Jeremy Corbyn said it was “disappointing” Labour settled a claim with antisemitism whistleblowers, branding it a “political decision, not a legal one”.
His remarks came after a High Court ruling on Wednesday that the party he used to lead, must pay “substantial damages” to seven whistleblowers who contributed to a TV expose of its handling of antisemitism.
The party also issued an unreserved apology over “defamatory and false allegations” made following a BBC Panorama investigation.
Corbyn, who was dogged by allegations of failing to tackle antisemitism during his five-year tenure at the helm, joined Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, in condemning the decision.
They both pointed to a leaked report which detailed the factional splits within the party’s HQ as a potential defence to the defamation case.
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Corbyn said: “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 anti-Semitism 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.”
Mr McCluskey said: “Today’s settlement is a misuse of Labour Party funds to settle a case it was advised we would win in court.”
The settlement was welcomed by the Jewish Labour Movement.
Senior MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who is Jewish, said: “This is a big step in the right direction and shows just how far the Labour Party has come since last year.”
The Jewish Labour Movement said: “It is a sad reflection of its historic role as the party of working people that Labour sought to pursue and silence its former employees for speaking out against racism.”
The BBC welcomed the “long overdue apology” to Mr Ware and the Panoramawhistleblowers.