Jeremy Corbyn fury: Ex-Labour leader faces demand to return cash in legal battle

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Supporters have raised nearly £250,000 on behalf of Mr Corbyn after he was threatened with legal action for criticising the decision from Labour to apologise and pay damages to anti-Semitism whistleblowers. The campaign, set up on the GoFundMe website, smashed its initial target of £20,000 in just under 24-hours. But former Labour MP Ian Austin, who quit the Opposition last year over what he said was its “culture of extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance”, wants Mr Corbyn to give the money back.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour party was poisoned with anti-Jewish racism.

“If Corbyn really wants to take a stand against racism, he should go through this list of donations and hand back cash from anyone who has posted anti-Semitic views.”

Several offensive comments have appeared on the fundraising web page, including one from a supporter who wrote: “We love Jeremy Corbyn and he is all we got!

“Him being seen and propagated by right-wing media and portrayed like he can be the next S***ler is absurd beyond belief!

“I met Jeremy Corbyn is a very lovely and full of compassion for others! I am proud to make donations to this honourable person.'”

Another person commented: “Corbyn supports PALESTINE. Like all in the civilized world.”

But addressing the comments from supporters, a spokesperson from Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour Party became institutionally antisemitic, driving Labour’s own workers to defy their own Party and blow the whistle on the Jew-hatred within it.

“It was Mr Corbyn’s senior team that directed a forceful effort to drag the whistleblowers’ name through the mud, in some cases driving them to the point of considering suicide.

“Instead of apologising in shame for the attempts to bully and silence these principled whistleblowers, Mr Corbyn has now attacked the Labour Party for apologising to them.

“It is absolutely right that he should be held to account in court for doing so, and it is depressingly unsurprising that some of those now donating money to cover his self-inflicted legal bills are doing so because they espouse Mr Corbyn’s own views on antisemitism.

“When the Equality and Human Rights Commission completes its investigation into institutional antisemitism in the Labour Party, people will see for themselves how the Party of anti-racism became riddled with Jew-hatred.

“Mr Corbyn’s toxic legacy is the normalisation of antisemitism into the mainstream of British politics.”

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Last week, Mr Corbyn was threatened with legal action after he claimed Labour’s decision to pay a journalist damages risks “giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations” about action to tackle anti-Semitism in the party.

On Wednesday, Labour apologised to a group of whistleblowers at the High Court who contributed to a BBC Panorama investigation – broadcast in July 2019 – into the party’s handling of anti-Semitism claims under the leadership of Mr Corbyn.

Seven former employees from Labour’s governance and legal unit, who contributed to the programme, had sued the party after it issued a press release describing them as having “personal and political axes to grind”.

Labour said it would pay “substantial damages” and accepted press statements made against them last year were “defamatory and false”.

The party also apologised and agreed to pay damages to John Ware – the journalist who presented the Panorama investigation – after falsely accusing him of “deliberate and malicious misrepresentations designed to mislead the public”.

But following the High Court hearing, Mr Corbyn said in a statement: “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.

“The decision to settle these claims in this way is disappointing, and risks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations about action taken to tackle anti-Semitism in the Labour Party in recent years.

“To give our members the answers and justice they deserve, the inquiry led by Martin Forde must now fully address the evidence the internal report uncovered of racism, sexism, factionalism and obstruction of Labour’s 2017 general election campaign.”

When asked if action would be taken arising from Mr Corbyn’s statement, lawyer Mark Lewis, from Patron Law, who represented the Panorama whistleblowers and Mr Ware, said: “I can confirm that I have been instructed to pursue cases.”

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