Last night, the BBC edited a Labour email and broadcast the hit job to millions

BBC News at 10

On 10 July, the BBC stood accused of “doctoring’ a Labour email. The public organisation then broadcast the result to millions – not once, but twice.

“Clear misrepresentation”

The broadcaster first showed the edited email during a Panorama episode entitled Is Labour Antisemitic?. It later discussed it on BBC News at 10. The BBC repeated the misrepresentation even though Labour complained:


The edited email presented Labour’s director of communications Seumas Milne as interfering in the party’s disciplinary process, which is supposed to be independent. The publicly-funded broadcaster’s version of Milne’s email read:

something’s going wrong, and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism… I think going forward we need to review where and how we’re drawing the line.

But Labour released the full email, which shows that Milne was responding to a request from a former Labour staff member for a view on a complaint. And in the email, he wrote:

Having identified the subject of the complaint as a “Jewish activist, the son of Holocaust survivor”… if we’re more than very occasionally using disciplinary action against Jewish members for anti-Semitism, something’s going wrong and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism.

In response, a BBC spokesperson told The Canary:

The BBC stands by its journalism and we completely reject any accusations of bias or dishonesty… The programme [Panorama] adhered to the BBC’s editorial guidelines, including a full right of reply for the Labour Party.

We reject any claims Panorama took any of the evidence out of context.

The significance of the email from Seumas Milne is that it showed one of the most powerful figures in the Labour Party expressing concern about the handling of anti-semitism complaints and suggesting the wider process should be reviewed. This goes contrary to the Labour Party’s claims that this process was independent of the Leader’s Office. The impact of this email on those dealing with the complaints process was made clear in the eyewitness testimony shown in the programme.

“Wrong kind of Jews”

But in response to a request, Milne was specifically talking about Jewish people being accused of antisemitism. The quote Panorama used omitted that.

Effectively, Milne warned against Labour participating in the ‘wrong sort of Jew’ antisemitic trope in the email. Because the subject of the antisemitism complaint in question was a “Jewish activist” and “the son of Holocaust survivor”.

Corbyn’s political opponents routinely attack Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) – an organisation of Jewish Labour members – along similar lines:

We are denounced as the wrong kind of Jews, not actually members of the Jewish Community… ‘antisemitism enablers’ and other insulting terms.

The Labour right and corporate media have also accused Corbyn of antisemitism for meeting up with Jewish people, such as hosting Jewish Holocaust survivors in parliament and attending a Jewish Sedar (Passover feast).

Meanwhile, disciplinary cases relating to antisemitism among Labour members since September 2015 relate to 0.06% of party’s 540,000-strong membership. Labour says:

This represents a tiny minority, but one antisemite is one too many, and we will continue to act against this repugnant form of racism.

“Doctored by Panorama”

On social media, people were aghast at the BBC‘s conduct:

Even corporate journalists like the FT‘s chief political correspondent suggested that the BBC is misleading viewers:

This time, the BBC has stepped way over the line. Labour had complained that the broadcaster was completely misrepresenting Milne’s email. Yet it broadcast the selective edit twice to millions of people. That is utterly unacceptable conduct towards the official opposition.

Featured image via BBC

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  • And you can make a written complaint here.

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  • Show Comments
    1. The BBC and the Tories it seems have a lot in common. One thing is playing with the truth to deceive and then denying all wrongdoing. The BBC would gain more respect if they acknowledged they got it wrong. Not to do so shows their intentions in sharp relief.

    2. Where have Labour released the “full emails”? They aren’t in the link provided, so I’d question the journalistic integrity of this article.

      Labour just released their own very narrow selection. And we need the full context to make up our own minds, not just a few words.

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