Ex-Labour staffer Emilie Oldknow has lost her legal bid to force the party to say who leaked its internal report into the handling of allegations of antisemitism.
Emilie Oldknow wife to Jonathan Ashworth Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care had taken the party to court in an attempt to force it to disclose the identity of those responsible for leaking a report which contained hundreds of damning WhatsApp messages from Labour Party staffers recorded over the period Jeremy Corbyn was Party leader.
The deeply controversial internal report was leaked last April to journalists and then distributed on social media. The shocking content escalated Labour’s factional warfare and intensifies the toxic relationships between different groups within the Party.
The report, which was originally prepared for the equalities watchdog but never submitted, concluded that factional hostility towards Corbyn hampered the party’s efforts to tackle antisemitism.
The report also included details of staffers’ conversations expressing hostility towards the former leader Jeremy Corbyn or his close allies the report revealed a shocking level of racism and sexism towards its black MPs.
“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” ― George Orwell, 1984
The dossier – dated March 2020 and leaked in April 2020 – claimed some Labour Party workers did not want Jeremy Corbyn to win the 2017 general election and in reading the Whatsapp messages it would suggest they used their positions in the Labour Party to undermine the election.
The report highlights blatant sabotage and treachery carried out by staffers who worked not only against the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime minister but against the Labour Party becoming the government and in doing so carrying out the pledges to stop austerity make food banks redundant and change the oppressive universal credit system.
The 860-page document has unearthed a plethora of party horrors: allegations of misuse of funds, the continued undermining of the 2017 electoral campaign and the then-leader Jeremy Corbyn’s attempts to investigate anti-Semitism in the party, as well as vicious criticism of leading Labour figures by staff members in private messages.
The report names Olknow 270 times
Ashworth wife’s name ‘Emilie Oldknow’s’ features 270 times in the leaked report, with some of the most shocking and offensive statements attributed to her.
Emilie Oldknow OBE – described another staff member as “pube head” and called a colleague “smelly cow” – was tipped as an option to replace Jennie Formby under new party leader Sir Keir Starmer before the leaked report meant she was put under suspension, a suspension that was lifted in February without the Forde enquiry conclusion.
“Staff applied the same factional approach to disciplinary processes.
One staff member referred to Emilie Oldknow expecting staff to “fabricate a case” against people “she doesn’t like/her friends don’t like” because of their political views. During the 2015 leadership election GLU and other Labour staff described their work as “hunting out 1000s of trots” and a “Trot hunt”, which included excluding people for having “liked” the Greens on Facebook. One prominent GLU staffer, Head of Disputes Katherine Buckingham, admitted that “real work is piling up” while she and other staff were engaged in inappropriate factional work.”
Mr Ashworth is no stranger to controversial remarks himself he was recorded telling a Conservative friend that Jeremy Corbyn was proving a massive problem on the doorstep in the party’s traditional heartlands.
The Shadow Health Secretary says he was just “joking around” after a recording was leaked of him criticising Jeremy Corbyn and saying Labour wouldn’t get an overall majority. Jonathan Ashworth named the leaker as a Tory friend Greig Baker – but says he isn’t a friend anymore.
The Labour frontbencher said the remarks were ‘banter’ but they were seized on by Boris Johnson as the Prime Minister claimed they demonstrated why Mr Corbyn must not be allowed into Number 10.
The report was the result of an internal investigation into the work of Labour’s governance and legal unit in relation to antisemitism. Created by party staff, it pulls together an estimated 10,000 emails, thousands of messages exchanged on work accounts, and the contents of two WhatsApp group chats apparently created by senior management in Labour headquarters.
One of those named in the report, Emilie Oldknow, who was once considered to be a serious contender to be Labour’s general secretary, demanded in a court hearing on Monday that the names of the leakers be revealed in order to give her the option of taking legal action against them.
Five anonymous individuals who deny any responsibility for the leak were also represented at the hearing. Legal costs are being funded by the trade union Unite, according to their barrister, Jacob Dean.
Oldknow’s barrister, William Bennett QC, said the dossier was a “politically motivated hatchet job” that was “deliberately misleading and relied on improperly obtained private correspondence”. Last April “a faction within the Labour party published the report to the media”, he said.
However, if the contents of the report are accurate many Labour members and supporters will be gasping at the hard-nosed accusations after the report being a “politically motivated hatchet job” when it seems staffers felt they could and with impunity attack any Labour politician they disliked or without permission using an App they had created trawl through members social media accounts looking for the smallest reason justified or not to suspend or expel Left-wing members. The staffers had nicknamed a New Stasi in reference to the former East German secret police.
Staff sabotaged Labour’s election chances; but worst is the abuse of members who didn’t know they were signing up to be surveilled under a “new stasi system”. If members don’t understand the implication and implicit ethos, those staff did. find this terrifying. pic.twitter.com/x0MrEqw69S— Gavin Sealey (@netstorms) April 15, 2020
Ms Justice Tipples said that Oldknow’s claim “smacks of a fishing expedition so that the claimant can cast around to identify potential defendants” to sue.
Noting the public interest in the case, the judge said there was “a real risk that the order sought by the claimant … will release the names of innocent persons”.
Oldknow’s barrister said the party had kept her “unjustly in the dark” about its conclusions from its investigation into the leak of the report. It is now possible that up to 27 former members of staff named in the report could take action against the party, rather than the individual who leaked the report, who remains anonymous.
However, the judge said it was clear that despite the Labour party’s internal investigation, which had identified probable suspects, there were two other ongoing investigations – including the information commissioner’s and the independent review ordered by Sir Keir Starmer by Martin Forde QC.
The Forde inquiry has been delayed until the ICO’s investigations are concluded.
It’s also worth noting the ICO investigate breaches in data protection and will not be looking into the context of the leaked documents but just how they were leaked.
It’s also ironic that the Labour party and the Labour Party staffers involved should be so concerned about their data protection rights of the staffers involved in the LabourLeaks dossier when as the leaked documents stated these same staffers created an app that unknown or without permission of Labour party members trawled through their social media accounts looking for comments to suspend or expel them from the Party.
Five anonymous individuals, represented by the trade union Unite, who deny any responsibility for the leak, were also represented at the hearing.
Last week Unite said: it was offering representation for the five individuals – as it would for all members. All five had denied leaking the report and participated in the inquiry in “good faith … on the understanding the investigation would be confidential and protect their rights to privacy”.
It added: “The leaked report points to numerous concerns, not least in regard to the spending of the Unite donations to Labour for the 2017 general election campaign. As yet these matters are unanswered by Labour and the Forde inquiry is indefinitely delayed.” The Forde inquiry is the independent investigation set up by the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, into the report and Labour’s internal culture.
Unite welcomed yesterdays ruling and said: “The principles of confidentiality are vital for workers to have confidence in the workplace.”
Permission to appeal against the ruling was refused, but Ms Oldknow can still apply directly to the Court of Appeal.
She was ordered to pay Labour’s legal costs and also some of Unite’s legal fees for making written submissions on her application.
Ms Oldknow’s solicitor, Mark Lewis, said: “We were surprised by the outcome, but the case is far from over.”