It is reported that John Ware, a presenter for BBC’s Panorama, is taking legal action for libel against former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. In response a legal fund has been set up by Carole Morgan at GoFundMe. She writes:
The relentless attacks on Mr Corbyn, a man of integrity, honesty and humility cannot be allowed to continue and we have an opportunity here to offer him support in a practical way. It will also let him know that his supporters have not forgotten him, nor have they gone away.
As a party member, I regard the Labour leadership’s decision to issue an unreserved apology and to pay out substantial damages in out of court settlements to John Ware and the other seven plaintiffs (read more about the story below) as not just another assault on the left-wing of the party but, as Labour Against the Witchhunt states, “a clear misuse of party funds and an insult to all Labour members”.
For these reasons, I fully endorse the campaign to support Jeremy Corbyn.
After only 2 days the legal fund already stands at £239,565.
Click here to read Labour Against the Witchhunt‘s model motion for “no confidence in Keir Starmer”.
And here to add your own support to the legal fund to defend Jeremy Corbyn.
Update: Campaign for Free Speech!
On July 29th, ‘Labour Against the Witchhunt’ gathered together speakers including Norman Finkelstein, Tariq Ali, Chris Williamson, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, David Miller and Tony Greenstein to launch a ‘Campaign for Free Speech’. The event was chaired by Tina Werkmann of Labour Against the Witchhunt and Labour Left Alliance:
Last July BBC1 flagship investigative documentary series broadcast Is Labour Anti-semitic?
The programme came directly off the back of an investigation into the party launched by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) “to determine whether the Labour party has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish” for which its report is expected imminently. And it helped set the tone for what was to become a dominant angle of news coverage, especially during the general election that followed in December last year.
writes Justin Schlosberg in a recent article published by Novara Media entitled “BBC Panorama Investigation Into Labour Antisemitism Omitted Key Evidence and Parts of Labour’s Response”.
On Wednesday 22nd Novara Media’s Michael Walker welcomed Justin Schlosberg on to its ‘Tyskie Sour’ show to discuss the decision by the Labour Party to apologise “unreservedly” and to offer their substantial out of court settlement to Panorama presenter John Ware and the seven ‘whistleblowers’:
Schlosberg, who is a Senior Lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck College and a former Chair of the Media Reform Coalition, continues:
Along the way, the programme has received nominations for prestigious awards, including a Bafta. And it has seen off over 1,500 complaints, several of which were escalated to Ofcom. A judge recently refused permission for an application I made to the high court, asking for a review of Ofcom’s decision not to investigate the programme.
To cap it off, both the presenter John Ware and the whistleblowers have settled libel claims against the party, which is believed to have paid out around £180,000 in damages and close to £400,000 in legal costs, in addition to apologising for having made ‘defamatory and false allegations’.
According to a statement from Jeremy Corbyn [see screenshot below] and to other Labour party sources, including a former member of the party’s national executive committee, the decision to settle was apparently taken despite the party having received “clear advice” from its own lawyers that Labour would have won in court.
The libel claims appear to have been based on the former leadership’s strong defence of its record in response to the programme. A party spokesman described Ware’s documentary as “a seriously inaccurate, politically one-sided polemic, which breached basic journalistic standards, invented quotes and edited emails to change their meaning”. The spokesman went on to accuse the programme-makers of deceiving the British public:
“An honest investigation into antisemitism in Labour and wider society is in the public interest. The Panorama team instead pre-determined an answer to the question posed by the programme’s title. No proper and serious attempt was made to understand our current procedures for dealing with antisemitism, which is clearly essential to reach a fair and balanced judgement. And Panorama distorted and manipulated the truth and misrepresented evidence to present a biased and selective account.”
Since then, critics of the programme have been further outraged by an apparent accountability failure. A scathing letter to the Bafta chair recently called for the nomination to be rescinded, adding that it “should never have passed the BBC’s compliance regime in the first instance”. Signatories of the letter included Mike Leigh (an award-winning film director and Bafta fellow), Sir Geoffrey Bindman (a leading human rights QC) and Tim Llewelyn (a former BBC Middle East correspondent).
The testimony of Ware’s “whistleblowers” has also been brought into question by a leaked report, documenting a culture of intense factionalism at Labour’s Southside headquarters during the period in question. The report drew heavily upon WhatsApp conversations between former Labour staffers, including several of Panorama’s witnesses. Nobody has questioned the authenticity of those messages, which paint a deeply unflattering picture of the protagonists —not least of their track record when it comes to issues of racism and antisemitism in the Labour party.
Now, exclusive new evidence suggests something altogether more serious and damning: the programme-makers overlooked key parts of leaked emails and the Labour party’s reply which fatally undermined the testimony of its whistleblowers.
This stands against the BBC’s repeated assertion that the Labour party was offered “a full right of reply”. And it raises new questions over why and how Ofcom took an extraordinary 63 days to decide simply not to investigate the programme.
Click here to read Justin Schlosberg’s full article at Novara Media.
Update: message from Carole Morgan, organiser of the petition
Hello, it’s me again. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine when I decided to act in support of Jeremy Corbyn that the fund would make the impact that it has. I have received hundreds of emails from well wishers who have expressed their love and support for Jeremy, and also to me for setting up the fund, for which I thank you.
I had a need to express my gratitude and support for Jeremy and setting up this fund was the only way I could think of to achieve that. I didn’t realise at the time just how many of you shared that same need. Jeremy’s support fund has had an effect in ways that I never expected. Those of us who have always longed for a better world, one that ensures dignity, security and peace for all humanity found ourselves voiceless after the terrible general election result and the subsequent loss of Jeremy as our democratically elected Leader of the Labour Party.
Through Jeremy’s fund we have found our voice again. We are One voice that cries out for justice, not just for Jeremy, but for all the people who have suffered so terribly under the years of austerity here in the UK, those who are suffering political upheaval, wars and genocide around the world. I have received emails from so many like minded people who are struggling to hold their lives together and are not in a position to donate, so I wanted to share with you all that there are still more of us out there than even the fund can reflect.
Of course there are those who oppose what we have achieved in so short a time. I have come to the realisation that this is because they are afraid. The fear they carry is like a disease that has spread through every fibre of their lives and their being. It has always been there and they have learned to see the world only through the eyes of fear. They are afraid of the changes that we want to create in the world; the return of love, compassion, equality and peace. They seek to stamp us out because they are afraid for their very existence. They are unable to understand that they are welcome to share in our world, if they would only let go of their fear.
Of course a platform is just that. It is important to remind yourselves that it is each and every one of you who has turned the platform into a shining beacon of light. Words cannot convey my gratitude to you all, and I thank you from the very bottom of my heart.
Note that: the fund now stands at £295,259.
Click here to add your own support.