Unite's legal chief gave 'practical support' to 'help fight Labour witch-hunt and purge'

EXCLUSIVE: Revelation about Howard Beckett comes during live interview with far-left media outlet The Canary


Unite The Union’s powerful legal chief gave “practical support” to help “help fight the witch-hunt and purge of left-wing Labour members”,  the editor of The Canary has claimed.

During a live Facebook interview with Unite’s Assistant General Secretary Howard Beckett, Kerry Ann Mendoza said that as “a personal witness” she knew  “what side of the battle he was on”, adding that he had helped members of the union and the Labour Party, and people at The Canary, “face down these battles”.

Labour members expelled or suspended from the party for antisemitism have long suggested they are the victims of a “witch-hunt and purge” in the party.

Thanking Ms Mendoza for her praise, Mr Beckett – the favourite to replace Len McCluskey as General Secretary when he stands down – also launched a scathing attack on new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s attempts to tackle the party’s antisemitism crisis.

As well as his senior position within the union, Mr Beckett has a place on Labour’s NEC ruling body as a union representative – where he vowed to speak out against the “right block” under the new leader.

Unite’s Political and Legal head said he would be challenging Sir Keir over the decision to settle the libel case with BBC Panorama’s antisemitism whistleblowers when they meet at the next meeting of Labour’s ruling NEC.

Asked about the decision to settle the case, he said it was “wrong” and he added; “I don’t agree with that at all.”

In his Canary interview on Thursday – which was aimed at helping him secure the nomination as the left-wing candidate of choice for the union’s leadership elections later this year - Mr Beckett suggested previous Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had been wrongly accused of antisemitism and had suffered from a media smear campaign.

But later, in a question submitted by a viewer to the Facebook event, Mr Beckett was asked, “What he had done to help fight ‘the witch-hunt and purge’ of left-wing Labour members?”

Ms Mendoza – who has repeatedly faced charges of antisemitism but is not a Labour member – interjected to say: “Before Howard answers this.. . as a personal witness I know what side of the battle Howard was on.

“I know the moral and practical support he extended to people during what was an incredibly difficult period of time for Unite members, Labour members and all sorts us. People like us who work at The Canary to face down these battles. I know we did so with you at our side.”

Mr Beckett responded to Ms Mendoza by saying: “Thank you very much… maybe I should leave the answer as your answer.

“The reality is everything that happened should be read in the context of that leaked report.

“The content of that leaked report is the core of everything that’s been going on in the Labour Party obvious under the leadership of Iain McNicol.”

The Unite executive  claimed the leaked Labour report, designed to show Mr Corbyn was sabotaged in his efforts to deal with antisemitism by his opponents in the party, “should lead everyone to question the narrative that is being given in the mainstream media.”

 Mr Beckett also used to interview to attack “the reported settlement of defamation case” which he said was “wrong”.

On Wednesday the JC revealed how Labour were poised to settle the libel cases brought against the party by seven Panorama whistle-blowers and the journalist John Ware.

But Mr Beckett said: “I don’t approve of that at all. I will be making my position clear at the NEC in respect of that.

“There are a number of aspects of this that leave me incredibly uncomfortable. The first is, what is the legal advice?

“The legal advice as it is being reported is that Labour would win these cases. Labour has a responsibility to fight these cases – not only to protect its own reputation, but also the message it sends anyone else who wants to attack Labour.”

He then said he had “a problem with it being reported that they are being settled for political reasons because of the politics of allowing people to accuse Labour of these things is far more important”.

Discussing the libel  settlement Mr Beckett also said “it is money paid to Labour by party members and Unite members “ which “has to be used  correctly.”  

Rounding on Sir Keir again he said the new Labour leader had “made that promise during the [leadership] campaign” which he said

“gave an open cheque to give people compensation… without legal advice. I have a problem with that.”

The JC attended the Jewish Labour Movement leadership hustings earlier this year in which every candidate, including the left wing Rebecca Long-Bailey, had vowed to end the Panorama legal dispute.

Mr Beckett then said: “And Kerry,  can I just say,  as I understand proceedings were never issued against the Labour Party.

“This was something done on the eve of the limitation period. I don’t think anyone even saw a formulised pleading in respect of this case.

“It seems extraordinary to me it happened in this way – and I wish it hadn’t.”

He claimed some of those set to receive compensation is Labour settles the libel fight “are named in the leaked report as being against the important victory” that once left Mr Corbyn leader of the party.

The JC has attempted to contact Unite for clarification on what “moral and practical support” Mr Beckett gave to those who were “purged”.


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