NOTE BY THE JC's EDITOR, STEPHEN POLLARD:
In the dying days of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership, those most loyal to him were determined to have the last word on the antisemitism crisis that stained his four and a half years as leader.
For months, in conditions of secrecy, aides had been combing through tens of thousands of emails, social media messaging and files.
The result? An 851-page report that shows the factional war between Labour Party HQ ( known as “Southside”) and the Leader of the Opposition’s Office (“LOTO”) – and how that war affected the party’s handling of the crisis.
The report’s aim? “To provide a full and thorough account” of how Corbyn’s Labour dealt with antisemitism – to exonerate the Corbynites and pin the blame on their opponents.
Its conclusion? An account that “thoroughly disproves any suggestion that antisemitism is not a problem in the party, or that it is all a smear or a ‘witch hunt.’”
So, how did this happen? “A litany of mistakes, deficiencies and missed opportunities to reform, develop and adapt a clearly failing disciplinary system.”
Who was to blame? Those who appeared on last year’s BBC Panorama “Is Labour anti-Semitic?” – the “disaffected” ex staffers who blew the whistle on the toxic climate they said they were working under. Also, their bosses – the senior party officials from the then General Secretary Lord McNicol down.
The saviours, according to the report? McNicol’s successor, Jennie Formby for taking “extensive measures to create a functioning disciplinary system.”
The report’s intended destination? The Equality and Human Rights Commission in the hope that it might mitigate any finding that Labour under Corbyn was institutional antisemitic.
How did the report get out if it was supposed to be so secret? It was leaked from Corbyn’s office after Labour's lawyers advised LOTO strongly against submitting it to the EHRC.
The damage? Proceedings by some 30 former Labour staffers and members for defamation and breach of privacy under the Data Protection Act. Plus another inquiry – this time ordered by Sir Keir Starmer into how the office he has inherited could have been so stupid as to shoot itself in the foot.
To whom was the report leaked? Amongst others, the Corbyn supporting media “activist” website, Novara Media – who have now turned their guns on the whistle-blowers and Panorama.
The reporter for Panorama was John Ware. Novara Media asked Mr Ware a series of questions about his Panorama film. His answers are specific and detailed and forensically destroy the Novara case.
Novara seek to argue that the people to blame for the mishandling of the crisis were not LOTO but the Panorama whistleblowers; and the people who have been blamed by the media – LOTO and Jennie Formby – are actually the sainted ones who have rescued the situation with vastly more progress and better systems today.
They even blame Panorama for costing Labour the election.
Novara bill their report as “comprehensive” – which is not intended as a joke. Yet Novara have published a small fragment of John Ware’s responses and leave out the most relevant detail – unsurprising, since his answers prove the very opposite of the case Novara seek to make.
They also say, bizarrely, at the end of their report that they have published his statement in full. In fact they publish an initial response by Mr Ware before he was asked their serious questions - just four brief paragraphs from over 10,000 words sent to them by Mr Ware.
Here we publish in full his responses to the questions asked by Novara and the allegations of bias implicit in them - allegations which appear to be based solely on the leaked report which, as Mr Ware’s answers show, cannot be relied on.
Q: The leaked report says that in 2018 Dan Hogan received a complaint about Paul Rippingale. The complaint was based on your investigation into Rippingale. Hogan responded that “no action” should be taken against Rippingle because of “insufficient evidence”. Months later, the report says, a colleague emailed Hogan about Rippingale’s case again, but Hogan did not reply. This appears to demonstrate that Hogan himself was guilty of failing to tackle antisemitism, the very thing he appeared on Panorama to blow the whistle about. Does this raise any concerns for you about the veracity of the information he gave you in the interview and his credibility as a source?
A: No, it does not. Dan Hogan investigated multiple cases of antisemitism and it was clear from many conversations with him that he was committed to rooting out this poison and had a scrupulous regard for evidence.
Paul Rippingale was a member of Redbridge Momentum who used an alias by the name of Daud Niazi who authored an antisemitic blog during the general elections of 2010 and 2015, some of it directed at the Conservative candidate for Ilford North, Lee Scott who is also Jewish.
I don’t know why Dan Hogan assessed there was “insufficient evidence” in Rippingale’s case because I was unaware that a complaint had gone to him. It may have been the difficulty in proving conclusively that Rippingale and Niazi were one and the same individual. I know that it took me several weeks. I also know that Hogan had a very heavy case load. So, in the absence of being able to prove the ID issue swiftly, Dan Hogan may have felt his time was better prioritised on other cases more easily resolved. I note that when the GLU picked up the Rippingale case in October 2018 – three months after Hogan left the GLU - it was a further nine months before he was suspended.
Q: Were you at all aware of this incident before the leak?
Q: Would you have reconsidered using Hogan as a source if you had been aware?
A: I would obviously have questioned Dan Hogan about his decision had I known about it. However, given the very considerable number of cases I know that Hogan had pursued, and having seen evidence of how he went about his work (which was impressive), it is unlikely – simply on the basis of one case alone - that I would have discarded him as a credible witness, any more - presumably – than you would mark down whichever member (s) of the GLU subsequently took nine months to suspend Rippingale.
I note the report on which you rely states: “Hogan appears (emphasis added) to have simply failed to investigate, work which Complaints staff later did. Meanwhile, (Thomas) Gardiner then issued an NOI, and on further complaints in 2019, the new team proposed (and Gardiner agreed) a suspension.” Thomas Gardiner was Jennie Formby’s replacement for Sam Matthews as GLU Director. It rather looks as if very little work on the Rippingale case was done by the GLU under Gardiner from October 2018 until further complaints arrived many months later in 2019. In any case, rather than assume that Hogan did no work on the case, the authors of the report could have resolved this by asking him, which they did not.
Q: The report also contains multiple examples of Sam Matthews failing to act on serious cases of antisemitism. He failed to check an inbox full of complaints of abuse for months at a time, the report said. In one case, he decided against suspending a member who said that Jewish people “harp back to the holocaust to curry sympathy” and said this only warranted a “stern warning”. Again, are you concerned that Matthews appeared on your documentary as a whistle-blower, but now appears to have been guilty of the very same failings he accused others of when you spoke to him? Were you aware of any of these details before you interviewed him?
A: It is not for me to comment on why Sam Matthews did or did not suspend someone. It may be that with hindsight he wishes that he had in this particular case. I do know that he felt constrained by the Chakrabarti recommendation published three months earlier that suspension should be used sparingly and only as a last resort. The internal leaked report on which you so heavily rely is written in the name of the Labour Party. It is the official and authentic voice of the Corbyn administration, albeit in its dying days. Since the report so heavily criticises Matthews for using suspensions sparingly, it suggests that Jeremy Corbyn’s office must also now regard Baroness Chakrabarti’s recommendation on the party’s suspensions policy to have been flawed.
What I would say is that any suggestion that Sam Matthews, like Dan Hogan, was not committed to dealing with anti-Semitism is simply untrue. As with Hogan, I spent many hours questioning Matthews about his approach, the climate under which he was operating and about individual cases.
I judged Sam Matthews to be a credible witness and an honourable man. You should be aware that some of the report’s allegations that he and his GLU staff failed to check inboxes containing antisemitism complaints for “many months”, or not initiating investigations, or ordering suspensions for “over ten months” are demonstrably untrue. The documentary evidence exists to show such claims are untrue but it appears to have been missed or ignored by the report’s authors.
Others await the EHRC verdict on some of these and other questions, but for my part I do believe that Sam Matthews and those of his colleagues who we interviewed, did their level best to tackle antisemitism which unfortunately did find a voice – not of course, within a majority of the Labour party - but in enough pockets within BLPs and CLPs to create a deeply toxic climate.
Q: Kat Buckingham told you that amid a “civil war” between older and newer members, the role of her team was to bring “civility”. The report cites an email chain in which Buckingham and her colleagues discuss their attempts to purge the party of new members by “playing trot or not”. While they were doing this, she wrote, “real work is piling up”. Were you aware of this before you spoke to Buckingham. If not, do you now feel that Buckingham misled you by portraying herself as neutral, when it is clear she was involved in the “civil war” she told you about?
A: No, I was not aware of this comment by Kat Buckingham but as the report on which you rely also says ”Labour Party employees are usually engaged in politics and therefore obviously have political views.” It’s obvious her view about “Trots” was crude shorthand in a wider conversation that followed the explosion of applicants as a result of the introduction of the £25 membership fee.
This was also a private chat group concerned to prevent applicants from the more radical Left who may have seen the minimal membership fee as a way of infiltrating the Labour party for potentially improper reasons, for example membership or allegiance to organisations held by the party to be incompatible with membership. (I note that in the 2016 leadership election, Novara Media offered “purge-proofing advice” on changing FB and twitter privacy settings for political activists listing allegiances like “anarchist, a radical communist, or that you support the Green party” in their social media biographies!).
A private discussion within a chat group is not comparable with the kind of public social media abusive or inappropriate language that Kat Buckingham and her compliance colleagues used to justify suspending party members in the 2016 leadership election. The question of her neutrality is relevant solely in so far as was she was able to separate her private political views (to which she is entitled) from her job as a Labour Party staffer dispassionately applying the party rule book. It would be nigh impossible to find someone with no interest in politics working in the political world.
Her comment to me about the existence of a “civil war” was simply a statement of fact, surely? The civil war within the party after Jeremy Corbyn became leader was an open secret. Some supporters of Mr Corbyn did openly refer to party staffers as “Blairites” which was why, in the programme, I asked Kat Buckingham if her vetting was influenced more by factional than evidential factors:
Ware: Were you all Blairites?
Buckingham: No. Absolutely not. It would make no difference because …we had standards, we had clear rules that we had to try and uphold.
Q: The report suggests that an interaction you had with Sam Matthews about Seamus Milne interfering in the disciplinary process was misleading. Milne sent the email you reference at the end of a days-long debacle in which Matthews failed to issue suspensions for anti-Semites despite being asked if he had done so by Corbyn’s team. Clearly there was a difference in feeling about Glyn Secker’s case, but Matthews himself eventually admitted he did not think the case against him was “particularly strong”. In other words, Matthews failed to gather enough evidence to justify Secker’s suspension according to Labour’s rules. Do you agree that this additional context shows that this section of the show was misleading?
A: No, I do not.
Q: Does it not inaccurately portray Matthews as someone being sabotaged by his seniors when in fact Matthews had already told a colleague that he agreed the case against Secker was weak and had himself been guilty of failing to suspend people during the incident the email is concerned with? If Milne’s intervention was as characterised, why is there no evidence in any of the emails or messages of GLU staff raising objections to it?
A: I’m afraid I don’t follow your point in your last sentence. As to your suggestion that I “inaccurately” portrayed “Matthews as someone being sabotaged by his seniors” – by painting a fuller picture of this episode that does the leaked report will, I suggest, persuade others that I did not.
Glyn Secker is a Jewish anti-Zionist activist who belongs to the fringe organisation, Jewish Voice for Labour and is a political ally of Mr Corbyn. What my Secker sequence did portray – accurately and fairly – was indeed the sabotaging of a decision by Sam Matthews and the GLU whom LOTO has always insisted was wholly independent of them.
In their correspondence with me, the Labour Party insisted that while Seumas Milne and Andrew Murray (two of the four “Ms” who were Mr Corbyn’s closest advisors) made it clear to the party’s Assistant Secretary General Emilie Oldknow and Sam Matthews that there was no case to answer against Glyn Secker, they did not interfere by ordering his unsuspension. They said that Milne “did not argue against the individual being investigated” and that anyway, the “ultimate decision” as to whether Secker was suspended “rested” with Matthews, as head of Disputes, and him alone. Such assertions are not credible. They ignore political reality. Whilst the final decision on lifting Glynn Secker’s suspension was communicated by Sam Matthews, the evidence shows that the determining force in the decisions made in the case from 7 to 10 March was LOTO: first Andrew Murray’s intervention, and finally – and decisively - by Seumas Milne.
Furthermore, as Milne stated in his email to Emilie Oldknow :
”Quite apart from this specific case, I think going forward we need to review where and how we're drawing the line if we're going to have clear and defensible processes.”
The Labour Party again insisted that “this was not a request for any kind of formal ‘review’ to take place.” I reported this response in the programme but believe it too is disingenuous.
The entire email exchange shows Seumas Milne expressing a forthright view on the Secker case. He states the case “underline(d) the need to get clearer guidelines for the team in what is obviously a complex and contested area.”
You can see, therefore, that he did not confine his comments to the Secker case alone, but used it to question more generally whether “something has gone wrong” and to express a need for a review of “where and how we’re drawing the line”. It was clear Milne disagreed strongly with Matthews’s decision to suspend Secker and in light of it, was concerned about how such judgements were being made. Seumas Milne offered similarly strong views on how he expected such complaints to be dealt with and indicated he considered the extent to which Jewish members were disciplined for antisemitism to be a test of whether something had gone wrong with the process. His comments suggested he felt I had given insufficient weight to the background of Secker, for instance that he was “a Jewish activist, the son of a Holocaust survivor, a leading member of Jewish Voices for Labour and a long-term Middle East rights activist”.
The Labour Party argued that Seumas Milne’s concern was over the action to be taken against Jewish members, and that to omit this changed its meaning. And while he accepted “a small number” of Jewish people might “adopt antisemitic views/language”, he was concerned if disciplinary action was being used against Jewish members for antisemitism “more than very occasionally”.
The rationale for expressing a view on this and other similar cases casts light on how Milne felt about them, and why he believed they offered evidence of a need for a review. Clearly, many would agree disciplinary action against Jewish members for antisemitism should be rare. On this point (as you will know) a number of people expelled from the party for matters relating to antisemitism are Jewish. The Chakrabarti Report specifically noted that, of people using abusive language or discourse “…it should be no defence to cite one’s own minority heritage…”
In any case, the basis for Seumas Milne’s interjection and his objection to the suspension would not make it untrue to say this email constituted interference. Even were he to be right that Matthews was wrong to suspend Secker, it still would not show his involvement was anything other than an intervention in the complaints process. Suggesting there were good grounds for interference would not offer proof interference did not occur.
I note that the leaked report on which you rely omits the fact that further evidence about Glyn Secker’s views came to light some five weeks later. His Facebook post in December 2015 gave credence to a contemporary conspiracy trope that Israel was buying oil from ISIS by writing
“Now why would Israel provide oil revenues to ISIS?”
Israel’s arms experts run at $7bn pa. They have a vested interest in armed conflicts?......
…Or maybe because Zionist extremists have never shirked from capitalising on anti-Semitism (and ISIS has bags of that.”
Glyn Secker appears to have believed that (a) Israel knowingly used oil purchases as a way of funding ISIS and (b) Israel did this because it believed that it gained some benefit from ISIS’s existence: and this at a time when most Western and Arab countries were united in their opposition to ISIS. It’s a conspiracy theory that fits with the model of Jews/Israel/Zionists being blamed for whatever ‘bad thing’ is afflicting society at any given time.
Secker posted this a couple of weeks after the Bataclan and other terror attacks in Paris and at a time when conspiracy theories regarding Israel’s alleged hidden role in ISIS were becoming rife on social media.
In July 2016 Secker posted an article from Global Research headlined “The ‘ISIS Rockerfellers’: How Islamic State oil flows to Israel”. It was GR who developed the theory that Israel was in cahoots with ISIS. GR is a conspiracy site that nobody sensible should be posting. They have posted a lot of Zionist conspiracy type articles; they have called Barack Obama “Israel’s ‘Uncle Tom’”; vaccine conspiracies; pro-Russia MH17 conspiracies; Srebrenica genocide denial; plus, obviously, a whole section on 9/11. NATO view GR as part of a pro-Russia propaganda network.
The article Glyn Secker posted wasn’t originally written for Global Research but was taken by them from an Arab news site which suggests that either Secker reads Global Research or perhaps he saw that article on someone else’s Facebook feed and shared it himself.
In any case, it is interesting that Secker did not appear to ask similar questions about Turkey or Italy – only Israel - even though both Turkey and Italy were also implicated in the article that he posted in July 2016.
Although my programme did not refer to any of these two offensive additional FB posts by Glyn Secker, prior to transmission I wrote to him and asked him why he had suggested Israel had funded ISIS by buying their oil because Israel had a “vested interest in armed conflicts?” and that Israel stood to gain from ISIS atrocities because: “Zionist extremists have never shirked from capitalising from antisemitism….”?
He replied, “I made no such statement, and I want you to state your source.” I then sent Secker his own FB posts to him whereupon he said he had been misquoted and the allegations “never formed part of the dossier against me.”
It is true they did not – at least not when Sam Matthews sought his suspension in March 2018. Both posts were, however discovered five weeks later and were submitted by the GLU to LOTO for their decision on 16 April: specifically Messrs Milne, Amy Jackson (Mr Corbyn’s political secretary), Andrew Murray, Laura Murray and Thomas Gardiner. And LOTO’s response?
“We dealt with this one didn’t we - no case at all” said Andrew Murray.
There is no record of any member of LOTO disagreeing with Murray which suggests that even had Sam Matthews found these two new posts in March, LOTO would still have required him to lift Secker’s suspension.
It is interesting that Seumas Milne especially did not see these ISIS/Israel posts as antisemitic, given that he has himself speculated about a possible relationship between Israel and ISIS or AQ in Syria. But they are clearly not “political arguments within the Jewish community” etc.
Today, under the Labour party’s “decision-making matrix and guidance on anti-Semitism” suggestions that Israel controls ISIS are – rightly - grounds for instant suspension and the report on which you now rely so heavily lambasts Sam Matthews and his GLU colleagues for failing to suspend party members who made this association.
The party’s July 2019 “No Place for Hate” pamphlet also makes clear that any such association constitutes anti-Semitism:
“Today, some conspiracy theories substitute Israel or Zionists for Jews, presenting Israel as controlling the world’s media and finances. Others contain further antisemitic claims, such as Israeli responsibility for 9/11 or ISIS. (my emphasis) These theories ascribe to Israel influence on world events far beyond any objective analysis. Antisemitic conspiracy theories don’t just do harm to Jewish people, they also divert attention away from the real causes of war, poverty and injustice.”
What all this indicates is this: that today’s commendable GLU “decision-making matrix and guidance on anti-Semitism” would not have been acceptable to LOTO at least in the spring of 2018 which is why the Secker case was such a turning point in the relationship between the GLU and LOTO. For Matthews, it was the last straw after months of trying to second guess both LOTO and the NEC on precisely where the bar lay on anti-Semitism, most especially its more contemporary mutation adopted by sections of the Left where anti-Zionism had increasingly morphed into anti-Semitism. It is this “unwritten guidance” on anti-Semitism which the GLU under Matthews had wearied of trying to follow and which the leaked report on which you rely, works so hard to try to show never existed. It explains why, after the Secker imbroglio, Sam Matthews felt the least line of resistance was by pro-actively seeking LOTO’s guidance on antisemitism cases. Independence is essential to avoid self-censorship where people react in accordance with external demands. The Secker case marked the end of the GLU’s pre-Formby independence in the true sense of the word.
Q: As general secretary, Iain McNicol presided over the party when many serious failings to deal appropriately with antisemitism complaints occurred. Why did you not raise this with him? More specifically, in the documentary, McNicol criticises Formby, his successor, for an apparent bid to interfere with the selection of an independent panel to hear a case against Jackie Walker. McNicol does not mention that in 2016 he personally agreed to lift a suspension against Walker. This was after he got advice from the prominent antisemitism commentator David Rich, who also appears in the documentary.
A: When I interviewed Iain McNicol, I was not aware of any role he may have played in the decision to lift Jackie Walker’s suspension in May of 2016, or his reason for any such decision. Jackie Walker was, of course, suspended four months later – a decision presumably supported by Iain McNicol so it seems the situation was quite quickly remedied. The NCC panel in relation to the Walker case is a quite separate matter relating to the party’s rules, conventions and constitution and I elaborate of this in my answer to the last of your questions.
Q: McNicol also gave false information, according to the report, to the national chair of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) about the case of former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone. He told the JLM chair that staff were compiling evidence against Livingstone, when - according to the report - this was not true and no investigation was launched until 10 months after Livingstone’s comments. Were you aware that McNicol lifted Walker’s suspension (answer above) or that he provided false information to the chair of the JLM in the Livingstone case? If you were aware, why did you not challenge McNicol about this conduct?
A: I was not aware that Iain McNicol had provided “false” information (as you put it) to Jeremy Newmark of the Jewish Labour Movement nor do I think that the evidence you cite from the report demonstrates that he is guilty of that accusation which you appear to have based on the following paragraph (p307) in the report:
Newmark sought assurances from Iain McNicol that this was in hand. McNicol said “I can assure you that your complaint about Mr Livingstone is being investigated… staff are currently working on compiling the numerous strands of evidence, including a significant number of witness statements”. However, emails reveal this was not true. No investigation was launched until ten months after Ken Livingstone made the comments, despite LOTO repeatedly chasing for updates and asking why the investigation Corbyn called for hadn’t been launched.
It is not my place to answer for Iain McNicol, but I see nothing in the report that in any way suggests he intended to deceive anyone, let alone the JLM. Moreover, the report does not even demonstrate that what he said was untrue.
On 7 April (three days after Ken Livingstone’s membership was suspended for a further year by the NCC) the GLU had a conference with Counsel to seek legal advice on how best to run a 2nd investigation. Ken Livingstone had shown a total absence of contrition for his offensive comments about Zionists “collaborating” with Hitler which had led to his NCC “conviction”, by repeating them immediately following his “conviction” for bringing the party into disrepute.
My understanding is that when Iain McNicol wrote to the JLM on 30 June, an investigation based on the advice of Counsel was, in fact, underway. It did not have the formal status of “Notice of Investigation” because the GLU had taken the deliberate decision not to alert Ken Livingstone to this development lest this trigger an injunction, Livingstone having threatened “to throw the book” at the Labour Party who had just spent £100,000 on legal fees, whereas Livingstone had the benefit of advice from a leading QC. That 2nd investigation had been interrupted by the 2017 General Election when McNicol wrote the letter, but statements and papers were nonetheless in the process of being prepared and the GLU aimed to present them to the January 2018 NEC Disputes Panel. I am told that it was LOTO who then asked for the hearing to be delayed to a later Disputes Panel. I can see no mention of this in the report on which you rely, so it seems to me that its omission further undermines the report’s claim to have provided “a full and thorough account of the evolution of the Party’s disciplinary processes in relation to dealing with complaints of antisemitism.”
Certainly the email traffic from the beginning of 2018 is consistent with what I have been told for rather than LOTO chasing the GLU on the 2nd Livingstone investigation, by the turn of the year it appears to be the GLU was chasing LOTO
In fact, LOTO did not finally sanction Ken Livingstone’s interview until 18 April 2018 which would have meant the case not coming before the NEC Disputes Panel until July 2018, six months after the GLU’s preferred January date. By the time LOTO actually gave the all-clear for the interview on 18 April 2018, local elections were imminent, so the actual date for the interview was further delayed to late May. In the event Livingstone resigned on 21 May.
Once again, the leaked report on which you rely fails to paint a fuller picture of a case which the report uses to criticise the pre-Formby GLU, either because the authors have not had access to all the relevant papers (which seems unlikely) or they have chosen to omit them. The Livingstone case documents will have to be produced in due course. You should also note that some of the dates on pp338,338, 341 of the report have been inaccurately recorded as 2018 when they should read 2017.
Q: In the documentary Martha Robinson says she was shocked by the low number of expulsions of antisemitic members from the party - which you say was around 15 by Spring 2019. While the number of expulsions and suspensions of Labour Party members for antisemitism was indeed very low before 2018, and remained low in 2019, both expulsions and suspensions increased enormously under Corbyn’s choice of general secretary, Jennie Formby. For instance, in 2016, when McNicol was general secretary, nobody was expelled from the party for antisemitism. In 2017 just one person was expelled. In 2018, the year Formby took over, this rose to 10. In 2019 to 45. Formby also oversaw a tenfold increase in the number of suspensions from 2017 to 2018, and a twenty-five fold increase in suspensions between 2017 and 2019. Why didn't you highlight how things appeared to be improving under Formby? Why did you not ask McNicol about his failure to make changes to the system and to increase the number of expulsions and suspensions when he was general secretary?
A: I did report the Labour Party’s claim that things appeared to be improving under Jennie Formby. They told me that changes within the GLU had allowed for a four-fold increase in the speed at which complaints were managed – and I said this in terms.
I also acknowledge today (almost one year after transmission) - that significant improvements appear to have been made in the GLU’s approach to processing anti-Semitism complaints (and I am not suggesting they have not).
But surely - one should expect nothing less from an organisation that holds itself to be one of the world’s foremost anti-racist parties after four long years of struggling to develop an effective complaints process?
Today’s GLU has benefited from a multi-fold increase in staffing, the birth of a more streamlined complaints systems, whose blueprint was conceived by the pre-Formby GLU team (for which the report gives no credit). Today’s GLU has also had the benefit of being unfettered for two years by the need to negotiate with hostile elements in the NEC (including occasionally Jennie Formby herself when she was on the NEC), or the need to look over their shoulder at both the NEC and LOTO concerned that a decision they made might incur their hostility or disdain.
In the aftermath of the 2016 leadership contest, the pre-Formby GLU would have struggled to get today’s anti-Semitism matrix approved by the NEC. The report on which you so heavily rely dismisses out of hand what I came to regard from my many hours of conversation with the “Whistle-blowers” as credible and heartfelt accounts of the toxic working environment between Labour HQ at Southside and the NEC and LOTO in the aftermath of that leadership contest. And yet the report’s authors have not had the benefit, as I have, of questioning any of those witnesses who were in the GLU during the eighteen months prior to Jennie Formby taking over as General Secretary. The certainty with which the report’s authors assert themselves on this point – and the apparent readiness of Novara Media to accept their narrative so uncritically - without having heard first-hand the other side of the story, suggests a mindset that is troublingly incurious about the way things might be, preferring to reflect the way they want things to be.
It is also the case that at the time of transmission last July, the progress that we see today was nowhere near as apparent. Nor was it for want of me trying. I asked the Labour Party to provide me with the most up to date statistics to get an accurate measure of any progress.
I asked Labour for specific figures that I could interrogate and, as a guide to my own thinking, gave them my own best estimates for the number of members who had been through the complaints system. For precision, I broke down my estimates into the following categories:
• Disciplinary proceedings which had been instigated between 2015 and the end of March 2018; and, for the period covering 1 April 2018 to Jan 2019 to confirm the number of o
• Number of Members suspended,
• Number of members served with Reminder of Conduct notices
• Number of members served with Notice of Investigation
• Number of members against whom no proceedings were taken
• Number of complaints against members logged between January 2019 and the end of June
• Number of members expelled to date
• Number of complaints waiting to be processed in the Complaints Inbox
I emphasised that “If you regard these figures as inaccurate, please could you provide the accurate statistics for the periods mentioned.” (my emphasis)
I was not provided with any breakdown by the Labour Party. Instead the party simply dismissed my estimates out of hand (despite the fact that they have turned out to have been pretty close to the mark, up to mid 2019) saying “These figures are wrong and don’t even add up….”
I repeated my request for more precision, again in writing - again, to no avail. What I got back were two broad brush metrics:
i) antisemitism related cases were now only 0.06% of the members. Was this really credible? Time and again the party, including Jeremy Corbyn had said the figure was 0.1%, which, with a membership of approximately 525,000 extrapolated to 525 compared to 0.06% which was 315, although I appreciate that the party also emphasised that “even one was too many”. Both are relatively small numbers yet both were also smaller than the total number of complaints which, based on the pre March 2018 statistics plus those released by Jennie Formby on 11 February 2019 and 22 July 2019 had “been through the stages” of the disciplinary process, the criteria on which the Labour Party said it’s 0.06% statistic weas based. Nor did these figures take any account of the numbers of anti-Semitic incidents which members had chosen not to complain about, so the number of complaints that had been through the disciplinary process was not itself a reliable guide to the actual level of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, any more than reported crime (to the Police) is an accurate reflection of actual crime as reflected in the British Crime Survey. There was just so many variables in Labour’s headline 0.06% claim that we felt our caution over the claim – without unpacking it - was justified.
ii) there had been a four-fold increase in dealing with antisemitism cases.
I reported this latter claim - that the party’s approach had allowed for a four-fold increase in the speed at which complaints were managed. We also used a clip from Jeremy Corbyn saying
“The number of (antisemitism) cases is very very small indeed.”
The fact former members of staff had struggled to cope with the work and were overwhelmed by it was entirely apparent – as was the fact they were considered by some to have been driven by bias against Jeremy Corbyn. The programme as a whole made clear Labour’s dispute processes had been slow and cases had been transferred to Corbyn’s office for attention due to what were described as “capacity issues”.
I think viewers would have understood that Labour’s position was that the process had improved and was now four times faster. They were told volumes dealt with by the former disputes staff had been overwhelming and the disciplinary system arcane, and that the staff involved felt culpable for the failings of the process. It was apparent that over the course of the period the programme covered, Jennie Formby was appointed and sought to impose a new approach to managing the issue.
You should also note that the broadcasting regulator Ofcom adjudged the programme to have fully complied the Broadcasting Code on impartiality:
“In our view the programme was duly impartial. While it included highly critical personal testimonies, the Labour Party’s response to the allegations featured prominently throughout the programme, in the form of on-screen slates. The programme also included an interview with the Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne MP, who put forward the Labour Party’s position clearly.”
However, the impression left by the report on which Novara Media rely, is that but for the pre-Formby GLU’s factionalism, amateurism, and lethargy, Mathews and his colleagues could, and should, have achieved what the Formby era has now achieved in more efficient systems, focus, output and commitment. Libel proceedings are currently under way by the whistleblowers and myself against the Labour Party. Under Jeremey Corbyn’s leadership, the party brought neither legal proceedings against any of us, nor made a formal complaint to Ofcom. Had Mr Corbyn’s Labour Party chosen to litigate, it would have led to disclosure of all the underlying documents. As a general point, I am sure that you are against employers using Non-Disclosure Agreements, against former employees. You might ask why the Labour Party required former employees to sign NDAs which naturally were designed to protect the employer not the employee.
The truth is nothing like as simplistic as the Report’s authors have tried to present and it is not a picture that I believe will survive any kind of dispassionate scrutiny.
Q: The thesis of your programme was Jeremy Corbyn's alleged failure to drive out antisemitism from the Labour Party, which had become, to quote Sam Matthews, “institutionally racist”. At about 35 minutes in, having quoted Mr Corbyn's “solemn, zero-tolerance pledge” on antisemitism from April 2019, you then go into the Jackie Walker case. You refer to an email chain involving Jennie Formby as apparent evidence of an attempt to interfere with the NCC's role in the case. What you do not mention is that, in Ms Walker's case as in many others, the Labour Party under Ms Formby and Mr Corbyn were pushing for more decisive action in antisemitism cases. By failing to do so, you created the impression that the Jackie Walker case was another example of Mr Corbyn's failure to drive out antisemitism. How do you respond?
A: Again, you appear to have ignored what the programme actually said. We did say that Jeremy Corbyn was pushing for more decisive action in anti-Semitism cases – both generally, and specifically in the Jackie Walker case.
Because Jeremy Corbyn himself declined to appear, we used several clips of him saying how much he was determined to deal with anti-Semitism, including the following clip in which he made it clear he wanted a faster process:
“We have been too slow in processing disciplinary cases. People who use anti-Semitic poison need to understand that you do not do it in my name, or the name of my party. You are not our supporters.”
In relation specifically to the Jackie Walker case, we included the Labour Party’s response that the emails were not evidence of interference in the NCC, but instead about speeding up NCC complaints hearings:
“The emails… are simply about ensuring the NCC is held accountable for the length of time they take to hear cases and about protecting the Party against any successful legal challenge on the basis of perceived bias if the same panel is used in high profile cases.”
However, yet again the report on which you rely does not disclose the full email chain in relation to this matter and these email exchanges entirely support the interpretation put on it by my programme.
The email from Ms Formby was in response to an email from Mr Corbyn’s Chief of Staff Karie Murphy which explicitly sought ways to challenge the findings of the NCC, expressed concern over its accountability and suggested external legal action against it in relation to the selection of panellists. Ms Formby did not believe the latter would be effective (“I don’t think an external legal challenge would work”) but said she had spoken with a member of the panel and planned to talk to a member of staff about the composition of panels. She said she would be challenging the Secretary of the NCC both on the make-up of the recent panels (which had resulted in Marc Wadsworth and Tony Greenstein being expelled) and on the make-up of the panel for Jackie Walker’s case, and was seeking to ensure that this did not include those who had been on the earlier panels.
In their response to me, the Labour Party said the emails show Jennie Formby stating the NCC is independent and the General Secretary has no role in it. The full exchange shows she makes these points in response to the suggestion from Karie Murphy that legal action might be taken to challenge the make-up of the panel. Jennie Formby explained why that would not be effective.
However, disagreeing with the effectiveness of the strategy being considered would not suggest she did not agree with the objections raised to the NCC’s behaviour, and the remainder of the email makes clear her view that she does: “They cannot be allowed to continue in the way they are” and that she would be taking other action relating to the make-up of the panel.
The fact is that my programme featured the Labour Party’s formal response to every allegation made. It included footage of Jeremy Corbyn forcefully arguing against antisemitism; reported the party’s view that the Whistle-blowers were “disaffected” with “personal and political axes to grind”; highlighted Corbyn’s own personal hurt that anyone should think he was “some kind of racist” and that “people who use antisemitic poison need to understand they do not do it in my name or the name of my party….y. You are not our supporters”; showed him acknowledging that rooting out anti-Semitism, was “my responsibility”; that he recognised antisemitism had caused “immense hurt and anxiety in the Jewish community”; and that were he to be elected prime minister, he would “take whatever measures are necessary to support and guarantee the security of all Jewish communities and their culture.”
I also interviewed shadow communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne who made it “very clear that anybody who thinks they can have those abhorrent views in our party and in our family, that they are not welcome.” The Labour Party’s written responses were featured on 16 separate occasions.
My job was not to follow the script of Jeremy Corbyn or any other party, but to report as I find, and that is what I did.
Following Mr Ware’s full response above, Novara Media then asked two further questions.
Here are his replies to those questions, along with his comment prefacing them:
My answers set out below should not just be taken in isolation. They not only answer your specific questions but demonstrate that all your previous questions were underpinned by general flaws that not only were the report’s authors trying in bad faith to find answers that showed everything in a bad light but stretching credulity itself by ignoring evidence that was easily available. As such you should not read these answers as just meeting the specific questions but as part of the wider answer.
1. You said:
“You should be aware that some of the report’s allegations that he and his GLU staff failed to check inboxes containing antisemitism complaints for “many months”, or not initiating investigations, or ordering suspensions for “over ten months” are demonstrably untrue. The documentary evidence exists to show such claims are untrue but it appears to have been missed or ignored by the report’s authors."
Q: How do you know this evidence exists? What is this evidence?
A: The report on which you rely says:
“The complaints system simply did not function, and the inbox to which complaints were forwarded by other GLU staff would apparently (my emphasis) go months at a time without any staff member monitoring it”
The report’s authors do not explain the evidential basis for their claim but do caveat it with the word “apparently.” Is the alleged zero monitoring for “many months” merely an inference drawn by their authors because there was no activity from the Disputes Sent box? If so, this would not be unexpected. I understand that the Inbox was not held exclusively on one central computer but was directly accessible to everyone in the Disputes team from their own individual computers and would not therefore have required emails to be forwarded to individual accounts (for example, of the two investigators) in order for them to be checked. I don’t believe that Outlook necessarily shows if emails were dragged and dropped from the Disputes Inbox to their own computers.
Contrary to the report’s assertion, I don’t believe that during this period, the Disputes Inbox was the “official destination for all complaints” and therefore would not be an accurate indicator of the work the team was undertaking at any given time. I was also told that the team worked closely together on a small bank of desks in an open plan office which presumably meant that much of their work did not take place over email but through face-to-face discussion. Alternatively, have the authors reached their “apparent” conclusion because when they checked the Disputes Inbox, the emails were all still in bold as if they had not been unopened? If so – were all the Inbox emails found to be bold for “many months”; and if so, how many months, and also which months? I ask because for about two months of 2017, I understand that every member of the Disputes team, including Matthews, were deployed full time to campaigning roles for the general election in the Spring. Then, from Autumn 2017 the Disputes Inbox became less relevant because that October, the Labour Party launched Complaints@labour.org.uk as the one-stop-shop for all inbound complaints.
This was managed by Sophie Goodyear, not Sam Matthews. So, the period in contention for 2017 would appear to be from January – mid April, and then from mid-June to October with the party Conference intervening. It’s probably fair to say that the GLU were constantly playing catch-up during 2017 and the summer was also a significant transitional stage with staff taking leave from the general election also GLU staff turnover.
Did the authors take a picture of the state of the Disputes Inbox to evidence their claim? Have you at Novara Media addressed all these questions to the authors and satisfied yourselves as to the credibility of the answers before deciding whether to give credence to this particular claim?
What does seem to be clear is that the authors never sought a response from Matthews and his colleagues, which is fundamental to fair dealing and also to evidence gathering.
The report also says:
“From 1 April 2017 to 19 February 2018, a period of over ten months, there was not a single antisemitism case that went through GLU’s designed processes and received action (a suspension, NOI or membership rejection).”
I say this claim is “demonstrably untrue” by having demonstrated to myself its untruth from files in my possession. It took me a matter of minutes to find letters that had been sent within this 10-month period to Labour party members notifying them both of suspension and Notice(s) of Investigation. The idea that absolutely nothing took place for almost a year seems to me to be inherently unlikely and ought at least to have given the authors pause for thought and double checking their own files before committing to such a claim.
This particular claim also appears inconsistent with the Labour Party’s own answers to me last July prior to transmission of Panorama.
On 24 June 2019, I set out in writing my questions to the Labour Party and I also provided an account of what we were minded to say. A “right of reply” was offered to Jeremy Corbyn, Karie Murphy, Jennie Formby, Seumas Milne, Thomas Gardiner and Shami Chakrabarti (as well as the Labour Party itself by way of interview with the shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne). I asked to be provided with the up to date total number of antisemitism complaints received by the party. The previous February, Jennie Formby had said the party had received 673 complaints “in the period April 2018 to the last antisemitism panels in January 2019….” In their response to me, dated 5 July, Labour said that a
“significant number of cases (my emphasis) where disciplinary proceedings were instigated before April 2018 are captured in the statistics that Jennie Formby published for the post April 2018 period.”
It seems unlikely that a “significant number” of investigations instigated prior to April 2018 excluded any instigated in the ten month period between 1 April 2017 and 28 February 2018 given that the entire period in contention was only 18 months (October 2016-March 2018).
2. With regards to Milne’s email and the Secker case, we don’t dispute your assessment of Milne's email as interference, nor do we seek to defend Secker.
Rather, we are saying the evidence about Matthews' own conduct leading up to the email is also important to how the incident is understood, and your portrayal excludes this.
If Panorama viewers had known that Matthews had failed to suspend a Holocaust denier (P450 of the report) while pursuing a different case on what he later admitted was weak evidence, they might well have had a different view on what Milne meant by saying “we need to review” the disciplinary process to avoid “muddling up political disputes with racism”.
Your portrayal of the email suggested Loto sought to interfere solely to reduce suspensions and expulsions for antisemitism, but additional context showing Matthews’ failings in this case seems to explain why Milne might have been concerned about the department failing to do its job.
Q: Do you dispute this?
A: Yes. I do strongly dispute that - assuming that I’ve understood your question correctly. I add the caveat because the question is rather lengthy and complicated, so I want to be clear that I have understood it correctly. In a nutshell, you seem to be arguing that whilst you accept that Seumas Milne’s email did amount to interference in the Glyn Secker case (on that point I agree with you), you also say that Panorama viewers were misled because the following “additional context” was missing:
- We did not explain that Sam Matthews had suspended Secker, against whom the evidence was “weak”, whereas Matthews had not suspended a more serious case, the alleged Holocaust denier David Birkett
- Had we explained this disparity, viewers would have understood why Milne was calling for a review of anti-Semitism cases: he simply wanted the GLU to “do its job” by being robust in suspending anti-Semites instead of focusing on questionable cases
- It was this kind of “departmental failure” within the GLU that Milne had in mind when calling for the review
However, as I shall explain, far from Panorama preventing a misleading picture about the Secker affair, the “additional context” you say should have been provided, only serves to highlight the:
- lack of dispassion and rigour in the leaked report’s analysis of events
- implausibility of the report’s most serious and defamatory allegation – namely, that Matthews, and perhaps Emile Oldknow and Iain McNicol conspired to smear LOTO
It’s important to emphasise if you weren’t already aware, that your answers (and the report’s authors) contradict the Labour Party’s own written response on behalf of, amongst others, Seumas Milne about how we portrayed the Secker affair.
Since you appear to be relying heavily, if not solely, on the leaked report for your criticisms of my journalism, this is a notable discrepancy.
My questions on behalf of Panorama were directed mainly at LOTO members, so the party’s response to me were self-evidently at LOTO’s behest. The leaked report was also written by staffers loyal to LOTO (one of the authors is reported to have served in LOTO). The leaked report exculpates any members of LOTO for contributing in any way to the “mistakes, deficiencies and missed opportunities to reform, develop, and adapt a clearly failing disciplinary system”, instead blaming the pre-Formby GLU for all this. On any view the report on which Novara media relies cannot remotely be said to be a dispassionate account. Rather, it is a self-serving account, written by a faction for a faction.
Whereas you say you “don’t dispute” my “assessment of Milne’s email as interference”, LOTO did dispute this. In fact, their insistence that there was no interference by LOTO in the Secker case was the crux of their complaint. Labour’s press release trailing Panorama said
” There is no evidence that Seumas Milne sought to interfere in this case or any other case, contrary to Panorama’s claim.”
Your acceptance that the evidence on Secker did show interference, is correct, not only because the email chain shows beyond any doubt that Secker’s suspension was lifted by Matthews in direct response to pressure from Seumas Milne and Andrew Murray, (the latter having made it clear that Jeremy Corbyn was taking a close interest in the case, presumably because Secker was a close political ally of Mr Corbyn) but also because the process of suspending Secker and two other party members had begun with the Leader's office. It was at LOTO's instruction that Matthews suspend three members of the antisemitic “Palestine Live” blog by lunchtime so that the journalists accredited to the Lobby could be assured that Labour had taken immediate firm action in response to the antisemitic blog whose Labour Party membership had been disclosed by the press that morning.
Contrary to your stance, the Labour Party also complained that Panorama had taken Seumas Milne’s call for a review out of context. They argued that whilst we had given the impression that Milne intended it as a review covering all antisemitism cases, in actual fact it argued for restricted action to be taken against anti-Zionist Jews like Secker:
“The main point in the edited email was about the need to take particular care over disciplinary action against Jewish members for anti-Semitism - and arguing that if that was taking place more than occasionally something was ‘going wrong’. In the full email, the risk of ‘muddling up political disputes with racism’ specifically referred to disciplinary action against Jewish members – but in the programme that phrase was misleadingly quoted as a general argument, editing out the reference to Jewish members and deliberately changing the meaning.”
You, by contrast, appear to be arguing that Milne wanted a review of the GLU’s entire approach to antisemitism complaints (and there is some evidence to support that view). You refer to the GLU “failing to do its job” which I take to mean selecting Glyn Secker for suspension rather than a more compelling candidate, David Birkett. In other words, you seem to be alleging that Matthews had got his priorities all wrong, and you believe that Milne meant a review would help put that right.
Turning now to address the specifics of your question: Sam Matthews did not say the evidence against Glyn Secker was “weak” as you summarise the evidence in the email exchanges.What Matthews actually said was: “I don’t think it’s a particularly strong case” but that it did meet the threshold for suspension. Assistant General Secretary Emilie Oldknow also emailed that she agreed with this.
In fact, the evidence against Secker turned out to have been much stronger, as I explained in my last email to you. On 16 April, 2018, Jeremy Corbyn’s closest LOTO aides were shown Facebook posts by Secker speculating that Israel had secretly conspired to keep ISIS in business by buying ISIS oil, because ISIS were virulently antisemitic and it was in Israel’s intertest to “capitalise on antisemitism” because it distracted from Israel’s “oppression of the Palestinians.”
Secker’s post was a classic amongst the “conspiratorial theories about a shadowy global elite” which the report’s authors rightly excoriate. Yet it was not Matthews this time who showed a lack of consistency in suspensions, but LOTO who decided Secker should remain unsuspended. “No case at all” was how Andrew Murray dismissed the evidence. To LOTO, Secker did not even merit an investigation.
Moreover, whilst Matthews may not have ordered Birkett’s suspension on 7 March when he suspended Secker, on 9 March he emphasised that to help give the Labour Party a media headline about taking action against anti-Semites rather than one about failing to suspend them, he proposed that Birkett should be suspended, along with five other party members who belonged to Palestine Live. Matthews’ email was forwarded by Emilie Oldknow to Seumas Milne, and Corbyn’s Chief of Staff Karie Murphy to seek their agreement. The leaked report on which you rely says:
“It is unclear why Oldknow decided to email Milne and Murphy to seek written sign-off for these suspensions. This was not part of an agreed protocol”
……only for the report’s authors to suggest that the explanation might well have been the start of a grand conspiracy by Matthews in order to
“… frame Milne and Murphy for either inaction on or inappropriate interference in antisemitism disciplinary cases, depending upon their response.”
That magnificent conspiracy theory appears to have been based on the following unsupported hypothesis:
“We do not know why Matthews did this, we have not asked him, nor have we asked any other witness. So we cannot say for (anything like) certain but maybe he was conspiring to do something calculating that when subsequently investigated it would look bad on those people he had emailed – assuming, that is, that the people he emailed responded in a certain way”.
This is from the “if-the-following-five-things-happen-then-we-might-be-right” school of conspiracy thinking. The authors seem to have no awareness of just how ridiculous, reckless and defamatory this degree of speculation is. It has been reported that LOTO was advised by lawyers that it would be unwise to submit this document to the EHRC and it is easy to see why.
It is true that from this point on (9 March 2018) Matthews did forward anti-Semitism cases to LOTO in order to get their recommendations and it also true that some of these emails were disclosed to newspapers in the Spring of 2019, who alleged they were evidence of LOTOs’ interference in anti-Semitism disciplinary cases in contradiction to LOTO’s insistence that there had never been any interference in GLU’s disciplinary process whatsoever. The allegation that Matthews cynically engineered this outcome by deliberately seeking LOTO’s approval in the Spring of 2018 for the pre-eminent purpose of smearing LOTO a year later has been a recurring, and highly defamatory theme not only of this report on which you rely but also by the Momentum Chair Jon Lansman, the Labour party’s response to me and the party’s official complaint to the BBC.
It is a very serious allegation indeed and invites two propositions – and only two: either that Matthews was so far-sighted as to be clairvoyant, as well as a cunning, dishonest, and manipulative individual; or, those advancing this idea of a grand conspiracy, including the report’s authors are in such an advanced stage of factional paranoia that many of the inferences and conclusions they draw in the report on which Novara Media appear to be relying, simply cannot be trusted.
It may not surprise you that I strongly incline to the latter proposition but only because the most obvious, logical, straightforward explanation is offered by the facts which are a matter of record: that it was LOTO who, on 7 March 2018, inserted itselfinto the affairs of the GLU in the first place – not the other way around - first with James Schneider’s instruction to Mathews to find three Labour party bodies from the Palestine Live blog to suspend by lunchtime; and second by then exerting such downward pressure on Matthews and Oldknow from the party leader Jeremy Corbyn (via Andrew Murray and Seumas Milne) forcing them to abandon Secker’s suspension, Secker’s JVL comrades, all loyal Corbyn supporters, having successfully protested against his suspension. Having told Secker on a Wednesday that he was suspended, LOTO’s intervention led directly to Matthews having to tell Secker five days later that he’d been unsuspended.
On 9 March Matthews finalised what he described as the “first sweep” of both parts of the Palestine Live blog and recorded “every name” matched to party membership. That day he sent six more names to LOTO recommending all six be suspended, including the Holocaust denier David Birkett. This was hardly the conduct of a man indifferent, complacent or slothful in his attitude to antisemitism implicit in the picture the leaked report paints of Matthews, with no fewer than 864 reference to him over 851 pages.And yet the only “evidence” offered by the report’s authors in support of Matthews having begun his grand conspiracy to smear LOTO by seeking their approval to suspend Birkett & others, was that it was
"...highly unusual (my emphasis) for GLU to request that the Executive Director of Strategy and Communications (Milne) and (LOTO Chief of Staff (Murphy) review and sign-off individual disciplinary cases against Labour members who weren't elected representatives..."
Maybe so, but the events of the previous week had themselves been “highly unusual”: eighteen months of simmering mutual distrust between LOTO and GLU since the fractious 2016 leadership had now come to a climax. Given the furore over Secker with Schneider having also complained to Matthews that Birkett would have made a better candidate to suspend, might not Mathews’ own more straightforward explanation for referring cases to LOTObe more plausible than the leaked report’s paranoid proposition that this marked the moment when he embarked on a plot? Matthews’ humiliation caused by LOTO’s interference on behalf of their political ally Secker was the culmination of hostility and humiliation by Corbyn supporters on the NEC and sometimes LOTO itself (I can think 16 incidences at least). And so, for the sake of a quieter life, Matthews and an exasperated Oldknow decided that from then they might just as well get LOTO’s seal of approval for anti-Semitism disciplinary cases until the NEC working group on antisemitism had issued its guidance.
The report on which you rely is thoroughly dismissive of the hostility (spoken and unspoken) under which the pre-Formby GLU operated. The following comment from one staffer captures their experience as described to me while researching this story:
” We felt so unsupported and fearful that decisions we took would be overturned by LOTO or the NEC or cause a political problem. There was no leadership or guidance on this - we were terrified of enraging LOTO and causing a massive row. We needed political cover for decisions, and we didn’t have it.”
Any dispassionate researcher, genuinely curious to see how things actually were, as opposed to the way they might believe (or even want) them to be would have endeavoured to speak to the GLU staffers before drawing their final conclusions, but the authors of the leaked report made no attempt to do this.
Moreover, since your case is that Seumas Milne called for a review of antisemitism complaints because he wanted the GLU to be tougher in the most serious cases, like David Birkett, all one can say is that LOTO’s response to the six suspensions recommended by Mathews on 9 March seems inconsistent with that aspiration.
It was not until 26 March - some two and a half weeks later - before LOTO responded, despite emails from Oldknow to LOTO pleading for a decision because she and Matthews wanted to get on and suspend them.
On 12 March Oldknow emailed Seumas Milne and Karie Murphy:
“Can you agree as a matter of urgency, to the information contained in the spreadsheet attached.”
On 13 March she repeated the request:
“PLEASE can we get a response to the below. The next thing will be people saying we are soft on anti-Semitism or not acting.”
Again, on 14 March
I know Seumas and I talked about this yesterday, but PLEASE can I get a agreement for these suspensions.
All of the above emails appear to have been omitted from the report.
In the event, of the six Labour party members whose suspensions Matthews sought, LOTO agreed to only three (Birkett, Brand, Henke). No action was recommended against the conspiracist Mike Cushman (like Secker, a member of JVL) who apparently believes that MI5 fed David Collier with information against the Labour party for his Palestine Live blog; further investigation was required on Stephanie De Sykes and another anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Patricia Sheerin.
Like Secker, Sheerin had also indulged the fantastical conspiracy idea that Israel and ISIS were in cahoots: in her case that “Mossad’s Fingerprints (were) On Paris Attacks.” Yet like Secker, LOTO decided not to suspend her.
You ask: in my Panorama, should I not have referred to p450 of the leaked report which records that while Matthews did order David Birkett’s suspension ( and as a matter of urgency) on 26 March after approval from LOTO -he was not in fact suspended? That failure appears to have been down to an administrative error and a bad one at that. But it hardly amounts to the “additional context” you complain was missing in my Panorama set against the more disturbing picture painted by the full context that I have now set out spanning the beginning, middle and end of the Secker sequence and its legacy.
I have laid out all this detail in the hope that whilst you may not agree with the conclusions of my journalism, it simply cannot be argued that my journalism made no attempt to weigh the evidence carefully and the arguments dispassionately, a criticism which it seems to me Novara Media has been determined to make..
 “The later release of these emails to the media, raised the question of whether the instigation of this process could have been intended to frame Milne and Murphy for either inaction on or inappropriate interference in antisemitism disciplinary cases, depending upon their response.” p472
“It is not clear why Matthews and Oldknow decided to start consulting LOTO. It may have been that they wanted political cover for their decisions as there was no General Secretary in post during this gap between McNicol leaving and Formby starting. It has also been suggested that this was an attempt to obtain emails from LOTO which could be used to allege either interference in cases or slow responses holding up disciplinary action.” p486
"The conclusion of the Labour Party is that Matthews and possibly others in GLU-GSO instigated this process of consultation with LOTO, and proposed suspensions in some cases for conduct which GLU had previously not considered to merit any form of disciplinary action. This was later used by the same staff to accuse LOTO of involvement in antisemitism cases or of letting off anti-Semites, blaming LOTO and Jeremy Corbyn for GLU’s inaction on antisemitism complaints. It may have been GLU and GSO’s intention to make this accusation when they initiated this process of consulting LOTO. " p562
 “The authority to take decisions on cases rested with them, not the leader’s office, and the emails leaked to the Sunday Times showed it was those ex-staffers who emailed the leader’s office repeatedly seeking their views – not the leader’s office emailing to insert themselves into decisions. I think this may have been their plan all along: to ask staff in the leader’s office for their views on cases under the guise of addressing the backlog, then to later use the emails to allege leader’s office interference.”
 One obvious possible explanation for these requests -- which immediately preceded the employees in question leaving their posts - was that they were made precisely in order to generate material giving rise to the misleading impression that the staff to whom the requests were made were “intervening” or “interfering” in disciplinary cases. Has Panorama put that to the individuals concerned? What is their explanation for making these requests, given that they now affect to say that it was improper for the staff to whom they made the requests to be involved in the process?
 It was former staff members, including Sam Matthews, who asked Party staff in the Leader’s Office for their support with a number of cases. It has been suggested that the requests - which immediately preceded the employees in question leaving their posts – may have been made in order to generate material giving rise to the misleading impression that the staff to whom the requests were made were “intervening” or “interfering” in disciplinary cases. Panorama did not put this to Sam Matthews or other former staff members. Panorama did not ask what their explanation is for making these requests, given that they now say that it was improper for the staff to whom they made the requests to be involved in the process.