UNELECTED officials undermined democracy within the UK’s Labour Party, Al Jazeera has claimed in a new documentary, suggesting that “operatives secretly took control” of the party to thwart Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
The three-part series, titled The Labour Files: The Purge, is based on “the largest leak in British political history” comprising 500 gigabytes of documents, emails, video and audio files from the Labour Party dating from 1998 to 2021, the Qatari-owned outlet said, adding that its investigation unit would be releasing a series of reports on the leaked files over the coming week.
It said the data reveals “how senior officials in one of the two parties of government in the UK ran a coup by stealth against the elected leader of the party”.
“The investigation shows how officials set about silencing, excluding and expelling its own members in a ruthless campaign to destroy the chances of Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s elected leader, becoming Britain’s prime minister,” it said.
The film also showed how “candidates for key political roles were blocked and constituency groups suspended as the party’s central office sought to control the elected leadership”.
Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s leader from 2015 to 2020, was a little-known figure in British politics until his election as party leader in September 2015, riding a wave of popular discontent against the political establishment.
The film shows, however, that discontent was brewing inside the Labour Party thanks to internal bureaucracy, leading to battles over which side would control the party — the left-wing “Corbynites” or the pre-2015 centrists.
At the time, that bureaucracy was led by Iain McNicol, who had been the party’s general secretary since 2011. The documentary shows how, before Mr McNicol was replaced by Jennie Formby in 2018, the party was resistant to the political path set by Mr Corbyn.
The files obtained by Al Jazeera show how some supporters of Mr Corbyn were smeared with false accusations of abusive behaviour submitted to the Governance and Legal Unit (GLU), which oversees the party’s disciplinary process. The complaints included homophobia and anti-Semitism and sought to suspend or expel them from the party.
In several instances, local branches of the party, known as Constituency Labour Parties (CLP) were suspended, preventing local members from holding Labour Party meetings. In other cases, individual members were suspended or expelled from the party on contested grounds.
In 2019, Mr Corbyn resigned as leader after the party’s defeat in the December general election and was replaced in April next year by Keir Starmer, Britain’s former director of Public Prosecutions.
Ms Formby also resigned as general secretary soon after and was replaced by David Evans. The leaked files reveal that he “has continued the McNicol-era hostility towards left-wing members of the party”, Al Jazeera said.
Labour Party officials who responded to Al Jazeera said they had always acted in compliance with the law, party rules, their job descriptions and proper standards of proportionality.
Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2022