Labour Party suspends members after anti-Semitism dossier leak 'to protect integrity' of internal probe

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  • June 19, 2020
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The Labour Party has suspended some of its members after a confidential report into anti-Semitism during Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure as leader was leaked, it was revealed today.

The party was plunged in bitter infighting in April – just days after Sir Keir Starmer took charge – when the explosive 860-page dossier was published online and leaked to media outlets.

The report found “no evidence” of anti-Semitism complaints being handled differently to others under Mr Corbyn’s leadership, and concluded that “factional opposition” towards the left winger had hindered efforts to tackle the crisis.

The report also included leaks of embarrassing WhatsApp exchanges between party staff regarded as opponents of Mr Corbyn, prompting claims that the party’s efforts to win the 2017 General Election had been deliberately sabotaged by senior officials.

In turn, opponents of Mr Corbyn claimed the report was being used to “smear whistleblowers” in a bid to “discredit allegations” of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.

Today at the High Court, it emerged that some Labour members have been suspended “to protect the integrity” of an investigation ordered by Sir Keir into how the dossier was leaked.

​The number of people suspended or their identities has not yet been revealed.

Sir Keir Starmer leaves his home on Tuesday. He is preparing for his first PMQs as leader of the opposition (REUTERS)

Labour member Mark Howell has brought legal action against the party, as well as former General Secretary Lord McNicol and the new General Secretary David Evans, claiming “breach of contract” and demanding damages as well as the expulsion of members who broke internal rules and a referral to the CPS for possible prosecutions.

Court battle: Labour Party chief Iain McNicol (Getty)

The court heard three separate investigations have been launched by Labour since the report was leaked, while a written legal argument on the party’s behalf confirmed that members have been suspended.

“The party has promptly commenced an investigation into whether any members referred to in the Report have, based on the materials referred to in the Report, breached the Party’s rules”, it said.

“Some of the party members have been suspended from membership so far as it is necessary to do so to protect the integrity of the investigation.”

​Rachel Crasnow QC represented Labour at the hearing, while the party’s head of legal affairs, Alex Barros-Curtis, was also present.

Sir Keir has called for the inquiry into the leak to be concluded quickly, with the findings now expected to be delivered by mid-July.

Labour has insisted it takes data protection “extremely seriously”, as the leak was reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office and suggestions were raised that legal action could be taken by people named in the report.

At court today, Ms Crasnow successfully applied for the leaked report to be taken off the court file, citing concerns for data protection and privacy.

Mrs Justice Eady acknowledged that the full, unredacted report is still available online, but she ruled that it should remain “confidential” at this stage of Mr Howell’s legal action.

The report also included leaks of embarrassing WhatsApp exchanges between party staff regarded as opponents of Mr Corbyn (PA)

Mr Howell, representing himself, claims party funds and resources were deliberately deployed at the 2017 election “not to win vulnerable seats presently held by rival parties but instead to increase majorities in safe seats of certain favoured party Members of Parliament.”

He was due today to seek a court order today forcing suspensions within the party, but abandoned the bid after analysing the party’s statements and was left with a £23,000 costs bill from the hearing.

Labour, which is defending the legal action, will now seek to strike out the claim against Lord McNicol and insists that no other hearings should take place before the internal investigation has been concluded.