British Labour Party apologizes for defaming ex-staffers who spoke out on anti-Semitism

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Labour apologized and offered damages to former employees who sued the British party for libel after being maligned by officials for talking about its anti-Semitism problem in the media.

The apology, offered Wednesday at a High Court hearing in the suit filed by the seven ex-staffers in 2019, is part of a policy reversal under the party’s newly elected leader, Keir Starmer.

His predecessor, the far-left politician Jeremy Corbyn, had insisted that Labour was dealing correctly with instances of anti-Semitism by individual members and consistently dismissed allegations that the problem was allowed to poison the party and make it institutionally anti-Semitic. Starmer has acknowledged and apologized for anti-Semitism in the party.

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A Labour spokesperson in 2019 called the ex-staffers, who spoke with the BBC on anti-Semitism within Labour, “disaffected former officials” who “include those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively to undermine it” with “personal and political axes to grind.”

The ex-staffers sued for libel, resulting in the apology and undisclosed damage settlements.

“We would like to take this opportunity to withdraw these allegations,” a Labour spokesperson said in a statement about the settlement. “We would like to apologize unreservedly for the distress, embarrassment and hurt caused by their publication.”

The party has also apologized and agreed to pay damages to the journalist who presented the BBC investigation, John Ware, for falsely accusing him of “deliberate and malicious misrepresentations designed to mislead the public.”