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Wed, 5 August 2020

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New appointments this week in UK politics, the civil service and public affairs Member content
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By Hft

Labour party finances reportedly under threat as further legal claims are brought amid ongoing anti-semitism row

Labour party finances reportedly under threat as further legal claims are brought amid ongoing anti-semitism row

The party has been warned that the costs of legal action could go into the "millions" (PA)

3 min read

Labour has been warned of the impact ongoing legal action is taking on the party’s finances as nine former members make fresh claims.

The Observer reports that lawyers from the Manchester-based firm 3D Solicitors are set to notify party officials of suits being made regarding breaches of data protection and privacy rules.

It is understood that the nine individuals all made complaints of anti-semitism, but had their WhatsApp messages included in leaked report compiled by officials close to Jeremy Corbyn. 

The 800-page report revealed in April denied that the then-leader had failed to tackle anti-semitism in the party, suggesting that such claims were made to undermine Mr Corbyn’s position.

Sources close to the cases suggested it could cost Labour “a few hundred thousand pounds” if the party chose to settle, or “many millions” if the fresh action went to court.

One source told The Observer: “This is about privacy and data protection. These were people who are or were normal party members and councillors who raised issues about antisemitism in good faith and confidentially with the party. 

“They then found that they had been named in a report leaked deliberately, leading them to be abused on social media. No attempts, it seems, were made to protect their privacy.”

Another said: “At its extreme, some employees seem to have taken a view that the worse things got for Labour, the happier they would be since this might expedite Jeremy Corbyn’s departure from office.”

It is also reported that Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet was briefed earlier this week on the impact ongoing legal action is having on the party finances.

The officials said the next three big financial drains on the party all related to litigation involving the whistleblowers, fallout from the forthcoming report into anti-semitism by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and other civil cases being mounted by individuals against the party, the Observer reports.

One senior Labour figure warned: “The message was that this is a big year, but don’t think there is much money to fight these elections.”

Earlier this week, Labour issued an “unreserved” apology and agreed to pay damages to former members of staff and a BBC journalist after attacking them over a Panorama documentary into its handling of anti-semitism complaints.

Statements read out in the High Court on Wednesday saw Labour apologise for “defamatory and false” claims about the whistleblowers and the documentary team, who broke cover to allege that the party had mishandled allegations of anti-Jewish abuse.

Labour was sued by seven whistleblowers who appeared in the 2019 film and who accused it of attempting to undermine their reputations.

But former leader Mr Corbyn branded the apology a “political” decision and said it could lead to “misleading and inaccurate allegations” about action taken to tackle anti-Jewish abuse during his time as leader.

And Unite boss Len McCluskey accused Labour of "misusing" funds to settle the case.

Elsewhere, Lord Iain McNicol, who served as Labour’s top official during the early part of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, is reported to be among those taking action against the party over claims made in the leaked antisemitism report.

Lord McNicol’s case, submitted separately from the nine individuals represented by 3D Solicitors, is understood to be among a total of over 30 people considering legal action against the party. 
 

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