Labour complain to BBC chief over Panorama anti-Semitism probe as new row erupts


 Labour have complained to the BBC’s Director General over a Panorama probe that is expected to shame the party over anti-Semitism   over the process leading up to the airing of the documentary at 9pm tonight.  It came after a fresh row broke out in the party, with three peers quitting and shadow cabinet minister Sir Keir Starmer saying rules had to be tightened up  But the spokesman told journalists: “We’ve had a number of questions put to us by the Panorama team We’ve answered them fully and extensively. We’ve given them 50 pages of documentation in response to their questions  “We have also complained to the BBC at various levels including Director General level over the way the process has been engaged in  “The lack of engagement with us at an earlier stage, the failure to come to us with a balanced and fair set of questions and – from what we’ve seen of the questions and the nature of the investigation – the Panorama team had already come to a conclusion about where their investigation was going before it looked at the evidence in full  “We are absolutely adamantly opposed to anti-Semitism in all its forms and we’ll continue to take the strongest action to eradicate it from the Labour Party  “And we’ve taken a series of steps particularly since Jennie Formby became general secretary to increase the resources and improve the processes and the robustness of the processes for dealing with complaints and allegations of antisemitism  “What we haven’t seen is anything remotely comparable in the Conservative Party over the very clear and much stronger evidence of rampant instances of Islamophobia in the Conservative party”  He said Labour has also complained about “the public record of John Ware, reporter, presenter for Panorama who has spoken out extensively in opposition of Jeremy Corbyn and his politics and his policies and has taken a number of extremely controversial positions on Muslims, Islam and Islamophobia”  Also launching a pre-emptive strike was the pro-Corbyn Momentum group, which branded the documentary “another hatchet job”  But Theresa May compared Jeremy Corbyn to comedian Groucho Marx after accusing him of watering down his anti-racist and Eurosceptic stances  The Prime Minister told the Commons that Mr Corbyn “was an anti-racist, now he ignores anti-Semitism” before claiming he backs Remain over Brexit, adding: “He’s truly living up to the words of Marx: ‘Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them I’ve got others’ ”   It comes after three senior peers quit the Labour whip in protest at the handling of the issue under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership   Lord Triesman, a former Labour general secretary, said the party and Jeremy Corbyn are “anti-Semitic” while Lord Darzi and Lord Turnberg also quit the party whip  Despite Labour hitting back, top MP Sir Keir Starmer today said Labour does need to tighten up its rules on anti-Semitism   Labour should change its rules to automatically throw out members if there is clear evidence of anti-Semitism, the Shadow Brexit Secretary said  He added the party had to do “whatever is necessary” to win back critics – and it was “very easy for people in leadership positions” in the shadow Cabinet to “duck responsibility”  He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we have got to take decisive action  “Firstly, I would support a rule change that says you expel in clear cases of anti-Semitism automatically, just as we do for people who support another political party an election  “Secondly, be very clear if you deny we’ve got a problem, that’s part of the problem  “Thirdly – and this is a cultural and attitude issue – now the Equality and Human Rights Commission is looking at the Labour Party, we should throw open the books and say ‘you’ve got access to anything, you have got access to any member of staff, we have made some process changes which have improved things but we have still got a problem, help us through this’  “Many organisations circle the wagons when they are challenged. That is the wrong approach, we have got to be very, very open ”

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