Labour Party officials who opposed Jeremy Corbyn denied or revoked membership to people who criticized the war policies of former PM Tony Blair and who used phrases like “warmonger” to describe him, a leaked report said.
The information was revealed in an 860-page internal report titled ‘The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014-2019’ which was drawn up to examine the party’s handling of claims of anti-Semitism in its ranks.
The in-depth report found that anti-Corbyn sentiment within the party had hindered efforts to deal with the issue of anti-Semitism – and that party officials had actively worked to undermine then-leader Corbyn ahead of the 2017 general election.
While those revelations have been covered by the British media, it appears only one media outlet, Declassified UK, has highlighted the parts of the report which laid bare the efforts of party staff to stifle anti-war sentiment, and to ensure that more Corbyn-supporting and anti-war members were not allowed to join Labour.
One the eve of the publication of the Chilcot report into the Iraq War in 2016 – which found that Blair had exaggerated the threat posed to the UK by Saddam Hussein – one Labour official said in an email to another that they were expecting “an influx of anti-war angry people” and “lots of abuse at pro-war MPs.”
The phrase “war criminal” was then added to a list of “banned phrases” along with “undercover blairite” and “tory lite” [sic] – and members or prospective members who were found to have used those phrases could have their membership revoked or banned. Equivalent phrases frequently directed at the left like “communist” and “terrorist” were not included, the report said.
Officials also said they would “re-scan the new members” a few weeks post-Chilcot report to pick up any undesirables. Incredibly, “calling someone a warmonger” was described as generally “enough in itself” to act against a member, the report found.
In addition to Twitter, the officials in question also scanned Facebook to see which members had liked pages with names like “JeremyCorbyn4PM” and specifically searched for any “abuse” they may have posted in an effort to justify banning them from the party.
Some party staff were so opposed to Corbyn and the anti-war faction that they admitted actively working to prevent Labour from winning the general election. On one occasion, a staffer wrote in a WhatsApp message that they felt “sick” when polling showed Corbyn’s chances of winning were increasing. Another official hit out at the “ill-informed opposition” to all Western interventionism around the world.
Labour MP for Ilford South Sam Tarry told Declassified UK that “any attempt to stifle debate” in the party “be it through suspensions, purges or blacklisting” is “completely unacceptable.”
Also responding to the report, 29 MPs from the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs said it “contains revelations of senior officials undermining the 2017 general election campaign” and called for a transparent investigation into the conduct of the officials in question.
Newly-elected Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said this week he has launched an inquiry into the leak of the internal report which will examine its contents and how it became public.