Fallout Continues From BBC Expose of Antisemitism in Labour Party
The fallout from a hard-hitting BBC expose of antisemitism in the British Labour party continued on Sunday with the journalist behind the program detailing the criticism he had suffered as a result, two party whistleblowers announcing their intention to sue Labour, and a prominent MP calling on the party to change its policies on the issue.
The Guardian reported that journalist John Ware had taken a considerable amount of abuse for helming the Panorama expose, with Ware describing it as “a bit like going out in a gale.”
“But it has happened to me every time I have done a program,” he said. “The same stock phrases come up whenever you touch this live rail. You get one or other side abusing you.”
Social media trolls have referred to Ware as “the BBC’s Islamophobe in chief” and a “far-right journalist” after the program aired.
“It does hurt, of course, if people call me an Islamophobe, or say I am far-right,” Ware commented. “I hate that, but they are entitled to their opinion. The thing I really don’t like is seeing they are basing these opinions on false facts.”
“The Labour party inject personal motives into this and I have talked with my wife about how much to defend myself,” he added. “Whatever people think of me, the BBC has a strict legal and compliance process when it comes to making Panorama and you are submitted to that all the way through.”
“The Labour party reaction last week did not terribly surprise me,” he noted. “But this is not the straight-talking party that Corbyn promised,” referring to far-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the object of much criticism for his handling of the antisemitism issue.
“I am neither bloodied nor bowed by this,” Ware said. “It is too important and there is a danger now that this row about antisemitism will become more inflamed, not less, because it is impossible to interrogate the Labour party response.”
In regard to that response, two interviewees on the Panorama report, Sam Matthews and Louise Withers Green, have announced that they planned to bring a lawsuit against Labour for what they called its defamatory attacks on them following the broadcast.
Labour called them and other party whistleblowers “disaffected former officials” who have “personal and political axes to grind” and are thus not credible sources, Yahoo News reported.
Matthews’ and Green’s lawyer, Mark Lewis, called these claims “very serious libels. Those representing the Labour party have acted in a way that set out to destroy the reputations of the whistleblowers.”
“In their effort to destroy these people, they have left it for the courts to decide who is telling the truth,” Green added. “It is ironic that the bosses at the workers’ party have decided to go against the workers.”
Also chiming in was dissident Labour MP Emily Thornberry, who has been vocal on the need to deal with antisemitism in the party.
She told the BBC following the broadcast, “Nobody can pretend that there isn’t an ongoing problem within the Labour party about antisemitism, about our processes for dealing with it.”
She demanded the party overhaul its complaints and disciplinary processes to tackle the problem.
Adding a personal note, she said, “I actually care about the fact that I have a Jewish member of staff, who when she goes to family weddings can’t say who she works for — even though I fight on this issue a lot — she cannot admit who she works for or what she does, because she doesn’t want to spend the rest of the day defending herself.”
“I don’t want that,” Thornberry emphasized. “I want us to sort this out.”