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Welsh Labour candidate criticised for driving aborted legal action that has cost the party millions

07 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Alex Barros-Curtis. Photo via Facebook

Martin Shipton

Labour’s “parachuted” general election candidate in Cardiff West has been criticised for driving an aborted legal dispute that has cost the party millions of pounds.

Five former Labour staffers from the Corbyn era were being pursued in a civil action brought by the party for allegedly leaking a controversial internal report.

But the case against Corbyn’s former chief of staff Karie Murphy, his communications director Seumas Milne, and junior staffers Georgie Robertson, Harry Hayball and Laura Murray has now been dropped on a “no order as to costs” basis, meaning Labour will have to pay its own costs running to millions.

An 860-page report, entitled The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019, was distributed online and to journalists in April 2020. The “Labour leaks” report alleged that Labour Party employees who were opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership worked against him, damaged the party’s electoral chances and sent abusive messages about senior figures.

The report was originally intended to be a submission from the Labour Party to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which conducted an investigation into Labour antisemitism that concluded the party had breached the Equality Act.

Legal advice

Following legal advice, the report was not ultimately sent to the EHRC, but the document was leaked in full. The leak prompted two investigations by Labour – one by an independent external investigator and another by Martin Forde KC.

The five former party staffers have always denied the allegations against them, calling them “baseless claims”, and maintained that neither of Labour’s subsequent investigations into the claims had concluded they were responsible for the leak.

The party claimed the five leaked the report – which suggested Labour’s antisemitism crisis was deliberately exacerbated by the Labour right – as part of a conspiracy to “disrupt” or “embarrass” Keir Starmer, breaching their employment contracts. But privately the party’s own lawyers conceded there was “a strong public interest in alerting the media” to the evidence of internal sabotage against Corbyn.

Labour has pursued the five in the courts for several years, despite its own private investigators – hired at a cost of over £1m – and the Information Commissioner’s Office finding insufficient evidence that they were responsible for the leak. The party later admitted in court that “[t]here is … no ‘smoking gun’ … which shows demonstrably and beyond any doubt that a particular individual was the source of the leak.”

Hamfisted

Commenting on the news that the case has been dropped, Mish Rahman, a member of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), accused Labour of spending “millions of pounds in members’ money” on pursuing the case so far that “could have been spent on the general election”.

He added: “As with his hamfisted targeting of Diane [Abbott] and other left-wing women of colour, this pointless and vindictive failed lawsuit is another example of Starmer allowing his bully boys to get carried away with their war on the left when it’s clearly not in the party’s electoral or financial interests to do so.”

An unnamed former Labour MP and ex-Shadow Cabinet member criticised the selection of Alex Barros-Curtis, the party’s executive director of legal affairs, as its candidate for Cardiff West. Ordinary members of the constituency Labour party did not have a vote in the process that resulted in Mr Barros-Curtis’ selection because outgoing MP Kevin Brennan announced his decision not to stand again late. Instead he was appointed by a panel that met under the direction of the party’s National Executive Committee.

The ex-MP told Politics Home: “This is a huge embarrassment for the party. This official, who was appointed to a top job at Labour HQ by Starmer, has wasted eye-watering sums which could have made the difference in key seats in this election. But the Labour leadership has now rewarded him with a safe seat with which he has no connection. This is yet another case of faction first, before the interests of either the party or the country.”

The left-wing media organisation Novara Media has reported that, operating with little or no oversight from the Labour leadership, Mr Barros-Curtis spent nearly £2.4m of the party’s money on legal costs during the now aborted litigation, including half a million pounds on a single hearing. Novara has also stated that it understands Labour’s total bill is likely to be significantly higher than reported.

Disgrace

“The parachuting of Alex Barros-Curtis into a safe Labour seat is a disgrace now we know what he is responsible for,” the former Shadow Cabinet member told Novara. “This Starmer-appointed official has spent millions of pounds of the Labour Party’s money dragging former party employees through the courts for four years, pursuing a pointless and failed political vendetta.”

The leaked report showed that party bureaucrats had deliberately obstructed the party’s attempts to deal with antisemitism complaints. It also indicated that they themselves had been guilty of anti-Black racism and sexism, with one calling Diane Abbott “truly repulsive”.

The report also revealed that Labour staff had diverted party resources to undermine Corbyn’s campaign in 2017. The party ultimately enjoyed its biggest swing in any election since 1945 and robbed Theresa May of an overall majority.

Labour tried to block access to the leaked report, writing to Google to ask that it “delist” websites that had linked to the report. Google rejected the request.

We have previously reported how Mr Barros-Curtis was a director of companies set up successively to support the leadership campaigns of Owen Smith, who was defeated by Mr Corbyn in 2016, and Sir Keir Starmer.

We tried to contact Mr Barros-Curtis via Labour’s Cardiff West constituency office, but were told the office had no contact details for him. We then asked Welsh Labour to seek comment for us from him, but have received no response.


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John Ellis
John Ellis
6 days ago

But the Labour leadership has now rewarded him with a safe seat with which he has no connection. This is yet another case of faction first, before the interests of either the party or the country.’

That’s certainly how it looks from someone on the outside like me who isn’t and never has been any part of ‘the Labour family’, and so it’s helpful for the anonymous ex-Labour shadow cabinet member, who, being on the inside and thus way better placed to know that I can ever be, to confirm it.

Erisian
Erisian
6 days ago

If “Welsh” Labour can’t pick it’s own candidates, what is the point. Time to be it’s own boss rather than Kowtowing to the faux-socialists in London. We need Green, White and Red water between us and them.
Devolution can’t develop without independent institutions, and parties.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
6 days ago

An appeal to Labour voters in Cardiff West and Swansea West. Show the party what you think of their insult of the parachuted candidates by voting for Plaid Cymru.

Why vote
Why vote
6 days ago

Is this what wales wants to be dragged through the courts for no great reason if we step out of line with the party elite and don’t conform to their rules. To many new laws designed to curtail our way of life from a party that thinks a bloke in a dress is a woman, And want us to vote for a foreign MP placed in wales to do what better than a local candidate? Just don’t vote for him as he will spend all the monies donated to labour on a fruitless court case. Just to prove his point.

Uhh
Uhh
6 days ago
Reply to  Why vote

You were so close, then just had to throw in that “bloke in a dress” dig

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 days ago
Reply to  Uhh

If only Lilly Savage was in charge, what a wonderful world it could be…rip

L. Edwards
L. Edwards
6 days ago
Reply to  Why vote

I’ve a lot of time for Torsten Bell and would expect him to be an asset in government. But imposing him on Swansea at the last second is not the way to get him there. No desire to see Barros-Curtis there at all.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
6 days ago

I have no sympathy for the party that has wasted millions on an aborted case, I was on the side of those accused of leaking the report and I laughed on hearing this news.

My anger is directed towards those people that had decided they were stepping down at a late stage so candidates are “parachuted” and imposed so preventing local labour party members from choosing a new candidate, anti-democratic!

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