Jennie Formby hasn’t had a great week.
Last weekend she was one of the cheerleaders for Howard Beckett’s attempt to win endorsement as the far left’s official candidate for the leadership of Unite. Beckett lost by three votes in hotly disputed circumstances and one of the missing votes was Formby’s – some sort of mixup over addresses apparently.
But things got worse when it was revealed that one of her former staff at the Labour Party – Camden councillor Thomas Gardiner – had written an email to her complaining bitterly that the dossier on antisemitism ‘leaked’ to the media shortly after Keir Starmer became leader was more than a little dodgy. He warned Labour Party bosses it was quite possibly compiled unlawfully and in any case took its material out of context in an effort to build a case.
Now, Gardiner is no hero and his email has all the signs of someone desperately trying to cover their back as the ceiling falls in, but it’s also clear his allegations carry weight precisely because he was so central to the Corbyn-Formby regime.
Formby had to hit back – and she duly did. But her rebuttal appears to have bigger holes in it than a wreath laid on a terrorist’s grave.
She told the Guardian: “As General Secretary I authorised the searches [of WhatsApp groups] that were legitimately carried out. The information used in the [‘leaked’] internal report … came to lights when searches were undertaken in response to EHRC requests.”
But the ‘leaked’ report itself states, “The contents of these WhatsApp chats were made available to the Labour Party by one of the group’s members. They run to over 400,000 words.”
So was there a search, or was the Labour Party simply handed data by someone (which it might have no right to hold at all)?
To add to the confusion, Formby tweeted that “there was no search of any individual’s Whatsapp account”.
It’s not clear how these statements can be all correct. Did the information come to light as the result of a search ordered by the EHRC? Or was it handed over by a staffer? If there was no search of individual WhatsApp accounts then it must be the latter. Either way, Formby’s clarification requires further clarification.