Labour Party could be bankrupted by fresh legal claims from anti-Semitism whistleblowers demanding millions while Jeremy Corbyn supporters raise £100,000 to defend former leader
- The party agreed to pay out £370,000 to seven former members on Wednesday
- It is now facing a further 42 civil claims as the total bill could reach seven figures
- Backers of Mr Corbyn crowdfunded £100,000 to help him in just 24 hours
The Labour Party could be bankrupted by fresh legal claims from anti-Semitism whistleblowers demanding millions in compensation.
The party agreed to pay out around £370,000 to seven former members on Wednesday but is now facing a further 42 civil claims, with fears the bill could run into the millions.
Supporters of Sir Keir Starmer have blasted former leader Jeremy Corbyn for the legal strife, after he criticised Wednesday’s settlement as being a ‘political not legal’ decision.
Jeremy Corbyn, pictured, controversially criticised Wednesday’s settlement as being a ‘political not legal’ decision
Mr Corbyn is himself facing legal action from the whistleblowers for his comments, with his supporters raising £100,000 to defend the former Labour leader in just 24 hours.
He has been accused of sparking the wave of legal claims now facing Labour.
Many of the cases, which are being handled by two law firms, are believed to be linked to an internal report on the party’s handling of anti-Semitism and focus around allegations of libel and breaches of data privacy.
The document, leaked shortly after Sir Keir took the reins in April, includes claims over party officials’ conduct and names some of the complainants.
Former Labour general secretary Lord McNicol, who stepped down during Mr Corbyn’s leadership, is among those taking action.
The party’s mounting legal cots are expected to grow even further following the launch of an independent inquiry into its handling of anti-Semitism and a reported lack of legal insurance.
Senior officials have warned of potential seven-figure payouts, though claims the total bill could top £8 million are disputed.
A Labour frontbencher told the Telegraph: ‘We’re paying the price with money that could be used serving the public.
‘The question now is how deep is the hole the Labour Party has been dug into by Corbyn and his acolytes.’
A second shadow cabinet minister added: ‘This is the Corbyn legacy. People should be angry.’
Supporters of Sir Keir Starmer, pictured, have blasted the former party leader for the legal strife
Wednesday’s payout and apology is part of a settlement aimed at drawing a line under allegations made during Mr Corbyn’s leadership that the party had allowed the overt hatred of Jewish people to fester.
The decision was welcomed by MPs and Jewish Labour activists who have long campaigned against anti-Semitism within the party.
But in a sign that the move could reignite factional infighting with the party’s hard Left element, Mr Corbyn and his followers including Unite leader Len McCluskey attacked the payout.
Writing on Facebook Mr Corbyn said: ‘The Party’s decision to apologise today and make substantial payments to former staff who sued the party in relation to last year’s Panorama programme is a political decision, not a legal one.
‘Our legal advice was that the party had a strong defence, and the evidence in the leaked Labour report that is now the subject of an NEC inquiry led by Martin Forde QC strengthened concerns about the role played by some of those who took part in the programme.’
Mr McCluskey, whose union is Labour’s largest financial backer, added: ‘Today’s settlement is a misuse of Labour Party funds to settle a case it was advised we would win in court.
‘The leaked report on how anti-Semitism was handled tells a very different story about what happened.’
However, Labour sources rubbished claims the party should have taken up a court battle, with the cost of losing a trial estimated to be up to £2m.
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