Our free and fearless press has today decided to go after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to the point of malicious defamation - well, at least the Daily Mail has, and on the front page, too. “CORBYN’S HATEFUL NEW LOW … Labour leader tries to save close ally in vile anti-Semitism storm - only to be shamed into suspending him by 38 of his furious MPs” is the headline, referring to the suspension of Derby North MP Chris Williamson.
And that isn’t all: the story, such as it is, claims “A HUMILIATED Jeremy Corbyn was forced to suspend a close ally yesterday after a revolt by his MPs … Labour had initially refused to withdraw the whip from Chris Williamson”. Well over a million copies of the print edition have been distributed, and hundreds of thousands more will have seen the online version. The minor problem is that this is a pack of lies.
The Labour Party’s press team had already tried to tell the Mail it wasn’t true, hence the later Tweet telling “This is categorically untrue. Jeremy Corbyn is not involved in disciplinary processes and did not intervene in this case. The suspension decision was taken before letter from MPs. We told the Mail their story was false but facts and journalistic integrity not their priority”. It was very obviously untrue. And here’s why.
One, Corbyn did not “try to save” Williamson. As the Labour press team pointed out, he did not intervene, and nor would he have done. This is a party disciplinary matter, and those matters are not dealt with by the leadership. It was not his call.
Two, Corbyn was not forced to do anything - as he still doesn’t deal with disciplinary matters (see One above). And Three, Labour didn’t refuse to withdraw the whip from Williamson. We know this as the Daily Mail has effectively admitted it.
Look at the fourth sub-heading in the online version of the article: “Mr Corbyn is believed to have intervened personally to block his suspension”. “Is believed to have intervened”. In other words, the Mail cannot stand up their claim. And it gets worse.
The Mail claims “The mass revolt sparked a review by party general secretary Jennie Formby, who suspended Mr Williamson hours later”. But the suspension decision was taken before the MPs sent their letter. So that’s Four whoppers.
Only further down the article - typical Mail tactic, make sure readers will already have made up their minds before reading that far - do we see “Asked about the MP's comments yesterday, Mr Corbyn's spokesman said they were 'deeply offensive' and that 'downplaying the problem of anti-Semitism makes it harder for us to tackle it’. The spokesman said Mr Corbyn did not have personal responsibility for withdrawing the whip”.
But it should come as no surprise that one media outlet has concocted a pack of lies about the Labour leader: after all, it was only the swift action of former Corbyn staffer Kevin Slocombe that headed off another false story yesterday, claiming that Jezza had been reluctant to have Ken Livingstone suspended back in 2016 (he hadn’t).
The Williamson affair shows two things: one, Labour needs to communicate faster when it suspends an MP (it didn’t), and two, the press will make it up anyway. But you knew that.
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