The truth about Sir Keir Starmer and the expulsion of Labour activist Becky Massey
New evidence about events of Monday, May 18 has provided a shocking insight into how Sir Keir Starmer and senior Labour Party officials deliberately used the “anti-Semitism” crisis as a pretext to vilify and then expel a leading pro-Corbyn activist in Brighton and Hove.
It was on that Monday morning, barely a month into his time as party leader, that Sir Keir — along with his chief of staff, Morgan McSweeney — held his first meeting with the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).
With David Evans still to be named as the party’s new general secretary, it is ironic that everyone at the Zoom meeting agreed about the need for an independent complaints procedure — without political intervention by, for example, the office of Leader Of The Opposition (LOTO).
Even as the meeting ended party officials were redoubling their efforts to find an excuse to expel Becky Massey, a pro-Corbyn and pro-Palestine activist who had been a target for anti-Corbyn diehards for more than four years.
Despite investigating countless complaints over these years, they had failed to find any evidence to substantiate such oft-alleged “anti-Semitism”. That did not, however, stop them twice warning Ms Massey — while drawing on the same threadbare evidence of just three tweets she had posted: one in September 2015; one in April 2016; and one in June 2016.
By May 18 2020, they must have been getting desperate. Not least because, a week earlier, the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) had named Ms Massey as one of 11 “very clear-cut cases of anti-semitism among Labour members”. Hers was “among the most serious we have seen”, according to a confidential briefing document sent by the BoD to Sir Keir and his aides.
To be precise, the BoD seemed particularly concerned that Massey’s tweets “demonise Israel”, while adding that some also veered into “outright antisemitism”.
The confidential document, extracts from which are published here for the first time (see below), insisted that all 11 cases “require permanent exclusion from the Labour Party”. It called for an update on each of the cases by the end of the month.
This time, a fourth tweet (from July 2019, about Peter Kyle, Ms Massey’s MP in Hove) was added:
Such was the BoD’s evidence of “clear-cut” case of anti-Semitism!
With Sir Keir meeting JLM representatives and with the BoD end-of-May deadline getting nearer, the Labour Party apparatchiks were under pressure. Something had to be done to meet the demands of both the BoD and the JLM.
Recently-disclosed emails — albeit redacted, after a Subject Access Request by Ms Massey under Freedom of Information legislation — give a sense of the rush to find evidence to justify her expulsion. And they point clearly to the direct involvement of “LOTO” — the office of the Leader Of The Opposition.
Clearly, those hunting for evidence could not again dredge up the same tired tweets that had been used in vain twice before! [All the redacted emails referred to below can be found here.]
Therefore, at 1pm on Monday, May 18, one anonymous official responds to an apparent requirement to “look at the Rebecca Massey case further”; the official seems pleased to have found a tweet posted six months earlier and suggests it “warrants exclusion”. And this is it:
The official adds: “It’s a clear endorsement of Chris Williamson, independent candidate standing against Labour. She’s previously received two Reminders, and the Twitter account is definitely hers.”
Four minutes later, a colleague tentatively agrees: “Good spot. I think that it definitely qualifies as support for a candidate standing in opposition to an official Labour candidate. Would appreciate the thoughts of others though.”
At 1.07pm, another colleague — whose first name appears to be T[homas] — weighs in: “Yes I agree. It appears to be clearly supporting him to be re-elected as an independent MP against a Labour candidate.”
At 1.48pm, Thomas asks: “Can we get a suspension letter out with that evidence today? I guess we give 7 days for the reply.”
Over the next four hours, the officials email back and forth to amend and agree the wording of the suspension letter — based only on the tweet about Chris Williamson — to be emailed to Ms Massey. The letter arrives at 6.19pm.
At 8.22pm, a number of updates (“as things stand at the moment”) are given by one party figure to another. Next to Ms Massey’s name is this: “During further investigation, an officer uncovered evidence of Ms Massey supporting Chris Williamson as an independent candidate standing against the Labour Party. She has been suspended today, with a view to her autoexclusion.” [Note that expulsion is regarded as almost a foregone conclusion.]
Curiously, the subject line of all but one of nine emails is redacted thus:
And the exception is the email from “Thomas” — almost certainly Thomas Gardiner, the Labour Party’s director of governance and legal, who was serving out his notice (before leaving his job in June):
Equally certain is the fact that all the emails concerning Ms Massey were “for LOTO”, ie for Sir Keir and his office. The following day (May 19) the BoD felt confident enough to make public the fact they had named 11 people in their confidential briefing, stating on its website: “The most obvious and prominent example is Pete Willsman, but other members in question include a National Executive Committee member, a councillor, a council candidate, a CLP chair and a branch chair, as well as ordinary members.”
Within a week of being named on the BoD “hit list”of clear-cut cases of anti-Semitism— and within hours of Sir Keir’s Zoom meeting with the JLM — Ms Massey was suspended and on her way to almost-certain expulsion.
On June 2, exactly a fortnight after her suspension, she was indeed expelled. But not, of course, for anything to do with anti-Semitism. As the expulsion letter made plain in its first paragraph:
In her response to suspension, Massey explained why she tweeted about Chris Williamson, the former Labour MP for Derby North, who resigned from the party after being unlawfully suspended. She said:
Crucially, Massey pointed out her tweet did not advocate voting for Mr Williamson, nor did it encourage people to campaign for them.
As proof of her support for the Labour Party during the 2019 General Election campaign, she included a letter — factual rather than argumentative — from Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown (as a result of which Mr Russell-Moyle was subsequently accused of anti-Semitism):
Bizarrely — but not surprisingly, in the circumstances — official Labour Party records still purport to show that Ms Massey was suspended and expelled for “alleged anti-Semitism”:
It is difficult to think of a more clear-cut example of the scale of “anti-Semitism” in the Labour Party being dramatically overstated. And for political reasons by opponents inside and outside the party, as I will now show.
First, though, I must stress that much of the truth about Ms Massey’s case (CN-2465) would have remained secret if she had not made a successful “Subject Access Request” (SAR).
As the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) explains, submitting such a request is straightforward: simply email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org and provide your name, address, membership number, with proof of identity (for example, a photograph of your driving licence). You should receive all the information the Labour Party holds on you within a calendar month; if party officials unilaterally declare your case as “complex”, it may take three calendar months.
I have written several times about how the Labour Party has, for many years, consistently failed in its statutory obligations under data-protection legislation.
The ICO — as the party readily admits — is well aware of this (see left).
Ms Massey was fortunate. She had to wait only a few days short of six months; 166 days to be precise.
For socialist members of the Labour Party in Brighton and Hove, the contents of the 851-page #LabourLeaks report — “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance an relation to antisemitism, 2014–2019” — confirmed what many of us had already learned during years of officially-sanctioned, anti-democratic machinations by a small clique of anti-Corbyn diehards.
I have written about this many times, including a comprehensive history — at enormous length — here.
For the purposes of this article, I will limit myself to explaining briefly how Ms Massey came to be targeted by anti-Corbyn diehards in Brighton and Hove. It will not surprise you that, in the beginning, it had nothing to do with “anti-Semitism” —whether alleged, imagined, or fabricated.
As so often in Brighton and Hove —an epicentre of the battle for the soul of the Labour Party — it began with the annual all-member meeting of Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party (aka the “City Party”) on July 9 2016. Even in the most febrile atmosphere that followed, no bogus allegations about “anti-Semitism” were made — against Ms Massey (or anyone else elected at the meeting) — for at least seven months.
Many readers may already have heard of the “spitting” and “abuse” lies by Warren Morgan — now a former Labour Party member, who led Brighton and Hove City Council (BHCC) at the time — that resulted in the overturning of the election of a new 10-person pro-Corbyn leadership team for the City Party.
Ms Massey was among those elected by overwhelming majorities to the party’s executive committee; I was elected secretary with 65% of more than 600 votes (see left).
Within days the votes were annulled and the City Party was suspended, pending an investigation by Katherine Buckingham, the party’s then head of disputes.
The never-published report by Ms Buckingham reported, in late October 2016, contained no reference to — or evidence of — “spitting” or “abuse”; instead, it required the City Party to be disaggregated into three delegate-based Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs): Hove, Brighton Pavilion, and Brighton Kemptown.
By then, however, the witch-hunt against the democratically-elected pro-Corbyn socialists was in full swing, coordinated by key supporters of Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove — including Cllr Morgan (see above), Ivor Caplin (the former Labour MP and disgraced former defence minister during the Iraq War), and Cllr Caroline Penn, a Labour member of BHCC until she unexpectedly quit in December 2018.
Of the pro-Corbyn, Momentum-backed candidates elected at the July 9 annual meeting, seven have been repeatedly targeted by anti-Corbyn diehards —resulting in five of us eventually and repeatedly facing bogus allegations of “anti-Semitism”. [Ms Massey is the only one of us to have been expelled. And, as we now know, she was not expelled for anti-Semitism.]
We know from the #LabourLeaks report that Brighton and Hove was — because of the election of Ms Massey and the rest of us — of particular interest to anti-Corbyn apparatchiks at Labour Party head office, including John Stolliday, then head of the party’s constitutional unit:
Importantly, the recently-disclosed emails reveal that secret — and clearly vexatious — complaints about her had begun within days or weeks of the July 9 meeting; they coincided with a round of “Trot hunting” in advance of the forthcoming party leadership election.
The hunt — according to the #LabourLeaks report — followed the appointment on June 27 of Sam Matthews as Compliance Officer — Investigations, who later appeared as a so-called “whistleblower” on BBC Panorama’s infamous Is Labour Anti-Semitic programme.
A flurry of Labour Party exchanges confirm unwarranted attempts to prevent her even from voting for Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership election in September 2016.
Despite repeated complaints, officials continued to block her right to vote. Countless others — possibly thousands — were similarly blocked.
Yet, on the morning of September 12 — nine days before the ballot closed — officials (including Julie Lawrence and Ben Nolan) appear confused about why no online vote had been provided to Ms Massey (see left): one suggests the missing email was “probably a classic case of junk folder; another seems to think it had been “re-issued” and offered to issue it yet again.
Then something happens (see below): one official urges “Hold off replying for 1 minute”; someone — probably the same official — promises to send over “the stock response we have for compliance wording”, adding: “We’ve tried to avoid people saying that ‘you’re under review by the NEC’”.
The inference is clear: Ms Massey’s eligibility is being investigated, for reasons never disclosed.
The next email provides confirmation that Ms Massey’s right to vote hangs by a thread, with “updates coming in thick and fast on Rebecca Massey”. Curiously, none of these updates is included in the SAR response. Why not? What did they concern?
Regardless, Ms Massey — totally unaware of anything amiss at Labour Party headquarters — finally received her online ballot on September 14, a week before deadline for votes.
Thanks to the #LabourLeaks report we now know the scale of the not-so-secret conspiracy to exclude Corbyn supporters from the ballot:
On Tuesday, September 20, I attended with a party colleague a lobby of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to protest at the suspension of the City Party. We were fortunate to have a brief conversation, with Jennie Formby, then a Unite representative on the NEC.
Ms Formby told us that a single person in Brighton and Hove had submitted more than 60 complaints concerning the eligibility of local party members. That person, she revealed, was Cllr Penn.
With Jeremy Corbyn re-elected as leader, the 18 Labour Party branches in Brighton and Hove were tasked to elect branch officers and delegates in readiness for the Initial General Meetings (IGMs) of the three CLPs scheduled for January and February 2017.
Expulsions and suspensions had already begun: Mark Sandell (expelled on October 19 2016), who had been elected City Party chair on July 9, and me (suspended on October 26 2016), who had been elected secretary. Consequently, I was unable to stand for office in (or as a delegate from) my branch (Patcham) or in my CLP (Brighton Pavilion).
Nor was I able to participate on a steering committee that met three times to prepare for the IGMs: November 15 2016; November 29 2016, and February 3 2017.
It is the evening of Friday, February 3 2017 on which I wish to concentrate. Because this was the day, with the connivance of Labour Party apparatchiks, that Caplin, the former Labour MP for Hove and close friend of Kyle, the incumbent — aided by others in their networks (mainly but not exclusively in Hove), used fake allegations of “anti-Semitism” for their own anti-democratic, anti-socialist, anti-Corbyn ends.
It was 6.29pm and I was first to arrive for an informal pre-meeting chat with a few pro-Corbyn colleagues. The others were all members of the NEC-imposed steering committee, which was about to have its final meeting that evening at 7.30pm; Brighton Pavilion CLP and Brighton Kemptown CLP were to have their initial general meetings (IGMs) the following day; Hove CLP was scheduled to follow a day later, on Sunday, February 5.
We were optimistic and anxious, in equal measure. And then, as the others were about to arrive, I saw the tweet. It came like a bolt from the blue; its author was Caplin, instantaneously disseminating a libellous news article from the so-called charity Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA).
It should be emphasised that this was the first time since the “spitting” lies at and after the July 9 2016 City Party meeting, that “anti-Semitism” smears — increasingly prevalent in the national media — had hit home.
Because the Hove CLP initial general meeting (IGM ) — scheduled for Sunday, February 5 — was due to be held in Ralli Hall in Hove, two days later. And right-wingers like Caplin and Kyle knew pro-Corbyn candidates were on track to win at the IGMs in Brighton Pavilion and Brighton Kemptown.
Ms Massey had recently — at a well-attended (and acrimonious) meeting on Saturday, January 14 2017 — been elected interim chair of Brunswick, Adelaide, and Central Hove Branch Labour Party.
Present at the meeting were some of the branch’s most virulent anti-Corbyn activists: Kyle, Caplin, and Cllr Penn. None was pleased by Massey’s victory.
But it was only when I quickly tweeted my congratulations that I unwittingly gave Massey’s enemies the information they need to launch their bogus allegations: I tagged my message with her Twitter handle, which was the trigger for a massive trawl of her social media. As the CAA article makes clear (below left). [From this episode, I also became the target for their relentless and vicious abuse.]
Caplin and his cronies got to work. They quickly scented blood, but timed their attack for maximum advantage. Following his usual modus operandi, Caplin did not associate himself directly with the initial smears; he organised their publication — less than 48 hours before Hove CLP’s crucial initial general meeting — via the CAA website and Twitter account. Only then did he tweet the article, with a message (left) alerting local media (The Argus, BBC Sussex, and Latest TV) as well as the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).
Several of Caplin’s cronies — including Cllr Penn — immediately piled-on in what was clearly a coordinated effort. Julie Cattell, another Labour city councillor, quickly drew the CAA article to the attention of a now-suspended Twitter account in the name of “Supersminter”, one of many anonymous accounts that are part of what became “GnasherJew” network of hate.
Cattell was later identified in the #LabourLeaks report as a member — albeit peripheral — member of the self-styled Labour Against Anti-Semitism (LAAS) network.
By midnight on February 3, Massey had received several threats of violence — one involving a knife; the other a gun — from unknown online trolls. Details were given to Sussex Police.
She quickly composed a public statement: “I am not a racist. I do campaign for justice for the Palestinian people and oppose continuing violations of international law by the state of Israel. This is legitimate activity and not anti-Semitic. As a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn I have been targeted in a horrible way by people whose aim is to derail the democratic process in Hove constituency Labour Party.”
But within hours, early the next day, it was mission accomplished: Ralli Hall’s manager Maxine Gordon cancelled the Labour Party booking for the Hove CLP meeting (at which Massey was due to stand as treasurer as one of a list of Momentum-supported candidates). The Argus, a local newspaper, even managed to get sight of the letter cancelling the booking and quoted Caplin (by name, unusually), who demanded disciplinary action for Ms Massey’s “anti-Semitic” comments.
Directors of what is formally known as Ralli Hall Jewish Community Centre included Sharpe (see above), who subsequently went on to become an official spokesperson in May 2019 for the LAAS. It may even be the case that Ralli Hall and/or one of its directors had advance notice of the CAA article and the subsequent tweets. Only Caplin knows.
[The tactic of ensuring venues cancelled bookings was to be used again locally two years later — by Kyle — when Chris Williamson, the then Labour MP, was due to speak at the Brighthelm Centre in Brighton in July 2019 (and then in September 2019).]
The recently-disclosed emails have now provided more worrying evidence that Labour Party officials were kept closely informed about these fake allegations.
How else did the cancellation letter (see below) from the Ralli Hall manager — addressed to “John”, presumably John Warmington, the outgoing secretary responsible for the booking — come to be among the documents recently disclosed by Labour Party headquarters to Ms Massey?
On February 7 2017, Massey made a formal complaint to the Labour Party, regionally and nationally about Caplin’s defamatory statement to the media. No action was ever taken. An official in Labour’s “Legal Queries” team said Caplin was entitled to his opinion.
On February 8, Massey —along with another unknown Labour colleague — was sent a formal warning by Matthews:
The Ralli Hall cancellation had bought time for the Caplin-Kyle cabal to attempt a rearguard action against the pro-Corbyn majority in Hove CLP; after branch delegates to Brighton Pavilion and Brighton Kemptown voted overwhelmingly to elect a “clean sweep” of pro-Corbyn leadership teams at their crucial general meetings (on Saturday, February 4), the Hove CLP meeting was postponed until Wednesday, March 1 — when pro-Corbyn supporters completed a hat-trick of clean sweeps, including Massey as treasurer.
So why was Massey not immediately suspended or expelled? Caplin, Kyle, and Cllr Penn must have been furious.
It was not until the #LabourLeaks report that the answer became a little clearer: on the same day that Caplin launched his libellous smears via Twitter and the CAA, Matthews signalled a different — albeit temporary and confused — approach to how complaints were to be dealt with:
And so it was that Ms Massey was able to stand and be elected as treasurer by an overwhelming majority of the 100 or so delegates who attended — at a neutral venue — the delayed IGM of Hove CLP on Wednesday, March 1.
Inevitably, Ms Massey continued to be a target for the usual clique of anti-Corbyn diehards, whose activities against a significant number of socialists reached fever pitch in the months immediately before the general election on June 8 2017.
LAAS has claimed — in the wake of Ms Massey’s expulsion — that it first made a complaint against her in August 2017. If true — and I know that is by no means certain! — there is no trace of it in the Labour Party documents provided in response to her SAR.
Before fast forwarding to August 2018 and the next doomed attempt to get Ms Massey expelled, it is useful to note a few key intervening events that illustrate how “anti-Semitism” became a routine factional weapon — almost a term of casual abuse — employed by anti-Corbyn, pro-Israel individuals and groups.
In August 2017, Cllr Morgan began working with Sussex Friends of Israel, in what appears to be a plan to ban pro-Palestinian campaigners from holding fortnightly leafletting sessions in Brighton city centre. It was also a period when Morgan conceived of the city council supporting the profoundly-flawed IHRA “definition” of anti-Semitism.
After the Labour Party conference in Brighton, on September 26, Morgan also wrote an “open letter” to Iain — now Lord — McNicol, the party’s general secretary. The letter, now deleted, made false allegations about “anti-semitism being aired publicly in fringe meetings and on the floor of conference”.
Shortly afterwards, on October 27, I found myself being accused — for the first time, almost accidentally — of anti-Semitism. For no apparent reason at all. These accusations have since become almost daily occurrences, a direct result of me writing a blogpost entitled “REVEALED: The Labour Party activists behind the “anti-Semitism smears”. I complained to McNicol, but received no reply.
On February 26 2018, Morgan announced he was resigning as leader of the city council and would not be standing for re-election at the council elections scheduled for May 2019.
On July 5, a Labour Party NEC sub-committee adopted an excellent 16-point Code of Conduct on antisemitism.
For reasons that have never been disclosed, recently-disclosed emails reveal Ms Massey was — unknowingly — again subject of allegations of “anti-Semitism” some time before July 19 2018 (see left).
By August 16, an email was sent (see below) to “Martha” — presumably Martha Robinson, a complaints administrator whose 12-month was to end in March 2019 and not renewed — “due to performance-related concerns,” according to the #LabourLeaks report. Robinson, who appears to have spent considerable time trawling social-media accounts of people accused of “anti-Semitism”, in search of anything to help substantiate poorly-evidenced complaints. She later came to prominence as another of the so-called “whistleblowers” on BBC Panorama’s infamous Is Labour Anti-Semitic programme.
The August 16 email to Robinson (see below) indicates that a “Reminder of Conduct” (ROC) was to be sent to Ms Massey:
When Sophie Goodyear, the Labour Party’s then head of complaints, wrote to Ms Massey — in a letter dated September 4 (but emailed the following day) — she attached the tweeted comments that she said “are not what we would expect from members of the party”.
And they included the same two tweets — from September 2015 and June 2016 — that had been used unsuccessfully by the CAA, Caplin, and his cronies in February 2017.
A third one — a retweet from April 2016 — was added. Again to little or no avail.
September 4 2018 was an important day: the Labour Party NEC adopted the full IHRA “definition” of anti-Semitism, including all 11 controversial “examples”.
Importantly, the NEC also noted, without a vote, an important statement by Jeremy Corbyn. Which concluded:
Little wonder Caplin and his cronies failed again to get Ms Massey suspended or even expelled because of bogus concerns about the same old tweets. (Caplin, who had been appointed JLM chair after his predecessor quit in the wake of JLM reporting “financial matters” to the Metropolitan Police in February 2018; he was ousted in April 2019.)
In May 2019 —shortly after hundreds of pro-Corbyn members and candidates helped Labour secure victory in the Brighton and Hove City Council elections — Ms Massey was yet again facing allegations of “anti-Semitism”. For the third time!
As she has now only just discovered from the recently-released emails
At 8.59pm on May 23, however, it is decided by “Patrick” that there should be “No action” in Ms Massey’s case (CN-2117):
It is not clear who sent the email exchange, but “Patrick” is believed to be Patrick Smith, who had joined Labour Party headquarters as Investigations Officer, but had just become Acting Head of Disputes (when his predecessor was on long-term leave), and then Head of Disputes.
The #LabourLeaks report highlights his qualifications:
Ironically, Smith — who is thought to have previously been involved with the pro-Israel Alliance for Workers’ Liberty — was the prosecution witness when I was myself cleared of allegations about “anti-Semitism” at a disciplinary hearing in February 2019. At which Ms Massey was my “silent friend”.
And yet still the smears continued. As this heavily-redacted June 4 email appears to show:
Remarkably, Ms Massey — after all she had been through — was one of the most assiduous of local Labour activists in the 2019 general election campaign, present almost every day in the constituency office, on the doorstep, and on the telephone.
And her reward? Expulsion — for a single tweet. About a former Labour MP who had been unlawfully suspended after fake allegations of anti-Semitism.
This is what our party has become under Sir Keir Starmer, David Evans, and an institutionally-corrupt, undemocratic, unaccountable bureaucracy.