Pending claims against Labour Party by seven whistleblowers and journalist John Ware conclude
Seven former Labour Party employees and Mr John Ware have reached agreement with the Labour Party prior to the issue of libel claims against the Labour Party. The prospective actions have concluded with the payment to the Claimants of substantial damages and the reading of statements in open court.
In July 2019 the BBC broadcast a Panorama programme titled ‘Is Labour Antisemitic?’. The programme examined allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party.
The programme’s presenter and primary journalist was John Ware. A number of former Labour employees from the party’s Governance and Legal Unit gave evidence to Panorama as whistleblowers; they were named and appeared on camera. Those who gave evidence to the programme included the Claimants Katherine Buckingham, Michael Creighton, Samuel Matthews, Daniel Hogan, Louise Withers Green, Benjamin Westerman and Martha Robinson.
Before the programme aired the Labour Party made statements to journalists about the Whistleblowers and Mr Ware.
These statements alleged that the Whistleblowers had “always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively undermine it, and have both personal and political axes to grind. This throws into doubt their credibility as sources”. One Whistleblower was also alleged to have made a false and malicious statement. The Labour Party therefore accused the Whistleblowers of having acted in bad faith during and after their employment with the intention of harming the Labour Party.
The Labour Party’s statements alleged that John Ware invented quotes, flouted journalistic ethics and that, in pursuit of a pre-determined outcome to the question asked by the Panorama programme, Mr Ware knowingly promoted falsehoods, including by misrepresentations of fact and by fabricating facts.
These allegations were widely republished by the news media, by political blogs and websites and by individuals on social media.
In two Statements in Open Court, William Bennett QC, acting for the Whistleblowers and Mr Ware, explained to Mr Justice Nicklin that the Labour Party accepted that all the allegations against the Whistleblowers and against Mr Ware were false, that the party withdrew them unreservedly, was profoundly sorry and had agreed to pay each of the Whistleblowers and John Ware substantial damages. Counsel for the Labour Party offered the party’s sincere apologies to the Whistleblowers and to Mr Ware.
The Statement made clear that the agreement reached between the parties has no impact or in any way binds the independent panel of investigation being conducted under the chair of Martin Forde QC; is not intended to have any impact or effect on the Investigation of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission into the conduct of the Labour Party or the acceptance of any conclusions and/or recommendations each may make; and is not intended to give rise to any adverse inferences against any individuals.