Documentary to expose how senior Labour figures tried to cover up anti-semitism

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at a community garden project during a visit to Macclesfield in Cheshire as he urges people and communities to come together to demand climate justice.

Labour is bracing for an explosive BBC documentary airing this evening, set to expose how senior party officials worked to cover up anti-Semitism.

Panorama: Is Labour Anti-Semitic? includes damning interviews with Labour insiders expected to claim advisors close to Jeremy Corbyn perpetuated a culture of institutional anti-Semitism by intervening in disciplinary cases to favour those accused of racism.

Mr Corbyn has been branded a hypocrite after it emerged the party tried to use non-disclosure agreements to gag former staffers from contributing to the documentary.

Mr Corbyn has called for the law to be changed to be changed to prevent whistleblowers from being silenced by NDAs.

How bad is this for Labour?

Accusations of anti-Semitism have dogged Labour for the last three years, and the documentary is expected to bring the row to a head.

Yesterday three senior Labour peers quit the whip, saying the party is ‘institutionally anti-Semitic’.

Lord Triesman, Lord Darzi, and Lord Turnberg cited issues with the party leadership in allowing racism to continue unchecked within Labour.

In February this year nine MPs quit the party, many of whom cited anti-Semitism as their reason for departure.

Labour MP Luciana Berger speaks as she announces her resignation during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London.

One of the MPs to quit was Luciana Berger, who had been the subject of anti-Semitic abuse.

She said the party had become institutionally racist and that she was ‘embarrassed and sickened’ to remain a member.

What are Corbyn’s critics saying?

Jeremy Corbyn’s critics accuse him of allowing racism to continue unchecked in Labour.

He has come in for particular criticism for his party’s use of NDAs in the case of the Panorama documentary.

It emerged Labour was using the gagging clauses to prevent former staffers from contributing to the programme, which is expected to be highly critical.

The party has campaigned in the past to crackdown on the use of NDAs to cover up scandals.

Lord Falconer, who was lord chancellor under Tony Blair, said: “This is deeply wrong. The public interest supports fullest public disclosure of those matters to ensure cases are handled properly by Labour.”

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson criticised the use of gagging orders, calling the move 'futile and stupid'.

Labour MP Wes Streeting tweeted: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant. No more excuses or hiding places. You should promise the same, Jeremy Corbyn.”

What’s the response from Corbyn backers?

Momentum, the grassroots Corbyn support movement, made moves to discredit the documentary, questioning the impartiality of the show’s producer.

Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, strongly criticised the episode of Panorama, branding it biased.

“My understanding is that it is not a balanced and objective investigation into antisemitism. It is a very partial view from a few members of staff who have a political axe to grind,” he said.

A Panorama spokesperson said: “The Labour Party is criticising a programme they have not seen. We are confident the programme will adhere to the BBC’s editorial guidelines.”

Fightback from Labour

Labour is understood to have written to BBC director-general Lord Hall to complain about a Panorama investigation on anti-Semitism in the party ahead of it being aired on Wednesday night.

“We’ve had a number of questions put to us by the Panorama team and we’ve answered them fully and extensively,” a Labour source said.

“We’ve given them 50 pages of documentation in response to their questions and we’ve also complained to the BBC at various levels including director-general level over the way the process has been engaged in, the lack of engagement with us at an earlier stage and the failure to come to us with a balanced and fair set of questions.

“And from what we’ve seen of the questions and the nature of the investigation, the Panorama team had already come to a conclusion about where its investigation was going before it looked at the evidence in full.

“We are absolutely adamantly opposed to anti-Semitism in all its forms and we will continue to take the strongest action to eradicate it from the Labour Party and we’ve taken a series of steps.”

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