Panorama’s John Ware has today confirmed he will sue the pro-Corbyn lobby group Jewish Voice for Labour for libel over comments made in relation to last year’s programme “Is Labour Antisemitic”. Action will also be taken against founder member Naomi Wimbourne-Idrissi, who said Ware had a “terrible record of Islamophobia, far-right politics” and falsely claimed the BBC had had to “apologise” for his journalism. Ware has said the question of whether he is to sue Corbyn personally for defamation is still with his lawyers. The bigger question, however, is whether Jeremy will share any of the £300,000 raised for his legal defence with JVL…
Responding to Labour’s official apology to the Panorama’s Antisemitism whistleblowers, Corbyn posts:
Labour Party members have a right to accountability and transparency of decisions taken in their name, and an effective commitment from the party to combat antisemitism and racism in all their forms.The Party’s decision to apologise today and make substantial payments to former staff who sued the party in relation to last year’s Panorama programme is a political decision, not a legal one.Our legal advice was that the party had a strong defence, and the evidence in the leaked Labour report that is now the subject of an NEC inquiry led by Martin Forde QC strengthened concerns about the role played by some of those who took part in the programme.The decision to settle these claims in this way is disappointing, and risks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations about action taken to tackle antisemitism in the Labour Party in recent years.To give our members the answers and justice they deserve, the inquiry led by Martin Forde must now fully address the evidence the internal report uncovered of racism, sexism, factionalism and obstruction of Labour’s 2017 General Election campaign.
The Labour Party civil war continues as the party agrees to pay “substantial damages” to seven whistleblowers over “defamatory and false allegations” made following a BBC Panorama investigation into Anti-semitism.
Corbynistas like Owen Jones called the investigation “a hatchet job”. Owen ranted that it was “one of the most tawdry pieces of journalism I have ever seen produced by a broadcaster claiming impartiality… a documentary which basically just presented old news stories set to a sinister soundtrack, with red-baiting McCarthyite talk of “lifelong Marxists” flooding the party added in for good measure.”
Not sure where this leaves the Carter-Ruck challenge to the Labour Party over the proffering of this apology financed by Unite on behalf of Corbyn, Formby* and Milne…
An apology from the Labour Party to Kat Buckingham, Michael Creighton, Samuel Matthews, Dan Hogan, Louise Withers Green, Benjamin Westerman and Martha Robinson
The Labour Party has today issued an unreserved apology to the former members of staff who contributed to a BBC Panorama programme about antisemitism within the Labour Party in July 2019.
Before the broadcast of the programme, the Labour Party issued a press release that contained defamatory and false allegations about these Whistleblowers.
We acknowledge the many years of dedicated and committed service that the Whistleblowers have given to the Labour Party as members and as staff. We appreciate their valuable contribution at all levels of the Party.
We unreservedly withdraw all allegations of bad faith, malice and lying. We would like to apologise unreservedly for the distress, embarrassment and hurt caused by their publication. We have agreed to pay them damages.
Under the leadership of Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner, we are committed to tackling antisemitism within the Labour Party. Antisemitism has been a stain on the Labour Party in recent years. It has caused unacceptable and unimaginable levels of grief and distress for many in the Jewish community, as well as members of staff.
If we are to restore the trust of the Jewish community, we must demonstrate a change of leadership. That means being open, transparent and respecting the right of whistleblowers. We are determined to deliver that change.
*Very gallant of Len McCluskey to use his member’s subs to defend the honour of the mother of his child.
Day after day on our screens broadcasters have an insatiable appetite for “talking heads”, articulate people who can make interesting television by making a passionate case. Producers are on the look out for people with knowledge of the hot issue of the day who they can use to make interesting viewing. This is why old Owen Jones was never off our screens for years, why you see so much of our Tom Harwood and literal communists like Ash Sarkar on the news shows. They provide opinionated ping-pong television refereed by presenters, sometimes it is a freak show, sometimes we learn something. Harmless so long as the panels are balanced and the viewers told where the talking heads are coming from when they are introduced, viewers can make up their own minds.
During the pandemic, though the trend has been apparent for a long time, talking heads are introduced suggesting viewers should be more inclined to give their opinions weight by virtue of their professional standing. Yet time after time these experts turn out to be undisclosed partisan political campaigners on the issue they are talking about. If this was made transparent the viewers would be much better placed to judge and contextualise the sometimes outlandish claims made.
The BBC have guidelines on the issue:
We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.
On financial news channels (like CNBC, Bloomberg and Reuters) when fund managers are interviewed about their views on the stock market the presenter will often ask them “do you own the stock?”. Sometimes there will be a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen saying the fund manager has a position in the company being discussed. This came about after a number of scandals where interviewees had talked up stocks they were long or disparaged stocks they short. There should be a similar protocol for talking heads who are political campaigners.
Either when they are introduced or on screen at the bottom, it would be helpful if “Tracey Teacher is a Tory activist” or “Professor Boffin is a Communist Party central committee member” was indicated. No one is saying they should not be allowed to give their views, we’re just asking that their affiliations should be clearly labelled. Otherwise we end up with “news investigations” which are little more than party political broadcasts…
After must obfuscation from the BBC Press Office, the corporation has finally admitted that the communist trade union organiser Nigel Flanagan was contacted by Panorama during the programme’s production. Initially the BBC’s statement ignored Flannagan completely. When pressed further by Guido they issued a non-denial denial:
“On Nigel Flanagan, I can tell you that we talk to a wide variety of people in the course of our journalism, but none of the interviewees on Monday’s programme was sourced via him.”
Finally this afternoon the BBC has now admitted that the production team had in fact spoken with Flanagan, telling Guido “We’re not denying the production spoke to him.” They do, however claim that “none of the interviewees came via him”. So why did they speak to him in the first place, and why did they not address this in their initial statement?
Health Secretary Matt Hancock took the opportunity of yesterday’s Downing Street briefing to slam the BBC’s Panorama programme, saying “I’m not sure that they were a fair and objective journalistic assessment of the situation.” Panorama interviewed six Labour Party activists without informing the audience of the political background of a single participant. In contravention of the BBC’s own Editorial Guidelines which state under ‘Contributors’ Affiliations’ that:
”Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.”
The rules were completely ignored, with audiences not given a hint of the Labour Party candidates, union officials, and general election campaign broadcast stars that they lined up to interview. Not many doctors currently have the time to be obsessive political activists. Who could have rounded up these left-wing campaigners?
Guido can reveal that one self-described “militant” “communist” and, former UNISON official and now “worldwide union organiser”, Nigel Flanagan is boasting of being one of those Panorama spoke to to put the programme in touch with health workers.
Either the BBC went to a self-described communist to put them in touch with health workers, or a union official who is followed by the deputy leader of the Labour Party and Momentum liked the interviewees so much he’s boasting about being involved. The BBC has not yet responded to Guido’s request for comment…