Windrush adviser to chair investigation into Labour’s leaked antisemitism report

The 860-page leaked dossier contained a cache of WhatsApp chats and emails from senior officials at Labour’s headquarters

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Friday 01 May 2020 17:36
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Labour has appointed an independent adviser to the government on the Windrush compensation scheme to lead the party’s internal inquiry into a leaked antisemitism report.

The party’s governing body – the National Executive Committee (NEC) – agreed on Friday to appoint barrister Martin Forde to chair the investigation, aided by a panel of three experts.

They will include Baroness Wilcox, a former head of the Welsh local government association, former Labour general secretary Lord Larry Whitty, and Baroness Ruth Lister, an emeritus professor of social policy at Loughborough University.

The inquiry was launched by the party's new leadership after a leaked internal report appeared to show senior officials working to undermine the party's electoral chances.

The 860-page leaked dossier contained a cache of WhatsApp chats and emails from senior executives at Labour’s headquarters and was produced as an annex to the party’s submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission – a body currently investigation Labour’s handling of antisemitism.

The report focused on the conduct of the party’s governance and legal unit, and alleged that factional hostility undermined the leadership’s efforts to tackle antisemitism complaints.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism said the dossier, however, was a “desperate last-ditch attempt to deflect and discredit allegations” and amounted to “an attempt to imagine a vast anti-Corbyn conspiracy”.

It was leaked just days after Sir Keir Starmer was appointed as the party’s new leader, reigniting internal divisions, and forcing Labour to defend its data protection handling and work with the Information Commissioner’s Office, with legal challenges threatened by those named in the report.

A spokesperson for the party said on Friday: “The NEC has appointed Martin Forde to chair the independent investigation into the circumstances, contents and release of an internal report.

“Forde will be supported by a panel of three experts who have expertise in the law and the Labour Party’s structures. The NEC has agreed that the investigation should endeavour to deliver its report by the middle of July.”

Mr Forde currently acts as an independent adviser to the Home Office on the government’s Windrush compensation scheme, addressing issues “arising from difficulties encountered by those who suffered as a result of having to demonstrate their immigration status”.

But just hours after the announcement, Jon Lansman, a founder of the left-wing group Momentum, who sits on the NEC, criticised the decision to appoint Baroness Wilcox, suggesting she was “clearly unsuitable” for the role.

Posting on his social media account, he added: “At today’s NEC meeting, 4 names were proposed & agreed to sit on the inquiry into the leaked report. I assumed due diligence had been done on all to ensure their impartiality which was universally agreed as essential – we certainty had no time in the meeting to do so.

“I’m deeply disappointed to learn that Baroness Debbie Wilcox, former leader of Newport City Council, has tweeted clearly factional support for anti-Corbyn statements by Ian McNicol [former general secretary] & others, & Labour First & Progress. She’s therefore clearly unsuitable for the inquiry panel.”

The terms of reference for the inquiry were agreed at a separate meeting of the party’s ruling body last week, and will probe whether “racist, sexist and other discriminatory culture” exists in party workplaces. It will also look at the “circumstances, contents and release” of the report.

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