UK politics: Corbyn criticises Labour's decision to settle antisemitism libel case – as it happened

Last modified: 05: 19 PM GMT+0

Decision to settle Panorama antisemitism libel case turning point for party, says Labour. This live blog is now closed

Afternoon summary

  • Britain is to cut its global aid budget by £2.9bn this year due to the economic hit of the coronavirus crisis, PA Media reports. However, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, insists the UK will still meet its commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on international development. Government sources said that a “line by line” review of aid projects had taken place and what were considered the “40 most vulnerable countries” were prioritised for assistance.

That’s all from me for today.

Our coronavirus coverage continues on our global coronavirus live blog. It’s here.

James Schneider, who used to work for Jeremy Corbyn as a senior communications adviser, told Radio 4’s PM programme that he was “quite sad” and “a bit angry” about Labour’s decision to settle the libel action brought by – as he described them – the “self-styled whistleblowers”. Schneider said Sir Keir Starmer had decided to settle even before he had seen the party’s legal advice. It was a political decision, intended “to draw a line under the Corbyn era”, Schneider said. He went on:

You can understand why he is trying to do that. But what is it he is trying to draw a line under? It is not to understand what it is that really happened, and what role everybody played in it. It is so that it ceases to be such a political line of attack that can be used against the Labour party. It is not to do with truth. It is to do with power.

Schneider said he thought some people in the party would be “appalled” by the decision. But he accepted it would not be reversed.

Asked how he thought Starmer was doing as leader, Schneider said he was concerned that Starmer was concentrating on being “less hated than the Tories rather than [trying] to inspire people around a particular programme”. He said Labour should be doing more to articulate a vision of how the world could be different after the coronavirus pandemic.

James Schneider
James Schneider. Photograph: Sean Smith/The Guardian


Blackburn with Darwen is the local authority area in England recording the largest proportion of new coronavirus cases, PA Media reports.

The figures, for the seven days to 19 July, are based on tests carried out in laboratories (pillar one of the government’s testing programme) and in the wider community (pillar two). The rate is expressed as the number of new cases per 100,000 people. Data for the most recent three days (July 20-22) has been excluded as it is incomplete and likely to be revised.

As PA Media reports, in Blackburn with Darwen the rate has jumped from 48.3 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to 12 July to 79.9 in the seven days to 19 July, with 119 new cases recorded.

Second on the list is Leicester, where the rate has gone down from 110.6 to 71.8, and where 255 new cases have been recorded.

Other areas reporting notable week-on-week jumps include:

  • Oadby and Wigston (up from 35.1 to 68.4, with 39 new cases recorded in the seven days to July 19)
  • Rochdale (up from 33.6 to 47.3, with 104 new cases)
  • Hyndburn (up from 4.9 to 38.4, with 31 new cases)
  • Sandwell (up from 8.6 to 23.2, with 76 new cases)

The list is based on Public Health England figures updated today on the government’s coronavirus online dashboard.


Julian Lewis, the chair of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, in the Commons earlier for a UQ on the ISC’s Russia report.
Julian Lewis, the chair of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, in the Commons earlier for a UQ on the ISC’s Russia report. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Julian Lewis

Savanta ComRes has released a new poll suggesting the Conservatives have a six-point lead over Labour.

The latest Westminster voting intention from our July monthly political tracker:

Con: 43% (+3)
Lab: 37% (+1)
Lib Dem: 6% (-3)
Other: 14% (-1)

17-19 July

(Changes from 12-14 June)

— Savanta ComRes (@SavantaComRes) July 22, 2020

According to Savanta ComRes, on favourability (“to what extent do you feel favourably or unfavourably towards X?”), Boris Johnson has fallen four points over the past month and is on -2. Sir Keir Starmer has risen four points in the last month and is on +5.

But on “who would make the best PM?” (a different question), Johnson retains a lead over Starmer, by 40% to 31%.

The latest edition of the Guardian’s Politics Weekly podcast is out. This week, Jonathan Freedland talks to Kate Proctor on the latest from Westminster. Luke Harding breaks down what we learned from the Russia report. Jennifer Rankin talks just through an acrimonious EU summit. Plus Peter Walker talks to two candidates taking on the incumbents in next month’s leadership election for the Green party of England and Wales.

UK records a further 79 coronavirus deaths

The UK has recorded a further 79 coronavirus deaths, taking the total to 45,501, according to the latest update on the government’s dashboard.

This is a Public Health England figure for the UK as a whole. It gets published on the government’s website. But, confusingly, the Department of Health and Social Care has given up publishing this figure as part of its only daily update, because it no longer views it as reliable.

The PHE figure is suspect because it includes people in England who tested positive for coronavirus and died - even if they died of something else.

But the main problem with the headline total is that it is an underestimate because it does not include people who died from coronavirus without testing positive. When these deaths are included, total UK coronavirus deaths are more than 55,000.


Dame Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP who frequently accused Jeremy Corbyn when he was party leader of not doing enough to combat antisemitism, has criticised the statement he has issued today about the party’s decision to settle the Panorama libel case. (See 2.02pm.) Asked for her reaction to Corbyn describing the move as a political decision not a legal one, she told Sky News:

I’ve seen that statement. I think it’s bizarre, it’s obsessional, and I think a little humility shown by Jeremy Corbyn at this point of time would be most welcome.

Not only did nine out of 10 Jewish people before the last general election fear the advent of Jeremy Corbyn as our prime minister, not only have we got the inquiry by the human rights commission, but we have the most resounding defeat ever in the last general election. The British people spoke. And I think Jeremy’s just got to start listening to that. He’s got to start showing a little humility. The less said by him at the moment, the better, not just for us, the Labour party, but for him too, and for his future and reputation.

(In fact, the 2019 general election, which saw Labour win 202 seats, was not the worst ever for the party. But it was the worst since 1935.)

Dame Margaret Hodge.
Dame Margaret Hodge. Photograph: Sky News

Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, has refused to rule out stopping payments to vulnerable benefit claimants as she was quizzed on how the department is learning from cases of suicide, PA Media reports.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has appointed 10 lead safeguarding officials and will recruit more to be a point of contact across England’s regions and escalate concerns about claimants who may need additional support. They will require a multi-agency case conference involving representatives such as social landlords and adult social services before decisions on stopping benefits are made.

A National Audit Office (NAO) report in February showed that the DWP had investigated 69 instances where people receiving benefits had killed themselves since 2014-15. They included Errol Graham, who starved to death in 2018, months after his disability benefit payments were stopped.

As PA Media reports, the DWP permanent secretary Peter Schofield told the Commons work and pensions committee this morning that if safeguarding concerns are identified relating to a claimant who has stopped engaging, a meeting with other agencies will take place so the department can better understand the context. These could include social landlords, adult social services or third sector charities who may know about and be able to support an individual’s additional needs.

Coffey was asked by the Labour MP Stephen Timms, who chairs the committee, if this meant no benefits would be stopped if a claimant had been identified as vulnerable, but she said decisions would be taken on a case-by-case basis. She replied:

It’s difficult to try and set blanket rules when you’re dealing with individuals.

So I think what Peter’s set out is the approach that’s now being taken by the department, but we can’t say in every situation, every case, this X, Y or Z would definitively happen, it’s got to be tailored to the individual situation.


Labour has declined to reveal the amount of the payout given to antisemitism whistleblowers who contributed to a BBC Panorama investigation. When asked about speculation that the “substantial damages” amounted to as much as £500,000, Sir Keir Starmer’s spokesman told reporters: “I’m not going to get into that, full stop.”

On Radio 4’s World at One Nigel Inkster, a former MI6 director of operations and intelligence, explained why he thought new espionage legislation was needed, including plans for possible foreign agent registration. (See 3.04pm.) He said:

The 1911 Act, and modified in 1989, really leaves the security services and police in a situation where unless they can actually catch somebody red handed taking delivery of papers marked ‘Secret’, it is really difficult to prosecute anybody for espionage.

So if this new register is brought into effect, of course it is not going to stop countries like Russia from sending covert operatives to the United Kingdom to undertake intelligence operations, but it does make it possible, more realistically, to prosecute the people who are supplying them with information - their agents.

Here are today’s daily coronavirus death figures from the four nations of the UK.

NHS England has recorded 10 hospital deaths. The details are here.

There have been no further deaths in Scotland.

Public Health Wales has recorded one further death in Wales.

And in Northern Ireland there have been no further deaths.

The housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, has admitted he regrets sitting next to the Tory donor Richard Desmond at a fundraising dinner before overruling a local authority and the government planning inspectorate to give permission for the billionaire’s £1bn Westferry property development, my colleague Simon Murphy reports.

Benjamin Westerman, one of the former Labour employees who received an apology from the party today for its response to his antisemitism whistleblowing on Panorama, told the World at One that it would take a “long time to repair the damage done” by the accusations made against him. He explained:

It was incredibly difficult. Having gone to work for the Labour party and having always supported the Labour party throughout my life, I never expected to find myself in this position where I was publicly speaking out against the Labour party - that in itself was difficult.

Then of course there has been the fact that I’ve been accused of various things, both in my time with the party and since - having bad motives, having an axe to grind, being a Tory or whatever, which is just deeply hurtful and today is a very momentous step in moving forward from that.

I’m very pleased that our reputations have been restored and that the truth of what we said has been acknowledged by the party - that means a great deal.

But of course it will take a long time to repair the damage done to our character by these unfounded attacks.

Downing Street has confirmed that it is planning to introduce an espionage bill that will “modernise existing offences, deal more effectively with the espionage threat and also look at what new offences and powers are needed”. Speaking at the No 10 lobby briefing, the prime minister’s spokesman said:

It includes the review of the Official Secrets Act and also considering the introduction of a form of foreign agent registration such as that which some of our allies have.

He said the work was complex and would take time to get right “but we are fully committed to taking whatever action is necessary to combat the threat posed by hostile states”.

The spokesman also said that tier 1 investor visas issued before April 2015 were being reviewed. The ISC report said these were being abused. The spokesman said:

That work is ongoing and we have also made some changes to the tier 1 route, in particular to give better protection from illegally obtained funds.

We don’t rule out making further changes as well, we keep all immigration routes under review to ensure that they are working in the national interest.


Here’s footage of Keir Starmer firing questions at Boris Johnson over the Russia report during the final PMQs before summer recess.


Sir Keir Starmer has challenged Nicola Sturgeon to condemn the former SNP leader Alex Salmond for appearing on RT (formally Russia Today). At his post-PMQs briefing, asked whether Starmer would “condemn” Salmond’s appearances on the Kremlin-backed channel, the Labour leader’s spokesman told reporters:

We completely condemn it and we advise the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to do the same. She should make a public statement condemning it.

Corbyn describes Labour's decision to settle Panorama antisemitism libel case as 'disappointing'

Jeremy Corbyn has described Labour’s decision to settle the Panorama antisemitism libel case as “disappointing”. In a statement he said:

Labour party members have a right to accountability and transparency of decisions taken in their name, and an effective commitment from the party to combat antisemitism and racism in all their forms.

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 antisemitism 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.

Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy Corbyn. Photograph: Hollie Adams/PA


People in England to be allowed to visit relatives and friends in care homes, Hancock announces

Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, has announced that the guidance is being changed so that people in England will now be allowed to visit friends and relatives in care homes, where it is deemed safe.

The news release with a summary of the new rules is here. And here is the new guidance in full.


NEWS: Thanks to the hard work to reduce the spread of #coronavirus we are able, carefully & safely, to ease restrictions on visitors to care homes.

— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) July 22, 2020


I know how important this is. My heart goes out to those who haven’t seen loved ones in care homes for months. I hope this step helps people come back together


— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) July 22, 2020

Nicola Sturgeon has warned the Scottish public that further easing of lockdown restrictions are not likely for at least a month as she explained the main focus now is on keeping the virus at a low enough level to enable schools to safely and fully reopen from 11 August.

With the next review of the easing of lockdown is due next Thursday, Scotland’s first minister said the current phase three is likely to last considerably longer than three weeks. She also underlined that the work from home message remained in place for Scots, despite Boris Johnson encouraging a return to the office in England from August.

The weekly Covid-19 death statistics show six deaths in the week ending 19 July - the 12th weekly reduction and the lowest weekly total since the pandemic began.

Asked about procedures at the Sitel call centre, to which 20 coronavirus cases have now been linked, Sturgeon said:

When we have outbreaks like this, it is not certain, but it raises the real prospect that guidelines have not been rigorously followed. That is why we take some much time and effort to underline the importance of sticking to the guidelines.

In a Commons written statement, the Home Office has announced that it will carry out a review of the role of police and crime commissioners. As the policing minister Kit Malthouse says, the review is intended to make sure that PCCs are “strong, visible leaders in the fight against crime and have the legitimacy and tools to hold their police forces to account effectively”. It is not about looking at whether the posts should be abolished.


PMQs - Snap verdict

Sir Keir Starmer has mostly come out best in PMQs exchanges with Boris Johnson and today was one of his more decisive wins. Johnson has yet to find a line of attack that consistently allows him prevail over Starmer in debate. Today he tried three, and they all fell flat.

First, when challenged about the ISC’s report and his policy towards Russia, Johnson tried depicting Starmer as a Corbynite lackey, claiming that Starmer had failed to criticise Jeremy Corbyn’s equivocal response to the Salisbury novichok attack. Starmer’s office could see this one coming, and within a minute or so they had pinged out a WhatsApp message to journalists with a clip showing Starmer was very robust on Salisbury. (See 12.17pm.) But that was not as effective as what Starmer was able to say himself about his experience as DPP, when he brought proceedings against Russia on behalf of the family of poisoning victim Alexander Litvinenko. It may be true that Starmer never criticised Corbyn in public in the way that, say, Ian Austin did, but anyone with even a cursory understanding of British politics knows that Starmer was never a Corbynite, and that the party is now very clearly under “new management” (to use Starmer’s phrase). The “Starmer as closet Corbynite” attack line is a non-starter.

They must know this in No 10 but - in what is essentially a Vote Leave administration where people are still judged through the prism of Brexit - Johnson’s team may have thought his second line of attack, “Islington remainer”, would work. This is how Johnson put it, as Starmer continued to press him over the ISC report.

This is about pressure from the Islingtonian remainers who have seized on this report to try to give the impression that Russian interference was somehow responsible for Brexit.

That’s what this is all about. The people of this country didn’t vote to leave the EU because of pressure from Russia or Russian interference, they voted because they wanted to take back control of our money, our trade policy and our laws.

As if, some of us might say. To be effective, an attack line does not need to be wholly true. But it does need to be at least partially true, and the problem with this line of attack is that Starmer is no longer in any real sense speaking as a remainer. He has accepted that the UK is leaving the EU, strenuously avoided any ‘I told you so’ lectures about the harm Brexit will cause, generally ignored the topic wherever possible, and would not even call for the Brexit transition to be extended. There was no one senior in Labour yesterday trying to use the ISC report to relitigate the 2016 referendum, despite the PM claiming otherwise. Johnson triumphed at the 2019 election by campaigning against Corbyn and remainers, but those aren’t the issues that define politics anymore. Starmer gets that; Johnson doesn’t.

That leaves the third line of attack - the charge that Starmer is insincere, and that he changes his mind. In the past Johnson has used the lawyer version of his jibe (that Starmer is a barrister, just arguing to a brief), but today he deployed the demotic version (“more flip-flops than Bournemouth beach”). This is a charge levelled at one point or another at almost everyone in politics, and because politicians do equivocate and change policy, sometimes it has some purchase. But Starmer is more consistent in his politics than most people operating at his level, and it is hard to imagine anyone less qualified to level this criticism than Johnson, who governed London when he was mayor as a liberal, mainstream remain Tory before metamorphosing into a Brexiter populist. Starmer has faced this line before, but his put-down today - referencing the two alternative columns that Johnson wrote for and against Brexit - was his most effective yet.

So Starmer can head off for the summer recess with some grounds for optimism. But, despite all that has gone wrong with the government’s response to coronavirus, the Conservatives retain a comfortable lead over Labour in the polls and Johnson’s own ratings, although much lower than they were in the spring, have only fallen to roughly where they were at the time of the election. Winning at PMQs, although useful, won’t on its own secure the next election for Starmer. He needs to remember the famous story about Adlai Stevenson when he was campaigning for the American presidency in 1952. “Every thinking person will be supporting you,” a supporter told him. She expected him to be gratified, but he wasn’t. “Madam, that’s not enough,” he replied. “I need a majority.”

That may sum up where Labour stands today. The election, of course, is a long way off.


Layla Moran (LD) says she is chairing a group to look at the lessons learnt from Covid. Will the government take its recommendations seriously.

Johnson says he will be happy to look at them.

And that’s it. PMQs is over.

Snap verdict coming up soon.

Johnson says the government will be spending more on coastal towns, including Truro.

Kirsten Oswald (SNP) says there will be a “jobs bloodbath” after the recess. What will the PM do about it?

Johnson sums up the measures announced by the government already. But of course it will do more as the economic situation unfolds. It cannot protect every job. But no one will be left without hope, he says.

Rachel Hopkins (Lab) asks if the government will introduce targeted support for people if Luton has to go into lockdown.

Johnson says if local communities do need to go back into lockdown, “we will take steps to support them”.

(But he did not seem to be backing higher sick pay for individuals, which is what Hopkins was referring it. He seemed to be talking in more general terms.)


Nusrat Ghani (Con) recommends some holiday reading for the PM, including Matt Ridley’s How Innovation Works. And he should read Winnie the Pooh to his baby Wilfred, she says.

Johnson says this is wonderful advice. He says Labour should abandon the spirit of Eeyore.

Clive Betts (Lab) says the communities committee that he chairs has published a report showing very low standards in housing allowed under permitted developments. Will the PM change the rules so that higher standards apply?

Johnson says as mayor of London he enforced higher space standards. He wants to build back better, he says.

Caroline Nokes (Con) says Johnson knows how Covid has an unequal impact, including on the overweight. What will he do to enable people to take control of their wellbeing.

Johnson jokes about the “tact” with which Nokes raised that. We are fatter than most other nations, apart from the Maltese, he says. He says he will bring forward a strategy to address this.


Gavin Robinson (DUP) asks about the campaign to extend maternity leave to make allowance for lockdown.

Johnson says he knows how difficult a problem this is for many people. He will look at this, he says.

Maria Miller (Con) says in his first year in office Johnson has started levelling up. Will this continue to be a priority?

Yes, says Johnson. He is rolling out a colossal programme of investment in infrastructure, and in services.

Ben Lake (Plaid Cymru) asks if the PM will extend VAT zero-rating to face coverings.

Johnson says VAT has been removed from PPE. Home-made face masks that meet the relevant guidance will also be covered by the zero rate, he says.

Rob Butler (Con) asks Johnson if he supports more money for all schools.

Johnson says school funding is being levelled up. That was a manifesto promise, he says.

Paul Bristow (Con) says pupils should be back at school in September.

Johnson agrees. He says Labour should gets its friends in the unions to back that.

Johnson says we are seeing the “rage and fury of the remainer elite” who are disappointed that the ISC’s Russia report does not prove Russian intervention in the referendum.

Labour has alerted journalists to this clip of Keir Starmer condemning the Salisbury novichok attack, to counter the claim made by Boris Johnson earlier.

.@Keir_Starmer says the attack in Salisbury should be "condemned by all of us without reservation" and backs the actions taken by the Prime Minister #bbcqt

— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) March 15, 2018

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, asks Johnson to abandon the full-frontal assault on devolution.

Johnson says he thinks Blackford is referring to the single market plans for the UK. Those plans are designed to stop barriers to trade. Anyone sensible would support it, he says.

Blackford asks how the PM can claim the UK is a union of equal partners when damaging policies are being imposed on Scotland.

Johnson says the single market bill will transfer 70 powers to Scotland. He says he finds it hard to see why the SNP want to hand those powers back to Brussels.

Starmer says the PM has preprepared gags on flip-flops. He is the columnist who wrote two columns on Brexit. Labour is under new management, he says. He says no frontbencher has appeared on Russia Today since he has been leader.

Turning to the Uighur Muslims in China, he asks if the PM will lead a concerted attempt to protect them.

Johnson says the government has announced Magnitsky-type sanctions.

He accuses Starmer of supporting Corbyn. He is getting on with the people’s priorities, he says, like 40 new hospitals (a contested claim, of course). And he says the Tories are also the party of the workers.


Starmer says the high court has ruled that Russia Today broadcasts cause harm. Does the PM agree that its licence should be reviewed?

Johnson says this would be more credible if Starmer had protested about Jeremy Corbyn appearing on it. He accuses Starmer of flip-flopping. He says one day Starmer opposes Brexit, the next he supports it. He says Starmer has more flip-flops than Bournemouth beach.


Starmer says the PM is using pre-prepared lines. The PM sat on this report, and failed to plug a gap in national security for a year and a half.

He says the report says there is a serious gap in our defences. What will the government do about it?

Johnson says there is no other country in the world with such a robust response towards Russia. This is about Labour trying to undermine the referendum result, he claims.

Starmer says Johnson was wrong to say he said nothing at the time of the Salisbury attack. He asks the PM to withdraw that.

He asks why the government has not done more to tackle Russia.

Johnson says that charge is absurd. And he repeats the claim about Starmer sitting on his hands during the Corbyn leadership.

Starmer says as DPP he pushed the Alexander Litvinenko prosecution. And he worked on live investigations into Russia.

Johnson says this is about Islington remainers wanting to overturn the result of the Brexit referendum.

Sir Keir Starmer starts by praising the progress in the vaccine trials.

He says national security will always be a priority for Labour under his leadership.

Summing up the ISC’s Russia report, he asks why the PM sat on it for 10 months.

Johnson claims he took the strongest possible action when he was foriegn secretary. He orchestrated the expulsion of Russian diplomats around the world. But Starmer said nothing when Labour under Jeremy Corbyn took a softer view, Johnson suggests.

Boris Johnson starts by saying the government is committed to spending £34m on broadband in Lincolnshire.


PMQs is starting soon.

Here is the list (pdf) of MPs down to ask a question.

Labour's decision to settle Panorama antisemitism libel case 'misuse of party funds', says McCluskey

Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary and Jeremy Corbyn’s most powerful ally in the union movement, has described Labour’s decision to settle the Panorama antisemitism libel case as a misuse of party funds.

McCluskey says Labour had been advised it would win the libel case. But this, in part, misses the point; under Sir Keir Starmer the party is settling not so much because it thought it would lose, but because in broad terms Starmer sympathises with the points raised by the whistleblowers and the Panorama documentary in the first place.

Today’s settlement is a misuse of Labour Party funds to settle a case it was advised we would win in court. The leaked report on how anti-semitism was handled tells a very different story about what happened.

— Len McCluskey (@LenMcCluskey) July 22, 2020

In a Commons written statement Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, has announced that the UK and the US have agreed to change the diplomatic immunity rules for American staff based at RAF Croughton, which is where Anne Sacoolas was when she was involved in the road accident that killed Harry Dunn. Sacoolas, the wife of a CIA agent, returned to the US, claiming diplomatic immunity.

Raab said:

The US waiver of immunity from criminal jurisdiction is now expressly extended to the family members of US staff at the Croughton Annex, thus ending the anomaly in the previous arrangements and permitting the criminal prosecution of the family members of those staff, should these tragic circumstances ever arise again.

The rule change does not seem likely to affect the Sacoolas case, which Boris Johnson discussed with the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, during their talks at No 10 yesterday. But Raab claims in his statement that the new arrangements might prevent a similar problem arising in the future.


Here is the statement from the Jewish Labour Movement welcoming the decision by the party to settle the Panorama antisemitism libel case.

Read the Jewish Labour Movement statement on the decision by the Labour Party to withdraw and apologise to the Panorama whistleblowers

— Jewish Labour Movement (@JewishLabour) July 22, 2020

EHRC report into antisemitism in Labour 'unlikely to be published until September'

On the subject of Labour’s Forde inquiry (see 11.07am), the inquiry has now announced that it is extending its deadline for submissions under its call for evidence. The deadline was this Friday, but it has now been extended to Friday 7 August.

In a letter to the party (pdf), published on the inquiry’s website, Martin Forde QC, the inquiry’s chairman, explains that although he was originally asked to wrap up his work by mid-July, now he does not expect to be able to produce a report and recommendations until the end of the year.

Forde says one reason for this is that the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report into antisemitism in Labour, which was sent to the party in draft form earlier this month, is now unlikely to be published until September.

Forde also says he has already received more than 250 submissions to his own inquiry.

This is from Steve Howell, who was deputy to Seumas Milne, Jeremy Corbyn’s director of strategy and communications, in the period up to the 2017 general election.

Keir Starmer just threw the Labour party into an even deeper mess. By issuing an apology to former staff who appeared in the #Panorama programme, he is pre-judging the Forde inquiry into the serious issues revealed in the #leakedreport in which at least one of them is implicated.

— Steve Howell (@FromSteveHowell) July 22, 2020

The Forde inquiry is the inquiry set up by Sir Keir Starmer to investigate the leaking of a long, internal report that covered the way the party handled antisemitism complaints when Jeremy Corbyn was leader and that revealed the extent of factionalism within the party and the hostility of some staffers towards the Corbynites.

This is from the Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, a fierce critic of the way the party dealt with antisemitism allegations under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Good! This is a big step in the right direction and shows just how far the Labour Party has come since last year.

— Margaret Hodge (@margarethodge) July 22, 2020

Decision to settle Panorama antisemitism libel case turning point for Labour, says Falconer

Lord Falconer, the shadow attorney general, said today’s decision by Labour to settle the Panorama libel case marked the end of “a chapter when the Labour party was accusing whistleblowers of behaving dishonestly”. Speaking outside the court, he said:

It is a clear line under a dispute between the Labour party and people who had been whistleblowers about antisemitism.

The Labour party made absolutely clear in its statement in open court that it withdrew completely any allegation of dishonesty or bad behaviour against the whistleblowers and the journalist involved.

It is for the [Equality and Human Rights] Commission to make its findings public when it chooses ... but we have brought to an end a chapter when the Labour party was accusing whistleblowers of behaving dishonestly and I’m incredibly glad that we have brought it to an end.

We can focus now not on litigation, which is a disastrous thing for a party to be focusing on.

Instead, it should be focusing on championing the things that matter to the public, so it’s a good day.


Text of Labour's apology to former staffers and to BBC journalist over Panorama rebuttal

The Labour party has now released the text of the apologies it has issued to the seven former members of staff and to the BBC journalist John Ware who were suing it for libel over its response to the Panorama programme about antisemitism in the party. (See 10.16am.)

Here is the apology to Kat Buckingham, Michael Creighton, Samuel Matthews, Dan Hogan, Louise Withers Green, Benjamin Westerman and Martha Robinson.

The Labour party has today issued an unreserved apology to the former members of staff who contributed to a BBC Panorama programme about antisemitism within the Labour party in July 2019.

Before the broadcast of the programme, the Labour party issued a press release that contained defamatory and false allegations about these whistleblowers.

We acknowledge the many years of dedicated and committed service that the whistleblowers have given to the Labour party as members and as staff. We appreciate their valuable contribution at all levels of the party.

We unreservedly withdraw all allegations of bad faith, malice and lying. We would like to apologise unreservedly for the distress, embarrassment and hurt caused by their publication. We have agreed to pay them damages.

Under the leadership of Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner, we are committed to tackling antisemitism within the Labour party. Antisemitism has been a stain on the Labour party in recent years. It has caused unacceptable and unimaginable levels of grief and distress for many in the Jewish community, as well as members of staff.

If we are to restore the trust of the Jewish community, we must demonstrate a change of leadership. That means being open, transparent and respecting the right of whistleblowers. We are determined to deliver that change.

And here is the start of the apology to John Ware.

The Labour party has today issued an unreserved apology to John Ware, who investigated and presented the July 2019 BBC Panorama programme about antisemitism within the Labour party.

Before the broadcast of the programme the Labour party issued a press release that contained defamatory and false allegations about John Ware. We would like to take this opportunity to withdraw these allegations. We would like to apologise unreservedly for the distress, embarrassment and hurt caused by their publication.

As we acknowledge in the statement in open court, John Ware is a very experienced broadcast and print journalist, producer and author, and we have agreed to pay damages to him.

The rest of the apology to Ware largely repeats the final two paragraphs of the first apology.


The Labour party has apologised “unreservedly” and paid out a six-figure sum to seven former employees and a veteran BBC journalist, admitting it defamed them in the aftermath of a Panorama investigation into its handling of antisemitism, my colleagues Lisa O’Carroll and Jessica Elgot report.

Police should only be used to enforce law on face masks in shops as 'last resort', says Met commissioner

In an interview with LBC this morning Cressida Dick, commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said that using the police to enforce the law requiring people to wear face coverings in shops - which comes into force in England on Friday - should be “a last resort”.

The police and crime commissioners for Devon and Cornwall and for Thames Valley have said officers will not attend incidents where shoppers refuse to wear masks, unless they turn violent.

Cressida told LBC that in London, said if shop keepers are concerned and “have tried everything else”, her officers will try to assist. But she went on:

Calling the police should be a last resort for dealing with a mask issue. But of course the law is the law ...

My hope is that the vast majority of people will comply, and that people who are not complying will be shamed into complying or shamed to leave the store by the store keepers or by other members of the public.

If somebody is concerned about what is going on in their store, yes, of course they should call the police and we will try to assist.

She said that supermarkets have managed to maintain social distancing and queuing themselves, only rarely needing to call the police.

During the beginning of lockdown the larger stores that were opening, the supermarkets and things were open, some of them brought in security guards, but they have been able to maintain the social distancing and the sensible queuing.

We patrol around and speak to shops, but they’ve only called us rarely to assist, and that is what I hope would happen on this occasion.

Cressida Dick.
Cressida Dick. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

According to a report on homeschooling during the lockdown from the Office for National Statistics out this morning, more than half (52%) of parents with a school-aged child said they were struggling to continue with their education from home.

But lack of motivation was cited as the main reason for this (cited by 77% of parents), not lack of support, or lack of a laptop.

Reasons given by parents who said their child was struggling with home education during lockdown
Reasons given by parents who said their child was struggling with home education during lockdown. Photograph: ONS


“Something has clearly gone badly wrong” at the call centre in Motherwell where there was a coronavirus outbreak over the weekend, but a local lockdown would not make any difference to infection spread, according to Scotland’s deputy first minister, John Swinney.

A total of 19 cases have been linked to the Sitel site in North Lanarkshire, which was doing work for NHS England’s test and trace system. Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland that all 360 staff at the call centre had now been tested and that so far 14 staff and five others had returned positive results. But he added that a local lockdown was not being considered because of the call centre’s position in the centre of Scotland, adjacent to the motorway, with staff and others coming from all across the country.

He said steps had been taken to “meticulously follow” every contact to try and break the chain of transmission.

Swinney added that pubs, coffee shops and shops have been alerted after Sitel staff gave their tracing details. “That is the most effective strategy that we can put in place to avoid having to go to any wider lockdown situation,” he said.

After concerns were raised about a lack of physical distancing in the call centre, he said: “There is a very serious situation at this facility, where something has clearly gone badly wrong in the working arrangements resulting in such an outbreak.”


Agenda for the day

Good morning. I’m Andrew Sparrow, taking over from Caroline Davies.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: The ONS is due to publish some research on coronavirus and schooling.

9.30am: Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, gives evidence to the Commons communities committee about his decision to approve a planning application from Tory donor Richard Desmond against official advice.

9.30am: Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, gives evidence to the Commons transport committee.

9.30am: Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, gives evidence to the Commons work and pensions committee about suicides amongst claimants.

10am: Labour is expected to issue an apology in court to former members of staff who sued the party for libel over what it said about them when they complained to Panorama about its handling of antisemitism when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.

10.30am: Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, gives evidence to the Lords constitution committee.

12pm: Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at the last PMQs before the summer recess (starting tonight).

12.30pm: James Brokenshire, the security minister, is expected to respond to a Commons urgent question about the ISC’s Russia report.

1.30pm: Downing Street lobby briefing.

3.30pm: Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, gives evidence to the Commons science committee about 5G.

That’s all from me Caroline Davies I am handing over to my colleague Andrew Sparrow now. Thank you for your time.

More than 140 teams of researchers are racing to develop a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine. Here’s the latest from the Guardian’s vaccine tracker

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced an independent review into the long-term funding of the capital’s transport network after the Covid-19 shutdown almost crippled the service.

It follows the government-imposed inquiry whose terms and panel were announced on Monday.

The review is the latest move in a bitter row between City Hall and Downing Street over the £1.6bn bailout begrudgingly granted to the capital after TfL fare income collapsed with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the public were warned to stay away from the tube and other public transport, the Guardian’s Gwyn Topham reports.

Khan said that the independent expert panel would conduct a review looking at the longer-term running of London transport, in parallel with the government inquiry.

Khan said:

Despite the huge strides made in reducing TfL’s operating deficit over the past few years, it is clearer than ever that the current funding structure is not fit for purpose.

It is vital that we find a new solution to support not only London but the wider economy, so I am really pleased that an independent panel of experts will review TfL’s long term funding and financing options.

You can read Gwyn Topham’s full report here.

Sadiq Khan.
Sadiq Khan. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA


More on the fallout from the “Russia report”. It is understood Boris Johnson will strengthen counter-espionage laws in the wake of the report by the Commons intelligence and security committee (ISC). It has been suggested the UK could introduce a “register of foreign agents” like those in place in the US and Australia as part of a stronger move against foreign interference in internal affairs. You can read more here

The introduction of the Covid-19 lockdown in the UK was not “delayed”, the transport secretary has said.

On Tuesday, Wellcome Trust director and Sage member Prof Sir Jeremy Farrar criticised the timing of the coronavirus lockdown, saying it should have come earlier.

But speaking on Sky News, Grant Shapps said the government had “followed the advice very clearly” from experts during Cobra meetings early on in the pandemic. He added:

If the accusation is somehow it was delayed that’s not the case. I was in those meetings and we moved as soon as the information was being presented to us ...

The progressive lockdown started as soon as that information was clear.


Further to the previous post, here is Kirsty Williams, Wales’s education minister, writing in the Guardian on why she has announced the £50m funding for universities and colleges.


Universities and colleges in Wales will receive a £50m support package to help them cope with the impact of the coronavirus crisis. The Welsh government has announced £27m will go to higher education institutions, while £23m will be used to support students in further education colleges and sixth forms.

The education minister, Kirsty Williams, said the institutions were “stewards of place” and would help Wales recover from the pandemic, PA Media reports. She said: “This funding will provide a vital support to our institutions in their preparations for the autumn. “Each one will be important in our recovery as they work with schools, business, international partners and public services.”

The announcement comes after the country’s health minister said the NHS in Wales faces a “truly extraordinary” autumn and winter with the combined challenges of a possible second wave of coronavirus, rising waiting lists and the annual flu season.
Meanwhile, health officials said there have been no further reported deaths of people who tested positive for coronavirus in Wales. The total number of deaths remains at 1,547.

The total number of cases in the country increased by 22, bringing the revised total of confirmed cases to 16,965, Public Health Wales said.


Study shows women and young people hardest hit psychologically

A study has suggested women and young people have been hardest hit psychologically by the Covid-19 lockdown, as MPs were told the world will be living with Covid-19 for “decades to come”.

The new study found 27% of people in the UK were experiencing clinically significant levels of psychological distress in April, compared with 19% before the pandemic, PA Media reports. A General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) assessing the severity of a mental health problem over the previous few weeks also showed increasing distress across the population in April.

The 12 questions included how often people experienced symptoms such as difficulties sleeping or concentrating, problems with decision-making or feeling overwhelmed. Increases were bigger in some groups compared to others - with a 33% rise among women, 32% among parents with children under five and 37% among young people aged 18 to 24, the study published in the Lancet Psychiatry found.

Sally McManus, joint senior author of the study from City University, said:

The pandemic has brought people’s differing life circumstances into stark contrast. We found that, overall, pre-existing inequalities in mental health for women and young people have widened. At the same time, new inequalities have emerged, such as for those living with pre-school children.

Data from the Office of National Statistics on homeschooling during the Covid-19 pandemic is due to be released today


Here are some of the front pages from today’s papers.

GUARDIAN: Report dans number 10 and spy agencies over Russia #TomorrowsPapersToday

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) July 21, 2020

THE TIMES: MI5 to get more powers #TomorrowsPapersToday

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) July 21, 2020

MAIL: Now tame the Russian bear #TomorrowsPapersToday

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) July 21, 2020

TELEGRAPH: ⁦@SecPompeo⁩ claims China ‘bought’ WHO chief #TomorrowsPapersToday

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) July 21, 2020

Good morning. This is Caroline Davies and I will be running the UK live blog this morning.

Here are some of the main stories so far.

The British government and intelligence agencies failed to conduct any proper assessment of the threat of interference posed by Russia in the 2016 Brexit referendum. There will be more developments on this today following the damning report by MPs.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has launched an extraordinary attack on the World Health Organization accusing it of being responsible for the death of Britons during the coronavirus pandemic.

The US president, Donald Trump, has said that he has met British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who faces charges over the Jeffrey Epstein case, numerous times over the years, and that “I just wish her well, frankly”.

Trump has also urged people to wear face masks has he admitted that the pandemic is likely to “get worse before it gets better”.

The UK government is aiming to secure stocks of up to 12 vaccines for coronavirus that are being developed around the world. The chair of the government’s vaccines task force, Kate Bingham, said the strategy was to have an entire portfolio rather than one star player.

You can get in touch with me via email on



Andrew Sparrow and Caroline Davies (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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