For Jeremy Corbyn and his allies, an internal Labour party report written in the dying days of his leadership has become their holy grail.
The report was authored, and it appears, leaked by officials loyal to Corbyn’s office — known as LOTO, which stands for Leader of the Opposition’s Office.
The Corbynites believe that the report’s 851 pages demonstrate the opposite of how the media portrayed the former Labour leader — in at least three key respects:
1) Corbyn and his office were always determined to rid Labour of antisemitism in the face of a hostile right-wing party bureaucracy preoccupied with undermining him. It was Panorama’s whistleblowers and their bosses who were the obstacle.
2) Labour would have won the libel case brought by the whistleblowers had Keir Starmer not settled and the case gone to trial. The “leaked report on how antisemitism was handled tells a very different story” from the mainstream media’s version of events, maintains Unite boss Len McCluskey. Corbyn has suggested likewise.
3) Some of the whistleblowers and their bosses “sabotaged” the 2017 general election, depriving Corbyn of the chance of becoming prime minister of a minority government.
Beginning this week is our two-part investigation into some of the leaked report’s key claims. I compare them to previously undisclosed documents and unused evidence, gathered during my research for Panorama in 2019 and from my own sources, some of whom were directly involved in the events covered by the report.
The Whistleblowers’ libel settlement
Corbyn and McCluskey have blamed Sir Keir Starmer for making what Corbyn has described as a “political decision, not a legal one.” McCluskey describes the settlement as a “misuse of Labour Party funds”.
(Full disclosure: Labour also settled with me because I sued the party for falsely stating that on Panorama, I had made “deliberate and malicious misrepresentations designed to mislead the public.”)
In fact, it is highly unlikely that Labour’s barrister had advised the party — as McCluskey has claimed —that they “would” win”, only that they “might” win.
Libel cases are notoriously unpredictable partly because they are determined by what an ordinary reader/viewer would have understood the disputed words to have meant and, if they go to trial, what witnesses will say in the witness box.
So even if Labour’s legal advice was positive, it was likely to have been highly caveated, not least since only a clairvoyant (and not a barrister) can predict with any certainty what a witness will actually say under cross examination.
Labour’s own lawyers also knew that the whistleblowers’ solicitor, barristers and QC were sufficiently confident of victory that they were prepared to act on a “no-win-no fee” basis, with an insurance company covering the risk of the whistleblowers losing so that they wouldn’t be liable for Labour’s costs had the case gone to trial. Both I and the whistleblowers wanted our day in court.
The only reason the case didn’t go to trial was because the Labour Party made what is known as a “Part 36 Offer” which put a heavy onus on us as claimants to settle.
Labour then “unreservedly” withdrew all its allegations against the whistleblowers and against me. The party under Starmer also expressed its “profound regret” at the allegations having been made in the first place.
Neither McCluskey nor Corbyn mentioned any of this in their responses immediately after these apologies were read in open court.
The 2017 election ‘plot’
Starmer has established an internal inquiry into the contents and leaking of the report, headed by Martin Forde QC.
In his submission to Forde, Corbyn and eight of his closest political allies and advisers are reported to have said there is overwhelming evidence of sabotage by party officials. In Unite’s submission, the union has suggested there may have been fraud.
These submissions refer to a project which the leaked report says was not disclosed to LOTO and which drew on party election funds. The leaked report names the project as the “Ergon House project” because it operated out of Ergon House, the party’s London regional office.
However, beyond reporting these facts accurately, the leaked report provides no evidence of an intention by party officials to sabotage the election in order to deprive Corbyn of the chance of becoming prime minister, despite the authors’ claim to have scoured 100,000 emails.
The project was actually called the “Bespoke Materials Service”. BMS spent £135,014 — just 1.2 per cent of Labour’s reported £11 million election spend.
The evidence suggests that the rationale behind the BMS was not to “sabotage” a Labour victory, but was, in fact, defensive. With the Tories 19 points ahead when Theresa May called the snap 2017 election, officials in Labour’s senior management team (SMT) feared for the very survival of the party as a viable opposition.
Further details of BMS and why Corbyn was not as close to having a shot at No.10 in 2017 as his supporters and Unite have claimed can be found on The Critic website (www.thecritic.co.uk).
In its submission to the Forde Inquiry over BMS, Unite has demanded that Starmer provide the Inquiry with full accounting of the £5m it says it gave Labour for the 2017 general election.
McCluskey’s concern over the full accounting of the BMS spend of just £135,000 contrasts with the estimated £1.75m he allowed Unite to gamble — and lost — in its defence of a recent libel action brought by the former Labour MP Anna Turley against both Unite and the pro Corbyn, alt-left media outlet, Skwawkbox.
Quoted in a Skwawkbox article, Unite falsely accused Turley of acting dishonestly in submitting her application to join Unite.
Unite is reported to have underwritten Skwawkbox’s costs and, despite Turley having made an offer to settle for around £10,000, Unite pressed on to trial – where they lost and ended up having to pay an estimated £1.75m, partly due to a 10 per cent penalty on costs for having turned down her offer.
Unite sought leave to appeal but that was refused so the case was a significant loss for McCluskey — the same McCluskey who claims Labour “would” have won against Panorama’s whistle-blowers had Starmer not settled.
Was McCluskey also just as sure that Unite and Skwawkbox would win against Turley? Or did he just press on regardless? No doubt Unite’s members will want to know the answer since it was their £1.75m that was lost.
The leaked report claims to “provide a full and thorough account of the evolution of the party’s disciplinary processes in relation to dealing with complaints of antisemitism.”
It says this “in-depth and extensive” investigation has provided the Equalities Commission’s investigation into Labour under Corbyn with a “comprehensive response” to the commission’s questions. The commission is due to report its findings shortly.
In submissions to the EHRC by Jewish groups, their most contested allegation has been that officials in the Governance and Legal Unit responsible for investigating antisemitism complaints were fearful of LOTO and the NEC because of their hostility to the GLU and that these officials were expected “to follow unwritten guidance” from one or other body.
The leaked report refers to this allegation no fewer than 15 times and asserts that this “did not happen and indeed could not have happened.”
It says that “any claim” that staff “felt obliged to follow instructions from LOTO, including to follow unwritten instructions from LOTO compelling them not to act on complaints of antisemitism, is contradicted by all of the documentary evidence seen by the party and does not appear to have been possible.”
To the contrary, our review of the evidence, shows that the leaked report omits an abundance of incidents and facts which show how, from 2015, both the NEC and LOTO sought to exert pressure on GLU officials and their bosses over both antisemitism and non-antisemitism disciplinary related cases.
In Part 2 next week, we will disclose the evidence the leaked report omitted on antisemitsm and other disciplinary cases