Labour's Claudia Webbe says she is 'deeply concerned' by antisemitism libel settlements

Pro-Corbyn MPs comments made as Labour General Secretary warns party members against questioning libel payouts


Labour MP Claudia Webbe has said she is “deeply concerned” about the party’s decision to settle a libel case with whistle-blowers who blew the lid on antisemitism within the party.

In comments reported by the Guardian newspaper, the Leicester East MP, who was parachuted into the seat ahead of the last election under former leader Jeremy Corbyn, said: “I don’t know the details of the lawsuits against the party but I am deeply concerned that the party would apologise…while the independent inquiry into [the report’s] contents is ongoing.

“At a time when black members are saying they don’t feel safe and welcome in our party, this move by the leadership could undermine the very inquiry that they promised would restore the trust and confidence of BAME communities.”

The MP’s comments emerged as Labour General Secretary David Evans wrote to Labour branches across the country yesterday to warn that discussion of the settlement of the libel cases – which related to the BBC Panorama show aired in July 2019 – “are not competent business for discussion by local parties.”

Mr Evans warned on Thursday that party members could face “potential liabilities” if challenging the libel settlement and unreserved apology made to those who brought the case. 

Ms Webbe – who was previously a member of Labour’s NEC disputes panel that ruled on antisemitism cases – was quoted in an article that claimed so-called ‘’hierarchy of racism’’ issues are damaging Sir Keir Starmer’s attempts to unify the party as leader.

MPs and activists loyal to Mr Corbyn have attempted to use the leaking of an internal report back in April, to suggest that allegations of racism amongst black MPs have been over-looked in favour of antisemitism cases.

The settling of libel cases brought against the party by seven whistle-blowers who spoke to BBC Panorama and by the BBC journalist John Ware have led to further criticism of Sir Keir.

But the pro-Corbyn wing have over looked the Executive Summary of the leaked report – which is now the subject of an independent inquiry headed by the QC Martin Forde – in their attempt to highlight alleged cases of anti-Black racism within its 860 pages.

The Executive Summary states: “This report thoroughly disproves any suggestion that antisemitism is not a problem in the Party, or that it is all a ‘smear’ or a ‘witch-hunt’. The reports finding prove the scale of the problem and could help end the denialism amongst part of the Party and membership which has further hurt Jewish members and Jewish community.”

But the Guardian reports that members of Labour’s  BAME staff network warned that the apologies to seven ex-staffers who appeared on BBC Panorama could further a perception of a “hierarchy of racism” in the party, with antisemitism seen as the most serious form of prejudice, while Islamophobia and anti-black racism were considered less important.

Former shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott was quoted saying: “I knew the party bureaucracy was anti-Jeremy”  …. “and they were not my best friends, but I was really shocked when the report revealed just how racist and abusive they were about me and other black MPs on the left, going so far as to work with journalists who were trying to doorstep me and harass me. I found that really shocking and upsetting.”

The ‘’hierarchy of racism’’ argument has previously been used by activists such as Jackie Walker, who was expelled from Labour over allegations involving antisemitism.

On Thursday, General Secretary Mr Evans also motions calling for party branches to “repudiate” the IHRA definition of antisemitism were “not competent business for CLPs to discuss.”

Last week the JC revealed how a branch in  Mr Corbyn’s Islington North seat had submitted such a motion for debate at a meeting.


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