The Labour Party has been thrown into an altogether new civil war following its hefty payouts to victims of alleged antisemitism. Labour’s new leader, Sir Keir Starmer, recently approved the settlement fees of over £500,000 and an “unreserved” apology to seven former employees and a BBC journalist, admitting it had defamed them in the aftermath of a Panorama investigation. The settlement and formal apologies to both the reporter, John Ware, and the ex-employees, which have been read in open court, is believed to have cost the Labour Party around £600,000, with about £180,000 in damages agreed for the eight individuals.
Many have warned that the hefty sums, added to a new round of legal fees after former leader Jeremy Corbyn denounced the payouts as “political”, could land the party in serious financial difficulties.
Further, Len McCluskey, boss of the party’s biggest donor, Unite the Union, has threatened to remove funding from the party over the payouts.
Mr McCluskey called the payouts “an abuse of members’ money”.
He said “a lot” of the settlement funds came from his union.
The general secretary has before voiced disdain over the treatment of Unite and UK trade unions within politics.
During an Oxford Union address, Mr McCluskey made his frustration clear, and said: “Why, if trade unions achieve and provide all these great things, and given its a fact that workers in unionised workplaces are safer and higher paid than non-unionised workplaces, are we either vilified by politicians in the mainstream media whenever we seek to defend our members, or we’re portrayed as irrelevant dinosaurs of the Seventies.
“I get angry when I think of the fact that this very nation of ours, having defeated fascism at the end of World War 2, and gave Europe all of the freedoms that they currently enjoy, how is it right that German workers, Italian workers, Spanish, French, and all the rest have got better protections than British workers?
“It’s just simply wrong.
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Last month, he branded Sir Keir “timid” and condemned the leader’s decision to sack Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey after she shared an article containing an antisemitic conspiracy theory.
He warned the Labour leader to refrain from a steer to “the right” if he wanted to keep the support of the party’s left.
Should he fail to do this, Mr McCluskey said, Labour “will go under”.
He also described the payouts as a “huge miscalculation” and said that there was “no doubt” the union’s executive committee will now want to review its donations to Labour.
Since the start of 2019 Unite has given £7million to Labour, according to Electoral Commission records.
Mr McCluskey’s term as leader of Unite ends in April 2022, though rumours suggest he may leave before his tenure is up.
In an interview with The Observer, however, he said he had no plans to give up his post anytime soon.
He explained: “There’s lots of people who would be delighted to see the back of me, but they’re gonna have to put up with me a little longer – I’m going nowhere.”