Disaffected former official with an axe to grind
Sam Matthews is the Labour Party's former Head of Disputes, Governance and Legal Unit (2016 to 2018).
"Signed off sick"
According to the BBC's Panorama programme “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” broadcast on 10 July 2019, Sam Matthews was "signed off sick" two months after Jennie Formby became Labour's General Secretary, and considered committing suicide by jumping from Jennie Formby's office balcony.
In the Panorama programme, Matthews said that the suggestion by LOTO's Seumas Milne of a “review” into how antisemitism cases were being handled was “the leader’s office requesting to be involved directly in the disciplinary process”.
- “This is not a helpful suggestion, it is an instruction.”
In a statement the Labour Party accused Panorama of "deliberate and malicious representations designed to mislead the public" and accused some of the ex-staff members who spoke to the programme of being "disaffected former officials" who have "always opposed Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, worked to actively undermine it and have both personal and political axes to grind."
The Panorama programme also aired allegations by Sam Matthews regarding numerous complaints about anti-Semitic members that he said were not acted on quickly enough.
However, the Morning Star reported that Matthews' job was terminated just months after Corbyn ally Jennie Formby succeeded Iain McNicol as Labour’s General Secretary in Spring 2018, when Ms Formby reorganised the disputes unit to make it more efficient. It led to Matthews leaving his post in July 2018, when he signed a legally binding non-disclosure agreement with the party. He is now accused by Labour’s lawyers of breaching that deal and leaking private “email exchanges” he had with colleagues.
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has criticised his own party for taking legal action but Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner said it was important to stop former staff from leaking information in a “partisan way for political purposes.”
The emails leaked by Sam Matthews were quoted selectively by right-wing media outlets to accuse Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters of interfering with the party’s complaints process.
Other leaked emails from the unit appear to show that it was Matthews himself who failed to handle complaints of anti-semitism. Matthews was sent evidence, a year before he left his post, of a Labour council candidate posting anti-semitic material and issued a “notice of investigation” but did not suspend the member. Matthews received more evidence months later indicating that the same member had posted an article on Facebook claiming that the Holocaust was a hoax. Matthews once again decided against a suspension.
It was only on 22 March 2018, just days after Jennie Formby was elected as General Secretary, that Sam Matthews and his unit agreed to the member’s suspension. He finally acted after concerns were raised by Laura Murray, a Corbyn aide, who wrote exasperatedly:
- “Should he not be suspended pending investigation?”
Matthews sues for defamation
On 13 July 2019, The Observer reported that Sam Matthews had instructed the prominent media lawyer Mark Lewis to act on his behalf because he believed the party had defamed him in its response to his claims. Lewis, who works for Patron Law, said:
- “It is incredible that after the programme Labour wilfully attacked the whistleblowers, falsely accusing them of making deliberate, malicious representations, and misleading the public, while also calling them disaffected former officials whose credibility as sources was in doubt. These are very serious libels. Those representing the Labour Party have acted in a way that set out to destroy the reputations of the whistleblowers. In their effort to destroy these people they have left it for the courts to decide who is telling the truth. It is ironic that the bosses at the workers’ party have decided to go against the workers.”
Sam Matthews, who claimed he was left feeling suicidal because of the pressures placed on him, said:
- “The Labour Party is choosing to ignore the central charges of antisemitism raised by myself and other whistleblowers on Panorama, and instead, they have engaged in a concerted campaign to damage my name. I have instructed Mark Lewis to ensure that the defamation and intimidation of whistleblowers is not allowed to continue.”
Trial by email
- Dear Sam Matthews,
- Governance & Legal Unit, Labour Party
- Thank you for today's email saying that I'm expelled from the Labour Party because you reckon I've been actively promoting George Galloway, through multiple posts on Facebook and Twitter, who is standing against an official Labour Party candidate, and which is incompatible with membership of the Labour Party.
- My posts on Twitter and Facebook up to 21 March 2017 were simply reporting the fact that George Galloway was planning to stand against the NEC-imposed all-Asian shortlist at Manchester Gorton. It was not until 22 March 2017 that Afzal Khan MEP was selected as the official Labour candidate.
- Incidentally, could you please explain why Keith Vaz MP is still on Labour's National Executive Committee and is still a Labour MP after all that disgusting activity with rentboys?
- My Facebook posts and Tweets on 26 March 2017 "The Good (George Galloway), The Bad (Jess Phillips MP) and The Ugly (Tom Watson MP)" were a carefully constructed critique and straightforward observation, and should not be construed as any sort of criticism of the official Labour candidate Afzal Khan.
- I now await Iain McNicol's abject apology for this latest slur on my character, and for his completely unjustified suspension of my Labour Party membership two months ago.
- Yours comradely (but getting a bit annoyed),
On 13 April 2017, Sam Matthews autoexpelled Patrick Haseldine:
- From : email@example.com
- Date : 13/04/2017 - 08:58 (GMTDT)
- To : firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cc : email@example.com
- Subject : RE: Information regarding your Labour Party membership status
- Dear Mr Haseldine,
- Thank you for your email confirming that Facebook account referenced on pages 2-10 of our letter of the 10th of April is yours, thereby confirming the validity of the evidence used.
- As our letter stated, you actively promoted campaign posts from George Galloway on a number of public social media forums. This is demonstrable support for a candidate standing against an official Labour candidate. In doing so, you made yourself ineligible for membership of the Labour Party in line with the rules set out in chapter 2.I.4.
- The earliest time that the Labour Party will consider your application for membership is the 10th April 2022. We will not be responding further on this matter.
- Sam Matthews
- Head of Disputes
- Governance and Legal Unit
- The Labour Party
- Southside, 105 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6QT
Patrick Haseldine commented:
|Document:Labour ‘gagging orders’ put in place by McNicol – and gave hundreds of £1000s to allies||Article||16 July 2019||Shadow Cabinet learns ‘non-disclosure agreements’ on disaffected ex-staff appearing on Panorama and talking to media were authorised by former General Secretary Iain McNicol – and enriched staff (considered to be his anti-Corbyn allies) by hundreds of thousands of pounds|
- "Is Labour Anti-Semitic? - BBC Panorama"
- "Jeremy Corbyn's team repeatedly intervened in antisemitism cases, claim Labour whistleblowers in new documentary"
- "Labour bid to stop broadcast of damning BBC documentary on anti-Semitism"
- "Labour takes action against rogue staffer smearing Corbyn ahead of Panorama ‘expose’"
- "'Jeremy Corbyn has done more to inflame antisemitism than any political figure since Second World War'"
- "Whistleblowers to sue Labour as antisemitism row deepens"
- "BANNED BY McNICOL UNTIL 10 APRIL 2022"
- "Manchester Gorton by-election cancelled because of general election"