The Labour Files documentary is a report on the content of leaked Labour Party files, acquired by Al Jazeera, revealing “a criminal conspiracy against its members”.. “the wholesale hacking of the press”… “a hierarchy of racism.. under Starmer’s leadership” and the physical surveillance of members and their families, including children. In episode 5, Al Jazeera talks to the author of the report, Martin Forde QC, about Labour’s continued failure or unwillingness to address issues of factionalism and racism within the party…
The program starts with Forde declaring that he got the impression that “anti-black racism and Islamophobia isn’t taken as seriously as anti-Semitism” and this was even before he’d watched the Al-Jazeera Labour Files documentaries which, he then realised, appeared to reveal even more information than he hadn’t been given access to.
Asides from the obvious visceral examples of racism by Labour staff members when discussing Diane Abbott in WhatsApp messages, Forde mentions that he had testimonies from “quite a high proportion of black and Asian councillors, or prospective MPs, who felt they’d been subjected to disciplinary action, which had been deliberately timed to exclude them from the qualifying processes or selection.” Forde tells us that, despite making 165 recommendations, he’s heard very little in return from the Labour Party in terms of what action would be taken.
Forde also reveals that while there has been no interest in the report from any of the mainstream media outlets, shockingly, he was pressured to alter the report by the BBC, who took issue with his assessment that the Panorama documentary ‘Is Labour anti-Semitic’ had been “entirely misleading” in their use of internal emails. In fact he was contacted by Panorama editor, Karen Wightman, as well as by John Ware, the lead reporter in the documentary. Ware expressed his anger that the Forde report “has done significant damage to my reputation and to that of the Corporation for journalistic integrity” and then demanded that Forde respond to his email within 24hrs. Forde had to assume that Panorama didn’t have access to all the information that he’d had access to, while he was working on the report, and felt vindicated when he was able to prove that an email from Seumas Milne, to Labour’s disciplinary unit, had been heavily “filleted” in order to create “a more sinister interpretation” of what was otherwise a fairly innocuous email. He also talks of his surprise and concern when a claim of anti-Semitism levelled at an elderly Jewish member of the party (Rica Bird) was later proven to be completely untrue, after it was revealed that the meeting she’d had with Ben Westerman, a member of the Labour Party’s disputes team, had been recorded and the recording clearly showed that she had not said what he had claimed.
Al Jazeera then remarks on its findings that Jewish Labour Party members who support Corbyn, or who do not support Israel, are frequently subjected to a lot more abuse within the Labour party. They then pick up on the recommendation, made by Forde, that these members should also be involved in designing the anti-Semitism training for party members. Forde concluded that the existing anti-Semitism training was “didactic, top down and one dimensional,” which he feels doesn’t really match up to Labour Party claims that it represents “a broad church.”
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