Top Jeremy Corbyn aides 'moved to block anti-semitism suspension'

Posted On: 
10th March 2019

Two of Jeremy Corbyn's closest aides allegedly moved to block the suspension of a member being investigated for making anti-semitic remarks.

Seamus Milne is one of Mr Corbyn's closest allies
Credit: 
PA

Seumas Milne, Labour’s director of strategy, and adviser Andrew Murray, intervened in the party’s official disciplinary process to stop a Jewish activist against Israel from being booted out the party over his involvement in a notorious Facebook group.

Glyn Secker, who was placed under “administrative suspension” while the party investigated his role in the Palestine-Live group, which hosted Holocaust denial content, had also heckled Jewish activists at the party’s 2016 conference and had questioned Labour's adoption of an international definition of anti-semitism. 

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In a leaked email exchange obtained by the Sunday Times, one party official raised concerns about Mr Secker’s behaviour, writing: “There are legitimate questions to be asked about someone who has contributed to Palestine Live, heckled JLM [Jewish Labour movement] at conference and posted content saying: ‘Jew=Zionist=Israel=Jew’.”

Another added: “We would normally suspend with this.”

But two days later, Mr Murray, who is also the Unite union’s chief of staff, suggested that Mr Corbyn was personally interested in the case as he took aim at a campaign group who have exposed Labour members posting anti-semitic content online.

He wrote: “JC interested in this one. I don’t know if this came from ‘Labour Against Anti-Semitism’ but they are well dodgy.”

In a separate email, Mr Milne added: “None of the posts can be identified as anti-semitic in the terms of the definition we have adopted as a party…Several quite clearly relate to political arguments within the Jewish community.”

Following the exchange, Mr Secker’s suspension was lifted as he was told by Labour’s Head of Disputes that “it would not be in the Party’s interests to pursue further disciplinary action in relation to this matter.

A Labour source told PoliticsHome that the initial decision to suspend Mr Secker was due to a "misapplication" of the party rulebook.

They added: "We were alarmed that a clear misapplication of the rules by a now former Compliance staff member to target a Jewish peace activist was given priority over dealing with disgusting and clear cut cases of antisemitism."

Earlier this month, Labour had insisted the complaints process was free of political interference as it battled to contain the anti-semitism crisis which has seen several MPs quit.

But the paper also reports that a leaked audio recording shows Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was willing to throw his support behind the party’s parliamentary candidate for South Thanet, Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, who was suspended over remarks made about the “Zionist sympathies” of a Jewish MP.

In a meeting with the Labour Representation Committee last month, Mr McDonnell reportedly said: “In terms of Thanet, I’ve expressed my support for Rebecca.”

Asked about plans by Ms Gordon-Nesbitt to sue the party over the suspension, he added: “I don’t want to in any way prejudice that, but I’ll express my public support, full stop.”

News of the interventions come just days after the Equalities and Human Rights Commission launched a probe into the party, saying they believed Labour may have “unlawfully discriminated” against people because of their religious beliefs.

A Labour spokesperson said that members of the leaders office no longer had a say in the disciplinary process, adding: “This is a malicious, selective briefing from a disgruntled former employee, who asked individuals in the Leader’s Office for help in clearing a backlog of cases, which was complied with in good faith.

“Since becoming General Secretary, Jennie Formby has ended this practice and made the procedures for dealing with complaints about antisemitism more robust.
 
“Staff who work on disciplinary matters lead on investigations and recommendations on individual cases.”