28 MPs ‘shocked’ by Panorama issue statement supporting whistleblowers

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28 MPs ‘shocked’ by Panorama issue statement supporting whistleblowers

Members of the Tribune group say that 'urgent action is needed' by Labour in wake of the shocking documentary

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Antisemitism whistleblowers
Antisemitism whistleblowers

Twenty-eight members of the influential Tribune group of Labour MPs appear to have declared war on the party leadership, in a toughly-worded statement in which they express tacit support for deputy leader Tom Watson in his bid to acquire details of evidence provided to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

In a long statement, the Tribune MPs, including Yvette Cooper, Karen Buck, Stephen Kinnock, Rosie Duffield, Rushanara Ali and Seema Malhotra, say they stand in solidarity with the Jewish community “and with Jewish members of the Labour Party in these very difficult circumstances. It is totally unacceptable that Jewish members no longer feel welcome or safe in the Labour Party.”

The MPs say they were “shocked” by the accounts of the Panorama  whistleblowers “about the handling of antisemitism complaints and how individual employees have been treated”.

Because fighting racism was central to the Party’s values, the Tribune group said, “urgent action is needed by the National Executive Committee (NEC) to reflect these values and implement them, both as an employer and in the internal structures of the party.”

No internal inquiry would be adequate or trusted, say the MPs, who call on the NEC to set up “an independent investigation into the allegations of interference into party procedures.” They want, “totally independent from the leadership of the Labour Party”, an independent complaints procedure with representation from the Jewish community

The statement says the Tribune group is very concerned about the mental health of the whistleblowers “and we do not accept that the thrust of these latest disclosures by hardworking staff members was motivated by anything other than genuine distress and concern about what has gone wrong.

The MPs acknowledge that “further statements of shock and disappointment are not enough. We are already overdue the time for taking the kind of action which has any chance of restoring confidence in our values and processes.”

Besides an investigation into alleged leader’s office interference and an independent complaints procedure, the Tribune group calls for an agreed process of “automatic suspension where there are prima facie breaches of the code of behaviour relating to antisemitism”.

Automatic suspension was one of the actions outlined by former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown in his Isaiah Berlin lecture at Hampstead Synagogue last week.

Meanwhile Labour is reported to have appointed Heather Mendick, a member of the Corbyn-supporting Jewish Voice for Labour, as a liaison to “build bridges” with the Jewish community.

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