Staff faced 'racism and sexism' within Labour party, damning report claims

The long-awaited Forde report found that Labour has spent recent years 'in conflict with itself.' (2017 picture) Credit: PA

Labour party staff faced sexism and racism, according to the damning verdict in the long-awaited Forde report into the leaking of an antisemitism dossier.

The report claims there was “overt and underlying sexism and racism” in WhatsApp messages between the party’s senior members of staff.

There was also a lack of sensitivity to issues around race and sex within the party by senior management, it claimed.

The party’s general secretary submitted the document – understood to be 138 pages long – to a meeting of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) at 12pm on Tuesday, and recommend that it should be published as soon as possible.

Martin Forde QC, a barrister and former independent adviser to the Windrush compensation scheme, was chosen by the NEC to chair an inquiry into the “circumstances, contents and release” of the dossier in 2020.

The leaking of the 860-page document more than two years ago reopened divisions within the party.

It found “no evidence” of antisemitism being handled differently from other complaints and blamed “factional opposition” towards former leader Jeremy Corbyn for hampering efforts to tackle the crisis.

Allies of Mr Corbyn used the dossier to say elements of the party undermined his leadership.

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The Forde report highlighted the divisions within the party as a root problem, noting that a “tendency from all sides of the party to dismiss any challenge to the behaviour from the same faction as a bad faith, factionally motivated attack.”

Both factions within the party used the existence of antisemitism “as a factional weapon”, according to the report.

It claims “there was a real antipathy towards Jeremy Corbyn by Labour HQ staff” after he won the leadership and that the feeling was “mutual.”

In one of the standout conclusions, the report states “Corbyn’s office and Labour HQ were not working as a team” and that “many had lost sight of the humanity of those they see as being in an opposing faction.”

The disciplinary process in the Labour Party, meanwhile, was “potentially prone to factional interference.”

Published on Tuesday, the report said: “We found a disciplinary process not fit for purpose during the period we investigated and therefore one that was potentially prone to factional interference.”

The report also calls for “constructive engagement” with the findings contained in the 138-page review.

“There is a culture of intellectual smugness which exists at the extremes of the political spectrum the party represents. In the past this has led to the dismissal of valid, albeit sometimes uncomfortable, views. It must now come to an end.”

A Labour party spokesperson said: “The Forde report details a party that was out of control.

“Keir Starmer is now in control and has made real progress in ridding the party of the destructive factionalism and unacceptable culture that did so much damage previously and contributed to our defeat in 2019.”

What has Jeremy Corbyn said?

In a lengthy statement following the publication of the Forde Report, Mr Corbyn welcomed the findings related to his time as Labour leader.

“The Forde Report casts an important light on events in the Labour Party in recent years. My election as leader in 2015 was a major shock in British politics. It wasn’t about me, but a popular demand for anti-austerity politics following the 2008 financial crisis and 35 years of market fundamentalism,” he said in a statement posted on Facebook.

“Despite overwhelming support from members and affiliates, powerful groups in the party found that change hard to come to terms with. This led to a conflict in Labour that created a toxic environment, which the Forde Report lays bare. In any party there are groups and factions, but the resistance we were faced with went far beyond that.”

Mr Corbyn and his allies had accused Labour officials of sabotaging the 2017 election campaign through factional in-fighting.

Referencing that, he said: “Whether or not that prevented the election of a Labour government, it was dishonest. In a democratic party those decisions should be taken by the elected leadership. Too often the will of the membership was overridden by people who thought they shouldn’t have had a say in the first place.”

“Toxic factionalism is far from over – nor are persistent problems of racism and sexism – and action must be taken, as Forde makes clear," he added.