UK Labour under pressure over anti-Semitism after BBC doc

Prime Minister’s Questions

Senior Labour figures have been accused of interfering with the disciplinary process investigating claims of anti-Semitism, according to BBC Panorama.

Labour's press office said the party was "implacably opposed to anti-Semitism", and that some of the former officials quoted by the BBC had "personal and political axes to grind" against Corbyn.

Four of those who spoke out, including former Labour general secretary Lord Iain McNicol, broke non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to do so.

Sam Matthews, who was Labour's head of disputes from 2016 to 2018, and who was featured in the BBC expose, told Sky News that the party is "institutionally anti-Semitic".

Ms Riders comments were criticised by Labour MP Stephen Doughty who said: "quite frankly, when somebody spoke out and said that they want to take their own life by throwing themselves off the balcony of the general secretary's office to have that lady there call that person a wimp, I think is deeply offensive".

Dismantling an institutionalised problem will only be successful is the leadership of the Labour Party recognises the role they've played in allowing a culture of antisemitism to persist.

Earlier, Mr Watson said the party had failed to address the "permissive culture" that people can use anti-Semitic language in meetings and on social media.

The program also included the testimony of many Labour members, Jewish and non-Jewish, some of them near tears, describing an atmosphere of intense antisemitic racism in the party.

"There's nearly a permissive culture that people can use anti-Jewish, racist language both in our meetings and to each other on social media and we've failed to address that properly", Watson told BBC radio.

In regard to Corbyn himself, the program cited, among other things, his defense of a blatantly antisemitic mural; his invitation to tea of Raed Salah, an antisemitic Israeli-Arab preacher who has engaged in the blood libel; his warm words about the terrorist group Hamas; and his claim that he saw the "hand of Israel" behind a jihadist attack on Egyptian soldiers.

Labour, which has been braced for the accusations, wrote to BBC director-general Lord Hall to complain ahead of the broadcast.

"There have been complaints put into the BBC now", he said.

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A spokesperson for Betfair said: "The BBC Panorama documentary looks like it may well be the beginning of the end for Jeremy Corbyn".

He added: "We've got to be much stronger in saying denying the problem, is part of the problem".

"I wouldn't say to a friend, 'Go to a Labour party meeting if you're Jewish.' I couldn't do that to someone I cared about", she added.

Gideon Falter, Chief Executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: "Former Labour officials, have been compelled by their conscience to speak out, revealing the scale of the duplicity behind Labour's failure to address the Party's antisemitism crisis".

Mr Watson told Sky the "Panorama programme was a watershed moment" and said a new independent complaints system "made up of people of standing from the Jewish community" should be brought in.

"It showed the downplaying of serious allegations".

Lord Turnberg said he feared for Labour's future due to the "overt" anti-Semitism that "permeates the party machine".

Ms Walker was expelled by Labour in March for "prejudicial and grossly detrimental behaviour against the party".

Jennie Formby, one of Jeremy Corbyn's closest allies, is at the centre of a fresh row over alleged political interference in the handling of complaints against Labour Party members.

"We stand in solidarity with Jewish people, and we're taking decisive action to root out anti-Semitism from our movement and society", the spokesman said.

In one of those cases, Labour claims the program deceptively edited the content of an email sent by Milne to change the meaning. It was an overtly biased intervention by the BBC in party political controversy.

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