I haven’t contributed to the so-called Forde Inquiry into the allegations in the (also so-called) #LabourLeaks report because I think it’ll be a stitch-up.
My own court case against Labour will go to trial on October 2 and I’m happy to let Mr Forde QC come to his own conclusions, which I may then find easy to use against the party if my own legal action is successful.
You will understand why I see no point in contributing when I make this point: if Mr Forde’s inquiry was above-board, why did a small left-wing blog have to suggest that disputed WhatsApp messages be published in full?
The demand is an obvious one, but it has been made on the Skwawkbox blog, not in the mainstream media or by anybody directly concerned with the inquiry. The article states:
Former staff accused in a leaked Labour Party report of abusive comments toward other staff, racism, obstructing disciplinary processes to facilitate media attacks – among other things – and even of sabotaging Labour’s electoral campaigns are trying to sue the party for breach of confidentiality.
They also claim that their WhatsApp conversations were used out of context to incriminate them – a defence remarkably similar to the one that Keir Starmer just abandoned in order to pay ‘whistleblowers’ a huge amount of money in a case Labour’s lawyers said the party was likely to win.
If those attempting to sue the party believe the context of:
- comments such as ‘pube head’, discussions of bra-less female employees and women’s weight and glee at Labour’s first black woman MP allegedly crying in a toilet
- the diversion of party campaign funds to an ‘Ergon House’ account to use for their own priorities
- comments expressing horror at Labour’s strong performance in the 2017 general election
- actions to block and derail investigations into antisemitism and other racism
would show that those comments and actions were innocent and entirely in keeping with the positions they held and the substantial salaries they received for filling them, then the solution is simple:
Publish their conversations in full, so everyone can see for themselves.
How suspicious that none of the individuals concerned seem keen to take up that offer!
Perhaps they fear the evidence will serve merely to corroborate that of others who have gone public with their own submissions to Forde – assertions which support the leaked report’s claim that senior officials of the Labour Party spent years sabotaging Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and succeeded in preventing him from winning a general election in 2017 (and possibly in 2019 as well).
Here‘s a piece on Open Democracy that provides ample information on the subject. I am grateful to a Facebook friend who summed up its claims as follows:
The Offices of the Leader of the Opposition are less than half a mile away from Labour party headquarters on Victoria Street. Labour party HQ is responsible for setting up the party leader’s offices. They should have been up and running when Jeremy Corbyn took over from Ed Miliband. Joe Royle has submitted evidence to the internal Labour inquiry, chaired by Martin Forde QC into sabotage by party employees before the 2017 general election.1) There were no ‘handover notes’ left for the new leader’s team.2) Many of the office computers had gone missing.3) The computers that remained were old and kept crashing.4) There were not enough monitor screens for computers.5) John McDonnell’s offices had been completely gutted.6) The walls were bare, with staples and blu-tak left behind.7) There were desks without chairs or computers.8) Attempts to hire new staff were delayed, frustrated or blocked.9) Jeremy Corbyn had only 16 staff. Ed Milliband had twice that.10) The party refused to hire a former treasury economist (James Meadway), so he had to be seconded from a trade union which did hire him.11) Discussions from meetings were leaked to journalists instantly.12) The leader’s office could not trust Labour HQ not to leak every policy announcement in advance.13) A rally for John McDonnell was held in the middle of nowhere to deter members from turning up and prevent press coverage.14) This tactic had been used before.15) Press releases were blocked.16) Staff members briefed against Jeremy Corbyn’s office.17) The party’s message was deliberately kept off social media.18) Coordinated staff resignations19) The 2017 manifesto was leaked (never happened before).20) Facebook adverts designed to be seen by Corbyn’s team only but prevented from being seen by the public (£5,000 cost per one).21) Staff disappointed that the party did so well in 2017.22) Corbyn’s staff’s access to Labour HQ was revoked in anticipation of losing the election.23) Resources, including campaign organizers, were diverted away from winnable marginal seats to safe Labour right-wing seats.24) Labour lost the seats necessary to win the 2017 election by 2,227 swing votes.
And what are the so-called victims in this case – the ones whose WhatsApp chats were quoted and who say they were misused – doing?
Are they backing calls for the chats to be published in full?
No. They are trying to hide the evidence and have the Forde Inquiry closed down.
Here‘s The Guardian (and shame on that rag for giving this demand column space):
lawyers for the accused officials say the WhatsApp messages were used selectively and edited to give a false impression. They also say the inquiry should be abandoned given the damage already caused by the leaked report.
It’s interesting that these staffers would suggest that a tactic regularly employed by Labour’s disciplinary system to falsify accusations of anti-Semitism against party members (I have personal experience of this) has been used unfairly against them.
Some might call it “sauce for the goose” (suggesting that such treatment is poetic justice for the likes of these people) but I would not be one of them. For one thing, I expect the accusation to be proved false when (if?) the facts come into the open.
And Claudia Webbe, who headed the disputes panel that used those tactics at the time, seems to agree. Although I am uncomfortable with having to side with someone who was part of the system that attacked me, I think she makes points that are worth reading in this matter:
“It’s disgraceful that anyone would attempt to justify racism towards black Labour MPs and misogyny towards women employees, which has driven many of our members, particularly BAME members, to leave our party in disgust.
“If former officials thought quotes in the report – which are clearly copied and pasted from WhatsApp – were misleading, they would welcome the Forde inquiry having the chance to see the full texts. Instead, they seem to want to stop the inquiry from looking at the evidence because they fear it will confirm the accuracy of the WhatsApp messages.”
Ultimately, the Labour staffers whose WhatsApp chats were used (and we all know who they are, even if we can’t mention the names yet) are unsafe whatever happens.
If the Forde Inquiry publishes the messages in context, so we can all judge them for ourselves, then it seems likely they will be exposed as racists and misogynists (and possibly anti-Semites as well).
If they succeed in blocking it, then we will all draw the obvious conclusion that the inquiry would have revealed them to be racists, misogynists etc and their names will automatically poison anything with which they try to associate themselves.
If I were in their position, I’d let the information be published and allow the public to make an informed choice, rather than try to hide it like a coward.