The worrying new supergroup involving the man behind Panorama’s 2019 hit-job on Corbyn

BBC Panorama, Jewish Chronicle, and Conservative Party logos
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A new group of anti-socialist hacks has formed in order to rescue the failing Jewish Chronicle (JC), which was a key part of vicious media efforts to keep former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn out of power.

These figures came together to buy the JC, which recently announced it was having to close down. And the make-up of this rescue squad speaks volumes about the ideology driving the buyout. The group includes:

Why would these figures want to buy the JC?

After the buyout, former JC chair Alan Jacobs spoke of the rescue group’s “very generous offer”. He also boasted that the JC had ‘helped to see off Jeremy Corbyn and friends’. Indeed, the outlet tried to convince voters that the anti-racist peaceprize winner was somehow an “existential threat” to Jews in Britain. And it mentioned Corbyn in over 2,200 (primarily negative) articles between 2015 and 2020.

By comparison, this number of articles seems to surpass the total cumulative mentions of the three previous Labour leaders from when they were in power to the present day. The main difference with Corbyn was that he was a longstanding critic of Israeli state abuses and a firm supporter of Palestinian rights, marking an ethical break from the party’s corporate warmongering and corrupt foreign policy in previous years. And with many Corbyn allies also opposing apartheid, occupation, and ethnic cleansing, the JC dedicated hundreds of articles to attacking these people too.

As journalist Asa Winstanley summarised:

JC: When bias turns to defamation

Indeed, the JC has lost numerous cases in recent years as a result of its attacks on supporters of Palestinian rights. For example:

  • JC writer Lee Harpin targeted a left-wing Labour activist in several articles in early 2019. The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) upheld six accuracy breaches against the JC as a result, while criticising its conduct during the investigation as “unacceptable”.
  • The outlet had to pay out £50,000 in damages in 2019 after falsely suggesting a Palestinian charity had links to terrorism.
  • In 2018, IPSO found that the JC had wrongly branded a Corbyn-supporting blogger a ‘Holocaust denier’.

JC editor Stephen Pollard also has form. In 2010, for example, a Muslim group successfully sued him over an attack piece he’d written in the Spectator suggesting it was “fascist” and “genocidal”.

As Jewish Voice for Labour’s Mike Cushman told The Canary in 2019, apologists for the Israeli state like the JChave been free and easy with unfounded allegations” which “wreck people’s lives”. Indeed, the hatred of Corbyn in pro-Israel circles has long been crystal clear; as has the pro-Israel right’s vile and cynical weaponisation of antisemitism to attack left-wing allies of the Palestinian people.

Panorama‘s John Ware

Mainstream media outlets were cheerleaders for the years-long smear campaign which sought to convince British voters that Corbyn and his supporters were somehow raving antisemites – something not supported by the evidence. The BBC – the country’s supposedly impartial public broadcaster – was right at the centre of these efforts. And John Ware’s 2019 Panorama ‘investigation’ was a prime example.

Many critics saw the episode as a ‘hatchet job‘ against Corbyn’s Labour. And a key aspect of the party’s complaint about it, as The Canary reported previously, was:

John Ware‘s “record of public political hostility to Jeremy Corbyn and his leadership of the Labour Party” and past articles make him unsuitable to present the show in a neutral manner.

His previous remarks, the party stressed, were those “of someone who has clearly and publicly already made their mind up” on the issues the Panorama hit-job was exploring, and meant “he cannot be regarded as fair or even-handed on British politics or community relations”.

Jewish academic Justin Schlosberg, meanwhile, has been seeking to hold the BBC to account. He recently sought to launch “a formal legal challenge to Ofcom’s decision not to investigate complaints about the BBC’s Panorama programme Is Labour antisemitic?”. The BBC had previously admitted receiving over 1,500 complaints about the programme in just under two weeks after it aired. And as Schlosberg highlighted:

This was the third Panorama edition since 2015 that was focused on, and wholly critical of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party. It contained gross breaches of the BBC’s legal commitment to due impartiality and due accuracy rules

Some considered the Panorama episode during the 2015 Labour leadership contest to be an “unrestrained character assassination” of Jeremy Corbyn.

The revolving door between the BBC and the Conservative Party

Ware isn’t the only anti-socialist figure with links to the BBC who joined the team that rescued the JC, though. Because Robbie Gibb, one of the most blatant examples of a BBC-Tory revolving door in recent years, was at the heart of the buyout.

Gibb worked for the Conservative Party in the late 1990s before moving on to the BBC. Then, as editor of BBC live political programmes, he oversaw the alleged coordination of a “live-on-air resignation to damage Jeremy Corbyn” in 2016. He rejected this allegation. The BBC also faced claims of failing to look into links between the Leave.EU group and far-right figures when Gibb was in charge. But the outlet claimed he hadn’t been “involved with the story”, and Gibb stressed that he was “proud of my contribution to the BBC’s impartial coverage of the 2016 EU referendum campaign”. When he became a spin doctor for former Tory PM Theresa May, however, he faced allegations of helping to torpedo May’s efforts at cross-party compromise on Brexit. May later ensured that he got a knighthood.

An apparent fan of Boris Johnson, Gibb has alleged that Corbyn somehow “opened the door to toxic extremism” in Labour. He has also championed the BBC‘s role as a “soft power” player (i.e. using its cultural influence as a persuasive tool).

Gibb’s ease of movement between the Tory party and the BBC was just one more element amid longstanding evidence of a highly concerning revolving door between the institutions.

Continuation of the anti-left media crusade?

An anti-socialist supergroup buying up the JC seems to be a worrying development. It potentially marks an even greater blurring of the line between journalism and right-wing propaganda. And that should concern us all.

Featured image via YouTube – BBCPanorama / Jewish Chronicle / YouTube – Conservatives

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