Corbyn staff asked to be copied in on antisemitism complaints, leak shows
Key members of Jeremy Corbyn’s staff asked to be copied in on antisemitism complaints last year to give them an “overview” of sensitive cases, according to leaked emails obtained by the Guardian.
The senior Labour compliance official involved in the email exchange says the views of Corbyn’s office will be “welcome where given, but formal comment not needed … as a matter of course in all cases”.
The leaked exchange appears to contradict Labour claims that the complaints process has been kept separate from Corbyn’s staff since Jennie Formby took over as general secretary.
In a letter to Margaret Hodge on Tuesday night, Corbyn conceded that during a short “transition period”, before Formby took over as Labour’s general secretary, “a very small group of staff in the leader’s office were approached”, and “asked for help in clearing a backlog of cases”.
Formby took over at the beginning of April. In a message sent on 8 April, Corbyn’s chief of staff, Karie Murphy, asks for his political secretary to continue to be given an “overview”.
Murphy thanks staff at Labour HQ for keeping her “in the loop on all these complaints”, during what she calls a “difficult period”.
But it becomes clear in the course of the email exchange that key figures in Corbyn’s office would continue to be kept informed. “It’s important for Amy Jackson to have an overview of all complaints that involve elected politicians or candidates,” Murphy says.
Jackson is Corbyn’s political secretary, liaising with MPs.
A Labour source said that the emails “make clear staff in the leader’s office were no longer being asked for advice on cases, and only being copied in for their information, for example to be aware of complaints involving elected representatives”.
They added: “A short while later this practice was ended entirely.”
Corbyn has repeatedly insisted, including to Jewish community leaders, that the process of examining antisemitism complaints is not a political one, and is kept at arm’s length from his team.
When Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, presented Corbyn with a dossier of 50 historic complaints that had not been dealt with last month, after Liverpool Wavertree MP Luciana Berger left the party, citing antisemitism, Labour insisted it would be wrong for the leader to interfere.
The Labour MP Wes Streeting said: “It is there in black and white that, contrary to Jeremy Corbyn’s claim that his office couldn’t intervene in individual cases, there was in fact a whole system for copying in some of the most senior people in his office. It is just appalling.”
The senior Labour compliance official’s email calls for “cases to be flagged where they involve any particularly politically sensitive matters, ensuring attention of Seumas/Amy/any others as appropriate”. Seumas Milne is Corbyn’s head of strategy and communications.
Also copied in on the exchange is Laura Murray, who has come to prominence in recent days after she was seconded to Labour’s complaints unit.
She asks for a wider group to continue to be copied in on antisemitism cases, saying: “I really feel safer with more people in the loop, than less people, considering how easy it is for things to slip through the net/cases to get traction in the media etc.”
Murray was identified in a separate leaked email chain earlier this week, as the official who had advised against suspension in a case involving an antisemitic East End mural Jeremy Corbyn had previously apologised for defending.
Lord Falconer, the Labour peer who is negotiating with Formby about being appointed to examine the party’s handling of antisemitism cases, said it was “beyond mad”, that staff from Corbyn’s office were being seconded to help deal with complaints.
Labour sources insisted earlier in the week Murray was offering “administrative support”, but Labour MPs were told on Wednesday she had been appointed as the party’s acting head of complaints.
Labour later insisted that was not correct, and that the job would be advertised in due course.
A Labour party spokesperson said: “Since becoming general secretary, Jennie Formby has made procedures for dealing with complaints about antisemitism more robust. Staff who work on disciplinary matters have always led on investigations and recommendations on individual cases, and the leader’s office is not involved in this process.”
The emails follow a separate exchange, obtained by the Times on Wednesday, that showed an ally of Corbyn recommending against suspension for a Labour member who had approvingly shared an antisemitic posting.
More than 100 Labour MPs, including at least 10 frontbenchers, wrote to the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) on Wednesday, urging the group not to disaffiliate from the party and apologising for “letting our Jewish supporters and members down”.
The JLM, which has 2,000 members and has been affiliated to the party for almost a century, is to discuss at concurrent conferences in London and Manchester whether to formally sever ties with Labour over its handling of the antisemitism crisis.
Corbyn wrote his own letter to the JLM saying he recognised the “enormous distress” caused by antisemitism and expressing his and the shadow cabinet’s “very strong desire for you to remain a part of our movement”.
The Labour leader said he understood the frustration with how the party had handled antisemitism cases, adding: “These processes have certainly moved too slowly.” He again asked for a meeting to discuss the matter – an offer declined last week.