Former senior Labour official accuses party of 'campaign of lies and misinformation' about antisemitism

Former head of investigations says he encountered 'more than daily political interference', as Jewish affiliate group's submission to equalities watchdog is leaked

Jeremy Corbyn apologises for antisemitism within Labour on This Morning

A former senior Labour official who was responsible for investigating complaints of antisemitism has accused the party of "a campaign of lies and misinformation" in relation to anti-Jewish racism.

Sam Matthews, who worked as the party's head of compliance until last year, said he believed that Jeremy Corbyn had not told the truth when the Labour leader claimed he had "dealt with" antisemitism in party ranks.

It came after the party's official Jewish affiliate's submission to an equalities watchdog investigation into Labour antisemitism was leaked.

The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) document, submitted to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) earlier this year, contained sworn statements from 70 witnesses and new allegations about anti-Jewish racism in the party.

They include claims that one member described Jews as "subhuman" and said they should "be grateful we don't make them eat bacon for breakfast every day".

It is also alleged that a local Labour official in Tottenham objected to 25 members of the Chasidic Jewish community applying to join the party, and insisted on visiting their homes.

In a highly unusual move, the release of the document prompted a Labour-affiliated trade union to write to party leaders warning them not to "victimise" people who had given evidence to the EHRC.

In a press conference called in response to the leak, JLM said the document showed that Labour was "no longer a safe space for Jewish people" and proved that "there has been political interference from the party leadership and that interference has become institutional".

Asked about Mr Corbyn's claims, made during an interview with ITV earlier this week, that he had "dealt with" the problem of antisemitism, Mr Matthews said: "People need to make their own decisions about the integrity of statements that Jeremy Corbyn makes on this issue.

"From my personal perspective, I struggle to see how that can be true and it forms part of a campaign of lies and misinformation that the Labour Party has been putting out for a number of years now, some of which are subject to legal action."

Mr Matthews, who appeared as a whistleblower in a Panorama episode about Labour antisemitism earlier this year, said the JLM submission contained "important disclosures about how deep the rot inside the Labour Party goes".

He said he first became aware of widespread anti-Jewish racism during the summer of 2016, when Mr Corbyn was re-elected as party leader following an attempt to oust him.

He said: "For the first time it became immediately apparent to me that there was a really, really extensive problem with antisemitism at that stage. For the first time that I had noticed, people who held deeply antisemitic views were feeling like the Labour Party was their home."

Mr Matthews said matters worsened when the current general secretary, Corbyn ally Jennie Formby, took over.

He said: "The point that it really became intolerable for me was the point at which Iain McNicol was replaced as general secretary by Jennie Formby and at that point there was no distinction between the leader's office and Southside [the party's headquarters].

"The processes, imperfect though they were, were fully breached at that stage and there was more than daily political interference."

Recalling his time working for Labour between 2016 and 2018, he said he had "witnessed first hand the complete failure of the party processes to adequately deal with anti-Jewish racism".

He continued: "By the end of my time there, I witnessed daily interference in the proces, meaning that my team and I, who were responsible for discipline in the party, were simply unable to do our jobs.

Jeremy Corbyn ‘unfit for office’ over handling of Labour antisemitism, says Chief Rabbi

Jeremy Corbyn ‘unfit for office’ over handling of Labour antisemitism, says Chief Rabbi

"During a prolonged period, my team and I were put in the intolerable position of witnessing widespread racism in the party, and not having the support from those above us to tackle the problem effectively.

"A problem so intolerable that it directly affected the mental health of myself and my team, to the point where, by the end, I considered taking my own life."

In a highly unusual intervention, Labour's third biggest affiliated trade union, the GMB, warned the party that whistleblowers who had submitted evidence to the EHRC must not be "victimised'.

Its London political officer, Vaughan West, wrote to Ms Formby and Labour's HR team saying: "Can I remind you that these people are protected under the whistleblowing legislation and any attempt by their employer, the Labour Party, to victimise them for making such a submission will be treated with the utmost seriousness by the GMB?"

A Labour spokesperson said: “Antisemitism is an evil and we are committed to rooting it out of our party and society. We are fully cooperating with the EHRC. The Labour Party is not institutionally antisemitic and complaints relate to a small minority of our members.

“This document is littered with inaccuracies and it relates in large part to the period before Jennie Formby became general secretary, before our significant reforms to procedures."

They added: "There are not 70 staff members who have worked on our disciplinary procedures in recent years. Former staff who worked for MPs or in other parts of the organisation, would not have knowledge of those procedures or numbers of cases, and any former staff would not know how our procedures currently work. Staff use Labour emails and the Labour Party’s complaints system. Nothing is hidden.

“We are the only political party that has published figures on cases of antisemitism, and we regularly account for the work we are doing to tackle it, including Jeremy Corbyn’s reforms for rapid expulsions, which allow individuals to be expelled within a matter of weeks in open and shut cases.”

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