The Labour Party has said it will pay “substantial damages” to seven whistle-blowers after Labour made “defamatory and false” allegations against them after they went public about the systematic anti-Semitism within the party.
The whistleblowers came forward in a BBC Panorama investigation into the party’s handling of anti-Semitism claims which aired last year. Seven former staff members, who voiced their concerns about how claims of Jew-hatred among members were dealt with, sued after they were accused of libel by Labour. The BBC’s John Ware also went to court against the party.
According to the whistleblowers’ lawyer, William Bennett QC, Labour accused them of “acting in bad faith during and after their employment with the intention of harming” the party, calling the accusations false.
Mark Henderson QC, who defended Labour, said he “acknowledges that these claims about the Claimants are untrue, and we retract and withdraw them and undertake not to repeat them”.
The whistleblowers who brought the case were Katherine Buckingham, Michael Creighton, Samuel Matthews, Daniel Hogan, Louise Withers Green, Martha Robinson and Benjamin Westerman and the likely cost of the payout, along with additional court costs, is said to be around half a million pounds.
The Labour party also said in a statement: “Before the broadcast of the programme the Labour Party issued a press release that contained defamatory and false allegations about John Ware.
“We would like to take this opportunity to withdraw these allegations. We would like to apologise unreservedly for the distress, embarrassment and hurt caused by their publication.
“As we acknowledge in the statement in open court, John Ware is a very experienced broadcast and print journalist, producer and author, and we have agreed to pay damages to him.”
The Jewish News reports that in the hours before the announcement, there were reports that former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, his former communications chief Seamus Milne, and Labour’s former secretary-general Jennie Formby had sought assurances that their names would not be connected to the apology, in a sign of lasting anger.
In a statement, the claimants’ solicitor Mark Lewis said: “Today in the High Court, the Labour Party retracted its false allegations made about the Panorama programme asking whether Labour was antisemitic.
“The answer was a clear ‘yes’. Labour chose to double down and attack the programme’s presenter, John Ware, and the whistleblowers rather than addressing the truth of the problem.
“It is ironic that the workers’ party chose to act as disgruntled bosses who had been caught out.”
The BBC said in a statement: “We welcome today’s long overdue apology to John Ware and the seven Panorama whistleblowers, who have been subjected to painful and damaging personal attacks on their integrity and character.
“We applaud their strength to take this case forward and are pleased it has been recognised in court that these extremely serious and damaging allegations against them were false and have been unreservedly withdrawn.”