Shocking moment senior Labour employee says he 'nearly killed himself' over leadership's attitude to anti-Semitism

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Labour's former head of disputes Sam Matthews said he 'actively considered' killing himself (PA/BBC)

A former Labour staffer tasked with dealing with anti-Semitism in the party said he ‘actively considered’ killing himself over the leadership’s attitude to the issue.

Sam Matthews, the former head of disputes, shockingly claimed that he was driven to the brink by instructions from senior figures in the Labour leadership on how to handle cases of anti-Jewish racism from party members.

Speaking on the BBC Panorama documentary Mr Matthews said: “I sat at my desk thinking ‘I can't do this any more.’

Jennie Formby was accused of interfering with the disciplinary process investigating claims of anti-Semitism (PA)

“I’m being asked to do things I'm fundamentally not comfortable with, the General Secretary [Jennie Formby] doesn’t listen to me and the thought crosses my mind as to whether I send her my resignation and then do something nobody should ever consider.

“I actively considered committing suicide. Walking off her roof - she had a balcony outside her office - as some way not to feel trapped any more.”

Claims against the leadership

Mr Matthews said he interpreted an email from key Jeremy Corbyn ally Seamus Milne as "not a helpful suggestion" but as "an instruction”.

The BBC reported that, in the email from March last year, Mr Milne said there should be a review of the disciplinary process into anti-Semitic complaints.

"Something's going wrong and we're muddling up political disputes with racism," he reportedly wrote.

"I think going forward we need to review where and how we're drawing the line.”

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In response to the claims about Mr Milne, a Labour Party spokesman said: "This allegation is false and malicious, and our response has been misrepresented by Panorama, throwing into doubt the extent and seriousness of their engagement with the Labour party's responses.

"Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly expressed his support for Israel's right to exist and for a two-state solution, with a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable Palestinian state, so there would be no reason whatever to laugh at any such suggestion.

"This claim is absurd and untrue.”

Labour's communications chief Seamus Milne was also singled out for criticism in the documentary (Getty)

Key Corbyn allies singled out

Both Mr Milne and Ms Formby were singled out and accused of interfering with the disciplinary process investigating claims of anti-Semitism, according to the BBC.

A total of eight former Labour officials spoke to Panorama, including four who have signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) on the subject of anti-Semitism.

Dan Hogan, who was an investigator in the disputes team, raised issues about Ms Formby.

He alleged people she had brought in since her appointment "overruled us and downgraded what should've been a suspension to just an investigation or worse to just a reminder of conduct, effectively a slap on the wrist”.

Former Labour staffers claimed that incidents of anti-Semitism within Labour rose after Jeremy Corbyn became leader (PA)

Anti-Semitism complaints within the party have increased significantly since Mr Corbyn became leader in 2015, the broadcast suggests.

The investigation details allegations the complaints process had interference from within the Labour leader's office.

Testimony reportedly included allegations there were substantial disagreements within the party about what constituted anti-Semitism.

It featured a claim complaints were processed directly by aides in Mr Corbyn's Westminster office on one occasion, the broadcaster said.

Labour hit back at the programme, denying claims they were anti-Semitic (Getty)

Labour hit back

Labour, which has been braced for the accusations, wrote to BBC director-general Lord Hall to complain ahead of the broadcast.

A Labour spokesman accused the broadcaster of "pre-determining" the outcome of its investigation.

The spokesman said: "The Panorama programme and the BBC have engaged in deliberate and malicious representations designed to mislead the public.

"We completely reject any claim that the Labour Party is anti-Semitic.

"Labour is taking decisive action against anti-Semitism, doubling the number of staff dedicated to dealing with complaints and cases.

"It appears these disaffected former officials include those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, worked to actively undermine it, and have both personal and political axes to grind.

Labour said that staffer appearing on the documentary included 'those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn's leadership' (AP)

"This throws into doubt their credibility as sources.

"Our records show that after these officials left and after Jennie Formby became general secretary, the rate at which anti-Semitism cases have been dealt with, increased more than four-fold.”

A BBC spokesman said: "The programme adheres to the BBC's editorial guidelines.

"In line with those, the Labour Party has been given the opportunity to respond to the allegations.”

A spokesman for the Jewish Labour Movement said after the programmed that “no one can doubt that Labour is institutionally racist against Jews”.

A now-deleted tweet sent out by the Labour press team after the programme aired (PA)

Labour press ‘hacked’

The Labour press team's Twitter account was apparently hacked shortly after the programme, allowing a tweet to be posted that accused the party of "institutional racism".

The rogue tweet read: "There we have it folks, proof if any was needed that the Labour Party IS institutionally racist and will be until Corbyn and his cronies go #EnoughIsEnough #Panorama"

Responding to the hacking shortly afterwards, the account tweeted: "This account was briefly hacked. It has now been re-secured."

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