought in when she became general secretary overruled members of the disputes team – but this may have been perfectly reasonable if they were following their own agenda, as I have suggested.

Clearly the programme now needed to undermine Ms Formby and her people. So we were told about one of the new faces, a councillor and Corbyn loyalist named Thomas Gardiner, who was “given a veto over which anti-Semitism complaints should be investigated”. Commentator Dave Rich (of the Community Security Trust, remember) was wheeled on to introduce such a complaint. Mr Rich referred to an image of the face-hugger from the Alien films, attached to the Statue of Liberty, with the Star of David on its back. He told us that we should understand the meaning to be that Jews are an alien creature, sucking the life out of America. New (at the time) disputes team head Martha Robinson was up next, to say how shocking the image was – clearly anti-Semitic.

We were being set up to hear that Mr Gardiner disagreed, and sure enough, that was the next, voiced-over, claim. His argument – in many cases, Ms Robinson said, was that an image was anti-Israeli, or opposed to the State of Israel.

One can understand such an argument, to a large extent; it is the same one I applied to the image with the scales draped in the US flag. Israel has long been seen as a magnet for financial and material support from the United States, and it is possible to see how someone may describe that in terms of an alien (read: foreign) power acting as a parasite against the US. The Star of David in the image is shown as it is depicted on the Israeli flag, and therefore may be seen as a symbol of Israel rather than of the Jews.

But it is arguable either way and, certainly, an image intended to criticise the Israeli government may be used by anti-Semites as well – or by those claiming that it was anti-Semitic, as I have already demonstrated.

It seems to me that the disputes team members – or at least, those “disaffected” members on whom Mr Ware relied to make this programme – had a knee-jerk reaction to the image, while Mr Gardiner took a more diplomatic view. But the film-makers did not see it that way, preferring to put forward the one-sided claim that the image must be anti-Semitic and Mr Gardiner was wrong to suggest otherwise. That is a biased viewpoint.

Ms Robinson appeared, to say she had spent “day after day” reading anti-Semitic comments from members, only to have Mr Gardiner dismiss them or downgrade the punishment from her recommendations. We cannot have enough information on which to judge the truth of that statement. A single – well-documented – example does not establish a pattern. But Ms Robinson’s comment does establish further prejudice on the part of the film-makers. If they did not want it to reinforce the viewpoint they were pushing, they could have edited it out of the film – but they did not.

Mr Matthews was next, to say that having Mr Gardiner overseeing his work was “awful” and made it impossible to do that job “in the way it had been done previously”. Considering what we had heard so far, and the facts that have become clear about the people speaking, it seems clear that “the way it had been done previously” was unacceptable. But viewers were not supposed to think that – quite the opposite, in fact. So Panorama had managed to construct a narrative in which prejudice-driven hysteria was meant to be seen as reasonable and a rational approach as interference. That is bias; it is false and prejudicial reporting.

7. Sam Matthews.

Perhaps we should discuss Mr Matthews here. He was in charge of the disputes team while my own case was being investigated, and it seems to me that he did his best to ensure that I would be expelled, no matter what the evidence showed. I have already explained details of some of the allegations against me, and more will follow. You can see that they are nonsense; they do not survive contact with the facts.

Here in the UK we have a fundamental principle of justice, which is that a person is innocent until they are proven guilty. It seems clear that Labour’s disputes team under Mr Matthews inverted that principle. They decided that people who had been accused of anti-Semitism must be guilty of it – the mere fact of having been accused was enough.

In my dealings with the disputes team over my own case, I was never given the impression that anybody involved considered me to be anything less than guilty of all charges, evidence be damned, and my innocence in respect of some of them has only been demonstrated by contact with other authorities.

Mr Matthews has admitted he left Labour under a cloud, and much was made before the programme was broadcast of the fact that he had been ordered to sign a non-disclosure agreement about his work within the party – a controversial move as Labour officially opposes them. But there is an important data protection here that was not mentioned: It is true that the Data Protection Act orders data holders to keep people’s information confidential – but in the Labour Party, the official data holder is the general secretary. Disputes team members, who handle personal data every day, must also be held to confidentiality by some means and it seems likely that NDAs were the only such means available. I notice that Panorama did not put forward any alternatives.

They have broken those agreements – most clearly with the leaks to the press that led, in my own case, to me being libelled as a Holocaust denier by The Sunday Times and four other news outlets including the Jewish Chronicle. Whoever committed that offence did so in breach of an NDA long before Panorama got anywhere near them. It has been suggested that the culprit was Mr Matthews. If so, it seems he was leaking like a sieve, while in post with the Labour Party. And what about the allegation that he was shredding complaints against people he considered his political allies?

All of the above make Mr Matthews a highly-unsafe witness, yet it seems he was the main source of information for the Panorama documentary. It seems clear that his comments were unsafe and created a false impression about the Labour Party.

8. Jackie Walker.

The next segment of the programme referred to the case of Jackie Walker – one with which I am intimately familiar as some of the accusations against me related to my comments about it.

Before we get to the evidence, though, it is important to note that Louise Withers-Green, who claimed to have interviewed Ms Walker, appears to have done nothing of the sort. Whether the testimony of Ms Walker is trustworthy may be a matter for debate, but it seems it is just as likely to be true as that of Ms Withers-Green – more so, perhaps, as the disputes team member started her segment with a lie that “the Jews were financiers of the slave trade”.

It is interesting that the BBC allowed this claim to appear on Panorama as the corporation had been forced to admit that Nick Robinson was wrong to say that, when he tweeted the suggestion in February. That correction had come at the end of June – at least 10 days before the transmission of the Panorama programme. Why had the BBC allowed itself to repeat this – call it what it is – libel?

“She suggested that Jews were… unwelcoming to black people.” This is a new claim, as far as I am aware, and I would like to hear more evidence. As none was forthcoming, I must assume that it does not exist.

“And [she] repeatedly reiterated tropes about Jews having undue power and influence.” Did she? My recollection is that members of the Israel Advocacy Movement hacked into Ms Walker’s private messaging system on Facebook and grabbed whatever they could get, which included a comment in a discussion with a friend that the Caribbean slave trade, at the time her ancestors were slaves, had numbered Jewish people among its chief financiers – and this is why the Caribbean has many very old synagogues. Later, in what was advertised as a “safe space” session during a Labour conference – where attendees were encouraged to air controversial views in order to discuss them, my understanding is that a recording was taken of Ms Walker saying she had not found a definition of anti-Semitism with which she could agree, that she wished Holocaust Memorial Day was open to all peoples who have experienced holocaust (going on to point out that it excludes “the African holocaust” during the slave trade, among others), and when the subject of security at Jewish schools was raised she questioned the trainer’s point – as she understands that all London primary schools have security now.

Who was acting in bad faith during those incidents? Was it really Ms Walker? Or was it the Israel Advocacy Movement members who broke the law by hacking into her private messages and presenting a distorted version of what they found to the Jewish Chronicle, and the Jewish Labour Movement members who claimed to have organised a “safe space” training session and then betrayed the faith attendees placed in them by recording what was said and pretending it was evidence of anti-Semitism?

“She showed absolutely no contrition or remorse for the things that she had said,” claimed Ms Withers-Green. Why should she? Ms Walker had said nothing wrong.

We were told the complaint was sent to Labour’s National Constitutional Committee, which has authority to expel members (I have personal experience of this), and former party general secretary Iain (now Lord) McNicol said the NCC is completely independent and should make decisions based on the facts of a case.

I have personal experience that this is not true. When my own case went before the NCC, its members decided against me – but not on the facts of the matter. I had proved those facts wrong and the party representative who had been brought in to make its own case had been unable to deny anything I said (she seemed to know very little about it at all). Their final reason for expelling me was the limp excuse that I had made statements which had upset somebody (who was never named and therefore, legally, does not exist).

So there are genuine reasons to believe that the NCC has acted in bad faith over cases of anti-Semitism – not in favour of the guilty but against the innocent. That would have been a much more worthwhile investigation to make, but the film-makers, it seems, had an agenda. This is further evidence of falsehood, bias and prejudice.

9. Expulsions

The programme discussed the number of people who had been expelled from the Labour Party: 15. Shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne was asked “Do you regard 15 expulsions of anti-Semites in a crisis that has been running over three years as evidence of having dealt with this crisis?” That is a loaded question. Ms Walker wasn’t an anti-Semite, and wasn’t expelled as one. Neither am I, and neither was I. Marc Wadsworth is bringing legal action against Labour; so am I. I take extreme objection to being described in this way and I question whether Mr Gwynne has actually read any of the details of the cases he was discussing. The falsehood that we are anti-Semites, made here, could prejudice our cases. Did the film-makers ever consider the possibility that some of those they were accusing might possibly have been innocent? If not, this is further evidence of prejudice and adherence to falsehood.

It seems clear that this programme was politically-slanted in language, presentation and balance of interviewees, relied heavily and one-sidedly on the claims and allegations of politically partisan sources and failed to meet the BBC’s obligations of fairness, balance and political impartiality.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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21 thoughts on “My complaint to the BBC over its Panorama hatchet job (LONG)

  1. Jenny Hambidge

    Excellent Mike. I hardly dare write this , but I have been wondering for a while now why Priti Patel tool it upon herself to visit members of the Israeli Government in such an underhand way. I wonder who is paying for all these deeply underhand smears. WE know who is gaining from it. She is also now Home secretary.

  2. Lynn Dye

    Congratulations, Mike, on a well thought out and well written, thorough complaint. The BBC should hang its collective head in shame for such blatant bias. It will be interesting to see their response. Unfortunately, I think they are likely to ignore it or repeat their usual rubbish. Good Luck!

  3. John Adams

    Well done Mike. A first class piece of work.

    On a housekeeping note, I think you have missed a word (rare?) out of the first paragraph of section 3.

  4. Zippi

    In the last paragraph of point 3, you said, “Perhaps the reason it was not said it that Professor Johnson is an employee of BICOM.” Did you mean, the reason why it was not said IS that…?
    I’m surprised that you didn’t mention Jackie Walker’s Jewish heritage, particularly given that it corroborates the statement that was made by Saumas Milne. The fact that Panorama didn’t mention her Jewish heritage is also telling. The other thing that you didn’t mention is that the image of Israel superimposed into the U.S.A. came from Norman Finkelstein, another Jew.
    A very thorough account, Mr. Mike. Well done. You’re research and investigation are the reason why I happened upon this site and have been a regular visitor these last 3 and a half years. Don’t let this drop!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The image of Israel superimposed onto the USA did not come from Norman Finkelstein. I asked him myself three years ago and you can read his response in articles of the time. I just wanted to make that clear.

      1. Zippi

        Ach, ok. I must have missed that. I have seen similar images but the one that Ms Shah posted is on his site with no explanation. Still, the fact that he posted it is enough to undermine their assertion.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        It certainly is, as I pointed out ad nauseam when I was accused of anti-Semitism for defending it.

  5. Zippi

    Having just watched some of the programme again, I was deeply upset by what I saw and heard. A breakdown, depression and anxiety and contemplation of suicide? I endured a sustained campaign of bullying, threats and harassment IN MY HOME, over a period of 14 months. I DID suffer some kind of breakdown and was in fear of depression, because I am at its mercy but have managed it for some years but I did not contemplate suicide, despite the fact that the place where I was supposed to be safe was the place where I was not. Were those people serious? If work was bad, where could I go? I am deeply suspicious. Who knew that half of those people were Jewish? If they think that things are bad, they should try walking in my shoes. Racism? Those people haven’t a clue. It made me angry.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        I’ve added in the omissions and corrected the errors now (at least, those about which I have been alerted).

  6. MrJeff3

    Can’t read all but to get a answer from the BBC won’t b the one you want has we now it’s bias station only promoting the Tory way but truth is being buried by them and some in the labour party

  7. Julia

    Well done indeed. It is sickening that the BBC which used to be a world leader in news reportage and a once highly respected investigative programme such as ‘Panorama’ have been reduced to this. It has been clear for some years now that the licence fee may as well go straight into the Tories’ coffers!

    Good luck – but as Lynn says above I would not hold your breath…

  8. Helen Hill

    Very well done, Mike. You have written more than many of us think. I do hope the BBC reply to you and eventually come to their senses. It adds to the mountain of evidence of who and what they are afraid of.

  9. Gary

    Wow! Well done. Will they reply or will they claim to never have received it ‘lost in the post’ type of thing?

    I’m sure you won’t get any kind of decent reply. They just don’t deal with complaints, they are ignored unless you have SERIOUS political clout.

    Good luck with this!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      They have to sign for it; they should reply to it. As to the manner of what reply… We shall see!

  10. Zippi

    I found this, the other day, on Norman Finkelstein’s website; it makes for interesting reading and says things that I have been saying for years, about racism.

Comments are closed.