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The Panorama whistleblowers' letter to the community

Seven whistleblowers 'place on record our thanks to the Jewish community for the support we have received since we appeared on the BBC Panorama programme ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’ in July 2019.'

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Dear Jewish Chronicle readers,

We would like to place on record our thanks to the Jewish community for the support we have received since we appeared on the BBC Panorama programme ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’ in July 2019. The Labour Party and others attempted to discredit the allegations in the programme, by attacking our reputations as whistleblowers. Labour claimed we acted in bad faith, and that we set out to harm the Party when we worked for it. This couldn’t have been further from the truth, and we were left with little choice but to seek redress.

Prior to Panorama, few of us had much interaction with the Jewish community. When it became apparent that the Party was, in our view and experience, offering a misleading defence of the apparent lack of action when dealing with the rising tide of antisemitism we felt that there was a strong public interest in ensuring the whole truth was told. 

This is why we now want to place on record our thanks to the Jewish Labour Movement for their practical and moral support, without which it is doubtful that any of this would have been possible. 

The JLM provided us and 65 other whistleblowers the confidence to come forward and contribute to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s investigation. JLM has enabled a process that will in the immediate and long term, allow the Labour Party to regain the trust of those it seeks to serve.

Combatting antisemitism within the Labour Party was never a battle any of us, the other whistleblowers or the JLM realised we would have to undertake - we a have all tried to bring the best of ourselves to this painful situation and to remain true to best of Labour’s anti-racist traditions. 

After we appeared on Panorama, the practical and emotional support we received, notably from the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust among others, was invaluable. We would also like to thank JLM’s legal team at Mishcon de Reya, led by James Libson, in their diligent probing interrogation of our testimony and evidence as well as our own legal team, led by Mark Lewis of Patron Law, who has been hugely supportive throughout. 

Recently, the Labour Party, under new leadership, apologised unreservedly to us in court, “for the distress and embarrassment that the publication of the false allegations have caused them and for the continuing damage that has been caused to their reputations.” Such an apology, in front of a High Court judge, is not made for merely ‘political’ reasons as some have erroneously claimed. There was never any doubt that our original case would succeed. That was our view, and the position of the clear, unequivocal legal advice given to us. When the Labour Party offered the apology and retraction that we had sought from the outset, we were proved right. 

We all now await the publication of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report of their investigation to which we have all given sworn evidence. We appreciate the collective support offered by the Jewish community to the Jewish Labour Movement which has enabled it to make a robust and comprehensive argument to the EHRC. 

In addition, if it was not for this newspaper and other Jewish media not giving up when others might, much of this story may never have been exposed to public scrutiny.

Antisemitism should never have appeared in a modern progressive political party. That it did should shame all of us who carried a Labour Party membership card. We regret that we were unable to completely stem that tide during our time as employees of the Party. 

Moving on we must all learn to recognise and address antisemitism regardless of faction or friendship. Only when we tackle antisemitism along with all other forms of racism can we then ask people to truly trust the Labour Party as an unambiguously anti-racist movement once again. We hope, through our legal victory, the Jewish community can be confident that there will always be allies who care passionately about restoring that trust.

Kat Buckingham, Mike Creighton, Dan Hogan, Sam Matthews, Martha Robinson, Ben Westerman, and Louise Withers Green 

 

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