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July 22, 2020 9:14 am

UK Labour Party Apologizes in Court to Antisemitism Whistleblowers, Admits It Defamed Them

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A young protester holds a placard at a demonstration organized by the British Board of Jewish Deputies to oppose antisemitism in the Labour Party at Parliament Square in London, March 26, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Henry Nicholls.

Two lawsuits over antisemitism in the UK Labour Party were settled on Wednesday, with Labour admitting guilt and agreeing to pay compensation.

Both lawsuits were connected to a documentary broadcast by the BBC program “Panorama” that documented extensive antisemitism within Labour under its former leader Jeremy Corbyn and featured a raft of whistleblowers testifying to the problem.

The lawsuits charged that as a reaction to the program, its maker, journalist John Ware, was subject to “defamatory” accusations by Labour, including that Ware “invented quotes, flouted journalistic ethics, and that, in pursuit of a pre-determined outcome to the question asked by the Panorama program, Mr Ware knowingly promoted falsehoods, including by misrepresentations of fact and by fabricating facts.”

The claimant charged, “These statements were defamatory of Mr. Ware, and were foreseeably republished and were intended by the Defendant to be republished very widely in the media and on social media.”

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The whistleblowers, Katherine Buckingham, Michael Creighton, Samuel Matthews, Daniel Hogan, Louise Withers Green, Martha Robinson and Benjamin Westerman, made similar charges, saying they were subject to “defamatory and false allegations” that they sought to undermine Labour and made false statements.

In response to the charges against both Ware and the whistleblowers, Labour told the court that it “acknowledges that these claims about the Claimants are untrue, and we retract and withdraw them and undertake not to repeat them.”

“The Labour Party is here today to publicly set the record straight, and to apologize to the Claimants for the distress and embarrassment that it has caused them,” Labour’s counsel said.

“In these circumstances the Claimants are prepared to let the matter rest against the Labour Party,” the claimants’ counsel Mark Lewis said.

Lewis commented after the settlement, “Today in the High Court, the Labour Party retracted its false allegations made about the Panorama program asking whether Labour was antisemitic.”

“The answer was a clear ‘yes,’” he said. “Labour chose to double down and attack the program’s presenter, John Ware, and the whistleblowers rather than addressing the truth of the problem.”

“It is ironic that the workers’ party chose to act as disgruntled bosses who had been caught out,” Ware noted.

The case, he added, was not over, saying, “This is just the start. Actions are being taken against those who repeat the libels, and will be taken against those who choose to do so in future.”

“An honest opinion has to be based upon facts,” Lewis said. “Regrettably there are too many out there who do not bother to check the facts, when the facts do not support their factional view.”

A spokesperson for the UK-based Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), which was extensively involved in the fight against Labour antisemitism, said, “Today’s extraordinary settlement shows that the Labour Party recognizes that its attempts to discredit the courageous whistleblowers, as well as one of the nation’s most respected journalists, were indefensible.”

“To see Labour trying to destroy the reputation of its own staff for calling out Jew-hatred, in some cases causing serious mental health conditions, was an ignominious spectacle and demonstrated how, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour was ready to ruthlessly betray its own principles and people in order to cover up its institutional racism against Jews,” the spokesperson added.

The CAA also criticized Corbyn, who reacted to Labour’s apology by saying it was “a political decision, not a legal one.”

Corbyn stated, “The decision to settle these claims in this way is disappointing, and risks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations about action taken to tackle antisemitism in the Labour Party in recent years.”

Gideon Falter, chief executive of the CAA, replied, “From the backbenches, Jeremy Corbyn continues to spread conspiracy theories to cover up how the Labour Party became institutionally racist under his leadership.”

“We have been calling for Mr Corbyn to be disciplined since 2016,” Falter added. “We are again calling on [current Labour leader] Sir Keir Starmer to suspend Mr. Corbyn now and open a disciplinary investigation.”

Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) Chair Jonathan Goldstein said of Wednesday’s settlement, “This is a welcome step by the Labour party. The whistleblowers acted honestly and with integrity throughout and we thank them — and the 70 other whistleblowers — for submitting evidence to the EHRC investigation,” referring to an investigation of Labour antisemitism by the government’s Equality and Human Rights Commission.

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