LONDON (AP) – Britainâ€™s opposition Labour Party has agreed to pay substantial damages to seven whistleblowers who sued for defamation after they voiced concerns of anti-Semitism within the party.
The seven former employees appeared on a BBC investigative program last year looking into whether the Labour Party was anti-Semitic. They criticized Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism complaints and sued after the party issued a statement describing the group as having â€œpersonal and political axes to grind.â€
The former employees, who worked in the partyâ€™s governance and legal unit, were also accused of trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, who was Labour’s leader at the time.
Mark Henderson, a lawyer for the party, told the High Court on Wednesday that the party acknowledged that â€œthe claims about the claimants are untrueâ€ and apologized to the group.
The settlement and the apology underlined how much the party’s new leader, Keir Starmer, is seeking to tackle the anti-Semitism claims that have plagued Labour for years. Starmer hopes to steer the party back toward the center after the divisive tenure of left-wing predecessor Corbyn.
Corbyn, a longtime supporter of Palestinians and a critic of Israel, has faced allegations that he allowed anti-Semitism to fester in the party.
â€œAnti-Semitism has been a stain on the Labour Party in recent years,â€ the party said in a statement Wednesday. â€œIf we are to restore the trust of the Jewish community, we must demonstrate a change of leadership.â€
But Corbyn said Wednesday that settling the case was â€œa political decision, not a legal one.” He said it was a â€œdisappointingâ€ move that â€œrisks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegationsâ€ about previous actions to tackle anti-Semitism within Labour.
The party also agreed to pay damages to the journalist who made the television program, and apologized for alleging at the time that he â€œinvented quotesâ€ and â€œflouted journalistic ethics.â€ The total amount of the damages wasnâ€™t disclosed.
Corbyn stepped down as leader in December after Labour had its worst general election showing since 1935.