Activist - who Jeremy Corbyn said lacked 'English irony' - sues Labour leader for libel

Richard Millett was one of the pair Mr Corbyn was referring to when he referred to 'Zionists' having 'no sense of English irony' in 2013


Jeremy Corbyn is being sued by one of the activists he claimed to be referring to when he infamously said “Zionists” had “no sense of English irony.”

Richard Millett is seeking damages for libel from the Labour leader, accusing Mr Corbyn of having made defamatory remarks when he subsequently defended those words on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show after they resurfaced last year.

Mr Corbyn said he was referring to specific people who had been “incredibly disruptive” and “very abusive”.

The incident took place in 2013 when Mr Corbyn was a vocally pro-Palestine backbench MP.

During a speech to the Palestinian Return Centre, Mr Corbyn described an “incredibly powerful and passionate” speech given “the other evening” by Manuel Hassassian, then the Palestinian envoy to Britain. 

Mr Corbyn said the speech “was dutifully recorded by the – thankfully silent – Zionists who were in the audience on that occasion and then came up and berated him afterwards for what he’d said".

“They clearly have two problems: one is they don’t want to study history; and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either,” he said.

When the comments emerged last year, Mr Corbyn was widely accused of antisemitism.

During the Marr Show appearance, he said he had been specifically referring to “two people” who had previously been “incredibly disruptive, indeed the police wanted to throw them out of the building.”

He said they had been quiet during Mr Hassassian’s speech but afterwards “they came up and were really, really strong on him… They were very, very abusive to Manuel. Very abusive. And I was upset on his behalf.”

Mr Millett, who is Jewish, had previously been identified in the media as one of the pro-Israel activists present for Mr Hassassian’s speech.

Court documents sent to Mr Corbyn's lawyers describe his comments on Andrew Marr as “serious allegations…likely to cause serious harm” to Mr Millett’s reputation and interfere with his work as “a blogger and commentator” on matters relating to both Jews in the UK and to Israel.

“It is a crucial part of the Claimant’s work that he be allowed to attend meetings on these matters so that he can report and comment on them”, the documents read.

“More generally, the Claimant relies on being able to discuss matters of concern to him with any persons who might hold views on such subjects. The defamatory allegations will tend to make others refuse the Claimant entry to meetings, to shun him and to be wary of the opinions and facts he expresses.”

The Guido Fakes blog said costs for a case of this type “could easily reach £100,000… it is a measure of Corbyn’s fall-out with the Jewish community that Richard Millett has raised the backing for this case.”

A Labour spokesperson described the case as “absurd” and said it would be “robustly challenged."

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