Labour finally abandons legal action against Corbyn staff as ‘eye-watering’ costs mount

With media attention focused on GE 2024, you’d be forgiven for having overlooked news that the Labour Party has finally abandoned its longstanding legal action against five former members of Jeremy Corbyn’s office team during his leadership, including his Director of Communications Seumas Milne. The five were accused of ‘conspiring’ against Keir Starmer’s leadership by leaking a controversial report soon after he was elected leader in 2020. They ‘strenuously deny’ any involvement or complicity in the leak.

The 860-page leaked document which ostensibly examined the handling of antisemitism complaints during the Corbyn period, included unredacted emails and WhatsApp messages from critics of his leadership, which exposed factionalism and derogatory comments about Corbyn, his staff and MPs who supported him. The Forde report found, for example: ‘the criticisms of Diane Abbott are not simply a harsh response to perceived poor performance – they are expressions of visceral disgust.’

The legal suit is estimated to have cost the Labour Party millions of pounds. Documents presented in open court in late 2023 showed Labour had spent £1.5m on its action at that time, and estimated it would spend nearly £900,000 more. The figures do not reflect the full cost of the litigation. It remains unclear whether or not the party will meet the costs of the five.

A BBC report includes the view of one unnamed former shadow cabinet member that ‘this is a huge embarrassment for the party, which has wasted eye-watering sums which could have made the difference in key seats in this election’. Martin Forde KC, the lawyer who carried out the wide-ranging report into Labour Party culture told the BBC: ‘It is a great shame that money has been spent on legal fees that could have been spent on the general election.’