A secret document obtained by The Electronic Intifada reveals that the UK Labour Party wasted $1.3 million pursuing the leakers of a report on alleged anti-Semitism.
Several staffers were suspended and ultimately pushed out, despite an inconclusive investigation.
Despite the extraordinary lengths Labour went to suppress the leaked report, a Labour lawyer concedes in the secret document that there was “an overriding public interest” in publishing at least some of it.
You can read extracts of the “highly confidential” document on this page. It is dated 14 September 2020 and addressed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – the UK’s official data regulator.
More than $1.3 million was allocated to specialist lawyers, consultants and forensic investigators, the secret document says. They issued legal threats to publishers of the leaked report and confiscated Labour staffers’ laptops for investigation.
The lawyers even wrote to Google, asking the company to delist websites that had “linked to” the leaked report. The Silicon Valley monolith declined to comply.
The revelations in the secret document will worry members concerned about the party’s escalating financial crisis since Corbyn’s right-wing successor Keir Starmer took over in April 2020.
The original 851-page report was leaked to the press a few days into Starmer’s leadership.
The subsequently obtained secret document reveals the names of the Labour staffers who wrote the leaked report: Harry Hayball, Georgina Robertson and Laura Murray. It also says that senior Corbyn aides Karie Murphy and Seumas Milne were “closely involved” in its production.
This confirms The Electronic Intifada’s reporting at the time, which named Hayball as the lead author.
In the secret document the lawyers also name staffers they allege leaked the report, but The Electronic Intifada has decided not to release their names.
The authors attack the leakers’ “nefarious ambitions” and accuse them of a “criminal venture … in pursuit of their own self-serving, factional political agendas.”
No one has in fact been charged with any crimes in relation to the leak.
The original leaked report sought to largely exonerate Jeremy Corbyn’s team. It pinned the blame for the supposed “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” on the inaction of right-wing, anti-Corbyn bureaucrats.
It claimed they deliberately “failed to act on extreme cases of anti-Semitism in order to undermine” Corbyn’s Labour.
But ironically, the allegedly left-wing authors of the original report contributed to the same anti-Corbyn smear campaign as led by Israel and its lobby in the first place.
Among those smeared in the report was left-wing former London mayor Ken Livingstone, anti-racist activists Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth, left-wing former Labour lawmaker Chris Williamson, Jewish anti-Zionist Tony Greenstein and this writer.
In October 2021, Seumas Milne, Karie Murphy, Georgie Robertson, Laura Murray and Harry Hayball strenuously denied via their lawyers that they had anything to do with the leak. “They also deny having any knowledge of who was responsible,” the statement read.
The five said they had come forward because Labour was going to name them as the leakers in a related case at the High Court, brought by a group suing the party over the leak.
The report had been written in response to an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – another official British body.
“Our very last opportunity”
At the instigation of Israel lobby groups the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Jewish Labour Movement, the EHRC began an investigation into Corbyn’s Labour for alleged “institutional anti-Semitism.”
The EHRC’s report, published in October 2020, failed to find Labour guilty of that charge.
But Corbyn was suspended from the party anyway, after saying he didn’t accept all their findings.
He was readmitted after a brief investigation, but remains exiled from Labour’s group in Parliament and now sits as an independent lawmaker.
The leaked report boasted that leading author Hayball had previously cooperated with the Jewish Labour Movement on “tackling anti-Semitism within the party and on the left” – in other words on helping the Israel lobby to smear Labour as anti-Semitic.
In an unsent email quoted in the secret document, Laura Murray wrote to general secretary Jennie Formby that it was “very disappointing” she had decided not to send the report to the EHRC, “because it is the best political defense our party has against the charges of anti-Semitism made against us.”
Yet in the leaked report Murray or its other authors had written many pages smearing several high-profile leftists as “anti-Semitic.”
This fact taken together with Murray’s newly revealed unsent email suggests that the clique which produced the leaked report wanted to distance themselves from “Labour anti-Semitism” while simultaneously throwing the membership under the bus – especially Palestine solidarity activists and other leftists.
In another email revealed in the secret document, writing to Formby and to top Corbyn aide Seumas Milne, Murray was even more explicit. “This is potentially our very last opportunity to get the truth to the world,” she wrote.
In this secret document, Labour’s lawyers concede that the leaked report raised “legitimate questions” about whether party officials “seriously misconducted themselves” by undermining Corbyn “and working to ensure that the party lost the 2017 general election.”
The original report showed that sabotage included funneling $280,000 worth of party resources towards right-wing Labour candidates and away from pro-Corbyn candidates.
In a marginal comment on the secret document, party lawyer Anya Proops remonstrated that: “Do we think the disclosure of these messages was unjustified? Might it be said that … there was an overriding public interest given their content?”
Pro-Corbyn party staff had amassed a collection of emails and WhatsApp messages written by right-wing staff which laid bare the latter’s hostility.
The “massive elephant in the room [is] that we all kind of hate” Corbyn, one staffer wrote.
The lawyers who wrote the secret document complain of the “hugely disruptive” effect of the leaks on Starmer. They say his leadership was “seriously diverted within days of its inception” and that the leaks were designed to “smear Sir Keir personally.”
Pleading for Labour to be spared a significant fine, the lawyers urge the Information Commissioner’s Office to “avoid outcomes which unfairly taint the party (or its leadership)” in the eyes of members and voters. They even claim that a large fine could damage “the democratic principles on which our [British] constitution is founded.”
But the lawyers had further doubts. Lucas Atkin cautions in a marginal comment that this claim might be “over-egging it a bit.”
The secret document reveals that Labour “extensively investigated the leaks at significant expense.”
It says the party estimated that funds “expended or still to be expended for these purposes exceed £1,000,000” – more than $1.3 million.
Labour also wrote to media outlets that had published extracts of the leaked report, including to left-wing site The Skwawkbox, threatening legal action. It is unclear how many complied.
Skwawkbox editor Steve Walker told The Electronic Intifada that he had “just ignored” the takedown demand.
Despite accusing the leakers of criminality, the document also concedes that a Labour contractor “did not detect any specific threats” to those whose information had been exposed by the leak.
Labour’s lawyers also admit that copies of the report pose only “minor online risk” to those named.
One of the companies hired by Labour “at significant cost” was Stroz Friedberg, which the document describes as “leading forensic experts.” Labour gave the firm the computers of 11 staff.
The results were inconclusive, the document says. Yet several staff were “de facto” suspended pending investigation.
The suspensions were later made formal, the secret document says. The Electronic Intifada understands that the staffers quit before they could be fired.
Internet searches and social media confirmed the fact that the staffers no longer work for Labour.
One “knowingly participated in an unauthorized scheme to effect the leaks,” the secret document alleges. Others were allegedly “at the very least aware of the plan.”
“Strong public interest”
Despite punishing the alleged whistleblowers, the lawyers admit that Labour accepts there was “a strong public interest in alerting the media” to the evidence of internal sabotage against Corbyn.
Morag Slater, a mediation consultant, was also hired to investigate the leak.
A redacted section of the secret document reads, “Ms. Slater concluded that it was not possible to discern any prima facie case of wrongdoing on the part of any employee.”
Slater concluded that there was “no question of any employee being subject to disciplinary proceedings.” Yet the party rejected her report, which it alleged was “seriously inadequate.”
The secret document concludes by asking the Information Commissioner’s Office for a meeting. It is marked as a “draft,” but The Electronic Intifada understands the final version was sent soon after.
The Labour Party, the ICO and Morag Slater did not reply to requests for comment.
The new revelations on how much money Labour has spent to pursue whistleblowers will be of deep concern to remaining members.
The secret document argues that Labour’s finances are “under serious threat” due to the withdrawal of “significant donors” during the Corbyn era and the skeptical attitude of unions towards Starmer.
Labour’s financial crisis
A recent article by The Skwawkbox concluded that the true number was closer to 200,000 members – meaning a loss of more than $10.5 million worth of dues annually.
The influx of new members under Corbyn – with the party approaching 600,000 at its peak – had helped put Labour in good financial shape. Labour reportedly had reserves of more than $18 million at the end of his leadership.
Yet Labour’s finance spokesperson Rachel Reeves told The Financial Times recently it was “a good thing” that membership was falling and that the drop in income was a price worth paying to remove the “stain” of supposed anti-Semitism.
Starmer is purging Labour to make it a safe space for capitalists and lobbyists once again.
Since his takeover, Starmer has launched a charm offensive in the City, London’s financial district, hoping to mend the “fraught relationship with banks and fund managers under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn,” The Financial Times has reported.
Chinn is one of the UK’s leading pro-Israel lobbyists. He worked tirelessly against the former leader, including by funding anti-Corbyn, pro-Israel Labour lawmakers and the breakaway “Independent Group” party.
Chinn also secretly funded Starmer’s successful leadership campaign.
But it seems that Chinn and the other two “wealthy backers” who so enthused The Times will require many more purges before they seriously open their wallets.
Their combined new donations up until July 2021 amounted to a mere $94,000.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada.