Jeremy Corbyn and Shami Chakrabarti have been accused of being involved in a “massive stitch-up” over her rapid elevation to the Labour front bench following her anti-semitism report for the Labour Party.
Speaking in a parliamentary debate on anti-semitism yesterday, Lord Mitchell, who quit the Labour Party last month as a result of Corbyn’s re-election, voiced his suspicions about the sequence of events which took Chakrabarti from not even being a Labour member to becoming a Labour peer and joining the shadow cabinet in the space of a few months.
In an unusual step, Mitchell criticised his fellow peer, saying she had produced an “anaemic” report into Labour’s anti-semitism problem.
He said: “[Chakrabarti’s] description of the anti-Semitism that even she said existed within Labour was that it was an unhappy incident. It is more than an unhappy incident to me; it goes to the very core of my political being. The press has had a field day with the report and made legitimate points on the sequence of events. The noble Baroness joined the Labour Party one day, she commenced writing the report shortly afterwards, she received no payment for two months’ work, she received a peerage, she became the shadow Attorney-General and she sits in the shadow Cabinet. You can call it whatever you like, but to me it feels like a massive stitch-up.”
Mitchell’s comments come as new allegations about Chakrabarti’s peerage were put to Heat Street.
It has been claimed that Corbyn asked the Labour Party for money to pay Chakrabarti to conduct her inquiry.
His request was turned down but sources have said that, having been denied, the Labour leader later told the party the money would not be necessary after all because Chakrabarti was going to become a Labour peer.
According to the sources, these conversations apparently took place before it was announced on April 29 that Chakrabarti was to chair her two-month inquiry. She is known to have joined the Labour Party that day.
If true, it places Corbyn at the centre of what one Labour source said was an “honours for favours” clash not unlike the “cash for honours” scandal that dogged Tony Blair.
Chakrabarti’s report, published on June 30, has been widely dismissed as a “whitewash”.
On Monday the Daily Telegraph reported that Corbyn discussed with his team offering Chakrabarti a peerage in March – at least a month before it was announced she would begin the antisemitism report and up to four months before her peerage was officially offered to her on July 13.
And on Tuesday Heat Street revealed that Chakrabarti was not paid to chair her inquiry – despite being unemployed during the two months it took her to conduct it.
Previously she was the £80,000 director of charity Liberty. She also charges £2,500 to £5,000 for after-dinner speeches.
One source said: “Corbyn went to the party machine asking for cash to pay Chakrabarti for her antisemitism inquiry. Because there was an existing antisemitism inquiry at the time being chaired by Baroness Royall, and because the party was short of cash, Corbyn was told to get lost. Shortly afterwards he then went back to the party machine and said ‘Don’t worry, we don’t have to pay her after all because she is going to become a peer.’ Only a small number of people knew about this. It bears a close resemblance to Blair’s cash for honours scandal.”
The source added that there is deep unease in the Labour Party about Chakrabarti’s peerage.
Because of Corbyn’s lifelong opposition to the House of Lords it is considered odd that he was happy to send her there.
She was subsequently appointed shadow attorney general – despite not having a seat in the House of Commons and therefore being unable to shadow the attorney general, Jeremy Wright.
Chakrabarti has denied the Telegraph’s suggestion that she knew Corbyn was considering offering her a peerage in March. She claims she first knew of it on July 13 when it was officially offered to her.
Despite attempts by Heat Street asking Chakrabarti to comment on whether she knew anything about Corbyn seeking Labour funds to pay her, or the suggestion that she knew she was going to become a Labour peer before she bgean her anti-Semitism inquiry, she did not respond to questions.
When asked if Corbyn had asked for money to pay Chakrabarti before April 29 and had then offered her a peerage instead, a Labour spokesman said: “That version of events is untrue. Funding for the inquiry was never an issue. As a supporter and member of the Labour Party, Shami Chakrabarti wanted to strengthen the party’s policies and procedures relating to how it deals with antisemitism and other forms of racism.”