Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of pursuing “disgusting” Donald Trump-style tactics to shut down criticism of how Labour is managing its anti-Semitism crisis.
Liberal Demorat deputy leader Jo Swinson said it was “distressing” that Labour decided to “go to war” with the BBC over a Panorama documentary which alleged key Corbyn allies interfered in the party’s disciplinary process to try and “downgrade” serious cases of anti-Semitism.
The Labour leader’s aides launched an online fightback against the investigation before it even aired on Wednesday evening, advising “outriders” and “socialist social media activists” to repeat the message that Corbyn is not personally anti-Semitic.
The party has also claimed the documentary was biased and personally attacked the journalist behind it.
Swinson, the favourite to take over as Lib Dem leader, told HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast said it was “astonishing” that Labour was effectively mimicking Trump’s branding of critical media “fake news”.
“It’s like ‘the biggest crowds of the inauguration’, it’s saying what they wish their followers to believe and ‘if we just put out a different narrative then we’ll just say it’s all media bias’,” she said.
“The thing I find most distressing about this is when faced with such a documentary, such powerful testimony from so many different individuals who clearly care about the Labour movement, that the response from the Labour party is to go to war with the BBC instead of going to war with anti-Semitism in their own ranks.
“The way in which they are responding to this is just astonishing, that they are trying to discredit and that they were doing it even before the programme aired effectively to try and call out fake news.
“Don’t try and tell me these people who are telling us their own experiences, that they are not valid and that they are wrong and that somehow, you Jeremy Corbyn know better what is anti-Semitic and what has happened to that person.
“And I just think it is really disgusting the way in which they have done that rather than saying we have got a problem and we need to deal with it and we are going to deal with it, and it’s just words but the actions do not back it up.”
Labour drew attention to the party’s response to the Panorama documentary.
A spokesman said on Wednesday: “The Panorama programme and the BBC have engaged in deliberate and malicious representations designed to mislead the public.
“It appears these disaffected former officials include those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively undermine it, and have both personal and political axes to grind. This throws into doubt their credibility as sources.
“Our records show that after these officials left and after Jennie Formby became General Secretary, the rate at which anti-Semitism cases have been dealt with, increased more than four-fold.”