Union leader condemns ‘rancid’ political culture within Labour | Politics

Len McCluskey, the general secretary of the Unite union, has condemned the “rancid, and very cruel, political culture” exposed in a leaked Labour report, and called for former officials implicated to be suspended from the party.

The 860-page report, which was leaked to Sky News at the weekend, includes lengthy extracts of WhatsApp conversations between former senior Labour officials in which they are scathing about “Trots” on the left of the party.

It includes allegations that some officials set up a secret project during the 2017 general election to funnel campaign funds to selected candidates’ seats, including that of the then deputy leader, Tom Watson.

And it suggests the party’s governance and legal unit – the section of the party tasked with handling complaints about antisemitism and other disciplinary issues – was preoccupied with what is referred to as a “Trot hunt”.

Writing on the website LabourList, McCluskey called for the leaked report to be published in redacted form – and suggested some of the former officials named in the report should be suspended while investigations are carried out.

“Where there is clear evidence of a party member having engaged in misogynistic or abusive conduct, or having worked to undermine the party’s election campaign, or even having broken the law, there is a case for suspension pending a thorough investigation (with no presumption of guilt),” he said.

He added: “These politically-crooked officials were prepared to risk dramatic damage to the interests of the British economy and working people just in order to scratch their factional itch.

As well as apparently working to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the report cites officials using a string of insults on private WhatsApp groups to describe leftwing MPs and officials in the then leader’s office.

The report appears to have been intended as a lengthy annex to Labour’s submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission – but after party lawyers decided it was not relevant, it was leaked.

It was completed this year in the last months of Corbyn’s leadership and its conclusions clash with complaints of whistleblowers, formerly working for Labour, who told BBC Panorama last year there had been political interference in the process from the top of the party under Corbyn.

The EHRC is investigating Labour’s handling of antisemitism complaints.

Starmer and his deputy, Angela Rayner, announced on Monday that they had commissioned an independent review into the report’s content, and how it had found its way into the public domain.

Speaking about it on Radio Four’s Today Programme, Starmer said he was “shocked by what I saw and the circumstances in which it all came about.

“That’s why I ordered an independent inquiry, which I want to be professionally done, independently done and quickly done because our party needs to unite and face the future and get back to our historic purpose which is getting a Labour government in so we can actually change lives for millions of people for the better.

“We have to turn our back on factionalism and that was the whole basis of my leadership campaign,” he added. “I’m determined to do that.”

Some of the senior officials cited in the report told the Guardian they were considering taking legal action about the fact the report had been publicly released, saying it contradicted non-disclosure agreements signed when they left the party.

“Everyone’s consulting lawyers,” said one of those involved.

Labour MP Clive Lewis, who is referred to in one message by a member of Labour’s governance and legal unit as “the biggest cunt out of the lot”, urged Starmer to get to grips with the culture inside the party.

“We need to change the culture of our party, and that’s the challenge now for Keir and Angela,” he said. “For many members, who don’t see themselves as on the left or on the right, they will be thinking, ‘a plague on all your houses’”.

He added: “The leadership have a narrow path to tread on this. They will need to make sure that they are dealing with this in an even-handed way. If there’s any sense that there’s favouritism being shown to one side or another, then that will be problematic.”

The previous Labour leadership’s handling of allegations of antisemitism against party members overshadowed parts of the 2019 general election campaign. During a high-profile televised interview with Andrew Neil, Corbyn repeatedly declined to apologise to the British Jewish community for the way his party had handled complaints.

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