The revelations in the leaked Labour report are a genuine scandal | John McDonnell | Opinion

With more than 16,000 people already dead in the UK and more tragedies to inevitably come, both at home and as the virus terrifyingly tears through the global south, dealing with Covid-19 and saving lives must be the unremitting focus of our thoughts and actions.

But in these long days of lockdown, other concerns sometimes intrude.

Last week a leaked Labour party report examining the handling of antisemitism complaints seized the attention of thousands of our members. The report was the result of an internal investigation into the party’s governance and legal unit, which handles disciplinary cases, and was meant to be submitted as the annex to the party’s submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The document chronicles many failures in the complaints process, and includes evidence from thousands of emails, messages and two WhatsApp groups featuring senior management. These internal messages have sparked further controversy, as they appear to show that senior party staff were viciously cruel to members of our shadow cabinet, and were even actively working to undermine the party’s electoral success.

The report will have been especially affecting for those who worked so hard and enthusiastically, delivering leaflets, knocking on doors and hitting those phone lines, to try to secure the election of a Labour government in 2017. If its contents are accurate – and so far, I understand that there has been no public denial of the veracity of the internal communications exposed – the hearts of many party members and supporters will be broken.

It has been calculated that Labour came within 2,500 votes, spread across a limited number of constituencies, of forming a government in 2017. If what is reported in the leaked document is true, that a group of senior staff undermined the chances of Labour going into government, it would represent the most shocking act of treachery against the party, its members and our supporters in Labour’s century-long history.

It would also represent a betrayal of all those who desperately needed a Labour government, especially in light of the current crisis.

We could now have been in the third year of a Labour government fully funding an NHS, which would consequently be so much better resourced and prepared for the coronavirus pandemic. The nurses and health workers and carers we go out to clap every Thursday evening would have had a decent pay rise, which the Conservatives voted to deny them. We would have celebrated the third anniversary of Labour’s formation of a National Care Service, fully funded to provide quality care for our elderly and vulnerable fellow citizens, with carers professionally recognised and properly paid.

So if the report has weight, expect all of us whose dreams of this transformative Labour government were shattered in 2017 to be angry.

Actually, bloody angry.

As well as staff undermining the party’s election chances, the report suggests that attempts to root out antisemitism in the party were also undermined by basic failures to catalogue complaints or seriously investigate allegations. The document also dispels the myth that the antisemitism problem among Labour members was merely a smear or part of a conspiracy. They existed and were serious.

That’s why it is equally scandalous, if the allegations are found to be correct, that staff not only failed to deal with cases of antisemitism effectively but also covered up their failure, providing inaccurate information on progress in tackling them.

The alleged abuse of Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler and Clive Lewis, three prominent black shadow ministers, was appalling and, as others have commented, betrayed a deeply worrying underlying strain of racism. The report also appears to document alleged attempts by party staff to fix the election of a new party leader, to manipulate parliamentary selections, and even to throw a byelection for factional advantage. All of these issues need thorough investigation.

The report should never have been leaked, or otherwise made public, without redactions to protect the identity of victims and complainants. I fully support Keir Starmer’s decision to launch an investigation – one which, he has been clear, must be independent and swift.

Of course, this investigation must look at the commissioning, drafting and leaking of the document, but surely the focus must be on its shocking contents. The same procedures must apply to those implicated in this report as apply to other party members. If charges are serious, implicated members are suspended pending the outcome of investigation and discipline.

Those found guilty of serious contraventions of our rules should be expelled.

Some of the initial responses to the report have been disturbing and disappointing. Various legal threats have been made against the Labour party, and even those commenting on the report publicly. Some commentary has bizarrely painted those suspected of wrongdoing as victims, while depicting those who compiled the evidence as perpetrators.

In the media, many pundits and political journalists who pounced on any “shock-horror” story from inside the Labour party over the past four years have suddenly fallen silent, with virtually nothing to say about the substance of this report.

One of the worst aspects of the episode has been the crushing disillusionment of many party members. Many are now actively contemplating leaving the party.

I appeal to them to stay. If we work together, we can democratise our party so that it is the members who are in control – and not an unelected group of bureaucrats.

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