Jeremy Corbyn has defended Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism cases, declaring his aides have acted “in good faith” and insisting they never overruled party staff on disciplinary matters.
In a letter to Dame Margaret Hodge, extracts of which have been seen by HuffPost UK, the Labour leader reveals that former minister Charlie Falconer is “likely” to be appointed to oversee the party’s complaints.
Corbyn also hit back at claims that Hodge had tape recorded her meeting with him last week, declaring her actions “a total breach of trust and privacy”.
The veteran Labour MP rounded on Corbyn on Tuesday over revelations that “his top team” had been involved in disciplinary cases and suggested activists accused of anti-Semitic abuse should not be suspended from the party.
Leaked emails revealed that office staffer Laura Murray had recommended further questions be put to one accused member before any suspension decision over their defence of an anti-Semitic mural depicting hook-nosed Jewish bankers.
Murray’s father Andrew, a Unite union chief who acts as an adviser, had also questioned a proposed suspension in a further case, the Observer reported on Sunday.
Hodge wrote to the Labour leader to declare that the documents “contradict what you told me to my face last week”.
But in his reply, Corbyn said he had believed the meeting had been “positive and constructive” and was “extremely disappointed” to hear on Radio 4 that she had taped their encounter.
“Neither me nor my staff were informed that you intended to record the meeting, my permission was not sought, nor granted. I consider this to be a total breach of trust and privacy,” he wrote.
Referring to Hodge’s complaints, Corbyn said he had looked into the issue and discovered that during the transition between former and current general secretaries Iain McNicol and Jennie Formby, “a very small group of staff in the Leader’s Office” were approached by former complaints staff and asked for help in clearing a backlog of cases.
“This help included a clear request for advice on a small number of cases. In an act of good faith, staff in my office complied with this request in order to assist the party. The decision making remained with staff members from GLU [Governance and Legal Unit], and there was never any attempt to overrule them.
“As soon as Jennie Formby started as General Secretary, this process was overhauled, and advice from LOTO [Leader of the Opposition’s office] was no longer sought on individual cases.”
Falconer is expected to accept a new role of surveillance commissioner of Labour’s anti-Semitism cases on Wednesday, despite claims from Hodge that he was insufficiently independent of the process.
In his letter, Corbyn said: “Regarding the likely appointment of Charlie Falconer, Jennie Formby has been in positive discussions with him and considers him an entirely appropriate figure. I have received many communications welcoming him working on this issue with the party.”
Corbyn met Tom Watson on Tuesday night, following concerns from the deputy leader that the party was failing to take tough enough action on anti-Semitic abuse.
Watson has clashed with Formby over the issue and supported backbench MPs in their calls for greater transparency.