Keir Starmer (left) and his general secretary David Evans: was this decision their idea?
After successfully fending off a court bid to name officers believed to have leaked a controversial internal report, Labour has named and accused five ex-staffers as part of its defence against others who are suing the party over the link. Wait – what?
The internal report, The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019, was originally intended to be a submission from the Labour Party to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which conducted an investigation into Labour anti-Semitism that concluded in October 2020, finding that the party was not institutionally anti-Semitic.
On legal advice, the report was not submitted to the EHRC – but it was instead leaked, in full, to the press and online, leading to court action by people named in the report.
This in turn led to two investigations by Labour – one by an independent external investigator and another by Martin Forde QC. Neither found evidence to prove that any of the five who have now been accused had anything to do with the leak. The Forde report has been delayed indefinitely after the Information Commissioner’s Office launched an investigation into the same leaks.
Labour’s latest move is beyond ridiculous. If This Writer understands the situation properly, Labour has already acknowledged to a court that there was no “smoking gun” evidence to prove who leaked the report, and the party’s solicitor stated that it “does not claim to know definitively and with absolute certainty the identity of the person(s) responsible”.
So why has it named Seumas Milne, Karie Murphy, Georgie Robertson, Harry Hayball and Laura Murray as being responsible for leaking the so-called “LabourLeaks” report?
According to solicitors Carter-Ruck, acting for the group, “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.”
On one level, this makes sense – because Keir Starmer and his general secretary David Evans have brought Labour to the brink of bankruptcy by losing a string of court cases related to the crusade against left-wing party members they have accused of anti-Semitism. Deflecting blame in the current case might seem a smart plan – right?
Except… if the five are able to employ super-expensive Carter-Ruck, then they’re not short of cash and are likely to get very high-quality advice. Not only will they “vigorously defend” themselves in court and seek full reimbursement of their costs, but according to “well-placed sources”
the five individuals are “considering bringing legal claims against the party over its victimisation of them and for breach of their confidentiality”.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the five said:
“The individuals entirely reject these baseless claims. They did not leak the report. They fully cooperated with the party’s investigation by an independent external investigator, and with
the inquiry led by Martin Forde QC. They understand that neither of those investigations concluded that they were responsible.
“The party has already 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 focussing 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.”
The situation is particularly interesting to me because, when I was still a Labour member, an internal party report libellously accusing me of Holocaust denial was leaked to the press. When I took the party to court over its treatment of me, Labour’s representatives repeatedly asserted that they could not identify the officer responsible for the leak. I am agog to learn how the party linked these five to this leak when it couldn’t connect anybody with mine. Expedience?
And if you thought that was the punchline, think again:
Decisions on matters like this are so important that they should properly be submitted to a vote by the party’s governing body, the National Executive Committee. But here’s NEC member Mish Rahman:
I think we know who made this unilateral decision. It seems they had no authority to do so.
With such potential for disastrous consequences for Labour’s finances, isn’t this a good reason for disciplinary – and indeed even expulsion – procedures against the culprit(s)?
Finally, there’s the elephant in the room:
Lots of us – including Jon Trickett, who wrote Labour’s submission to the Forde Report and can see the way the wind is blowing. So he is considering some unilateral action of his own:
Oh, and former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell – who was part of the Labour leadership at the time – agrees.
So there’s a fairly clear path forward for Labour:
Withdraw the claims against the “Carter-Ruck Five”, divulge who decided to make them and submit those people to disciplinary action/expulsion. Publish the Forde Report.
I think we all know those are forlorn hopes.
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