Corbyn faces being questioned in court as he is SUED over ‘no sense of English irony’ comments that sparked anti-semitism row
- Corbyn faces libel action from Jewish blogger he claimed lacked ‘English irony’
- The papers were filed at the High Court today after months of delays
- Hearing is expected to take place within eight to 12 months
- A Labour spokesman called the claim ‘absurd’
Jeremy Corbyn is being sued for defamation and faces being questioned about his row with a Jewish blogger he claimed lacked ‘English irony’
Jeremy Corbyn faces being hauled into the witness box to answer questions in court about his row with a Jewish blogger he claimed lacked ‘English irony’.
Richard Millett, 50, launched libel action after Mr Corbyn made comments about him on television that he viewed as defamatory, MailOnline revealed last year.
On the programme, the Labour leader painted a picture of Mr Millett as ‘incredibly disruptive’, claiming that the police wanted to throw him out of a pro-Palestine event in Parliament until Mr Corbyn said he could stay.
Mr Millett, whose father fought for Britain in WWII, says that the allegations were entirely untrue and have caused lasting damage to his reputation. He is suing Corbyn for £100,000.
The papers were filed at the High Court today after months of delays as Mr Corbyn’s legal team repeatedly stalled for political reasons, MailOnline understands.
The Labour leader’s lawyers asked for an extension on three occasions, saying that Mr Corbyn was too busy in Brexit negotiations, the local elections and the EU poll to deal with the libel case.
A Labour spokesman said: ‘This claim is absurd and will be robustly challenged.’
Now that court proceedings have been instigated, the Labour leader will face a public grilling from top barrister William Bennett QC unless he settles out of court.
The hearing is expected to take place within eight to 12 months. In addition to damages of up to £100,000, the Labour leader will be hit with a further £100,000 in costs if he loses.
Mr Millett said: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has constantly been trying to paint me as some aggressive traitor who has brushes with police.
‘Listening to his interview, you’d have thought that the police were on the verge of hauling me out of parliamentary events and it was only saintly Corbyn who stopped that happening.
Richard Millett, 50, launched libel action after Mr Corbyn made comments about him being ‘incredibly disruptive’ that he viewed as defamatory
‘It’s totally untrue. It’s preposterous. I think he just said it on the hoof, under questioning on the BBC on Sunday. He can’t actually back it up.’
The row began when MailOnline exclusively revealed footage of Mr Corbyn saying that British ‘Zionists’ had ‘no sense of English irony’ despite having ‘lived in Britain all of their lives’, comments that were slammed by Jewish groups as anti-Semitic.
On the Andrew Marr Show the following week, the Labour leader said he was referring to an event at which two British Zionists were disruptive.
He said: ‘I was at a meeting in the House of Commons and the two people I referred to had been incredibly disruptive.
‘Indeed, the police wanted to throw them out of the meeting. I didn’t. I said they should remain in the meeting.
‘They had been disruptive of a number of meetings. At the meeting where [the Palestinian representative] spoke, they were quiet.
But they came up and were really, really strong on him afterwards. He was quite upset by it… and I was speaking in his defence.’
One of the two Zionists was identified by MailOnline as Mr Millett, who often attends events he suspects of spreading anti-Semitism and writes about them on his blog afterwards.
‘I didn’t berate anybody and I’m not an aggressive person,’ he told MailOnline. ‘I’ve had this over the years, everyone’s been trying to smear me as aggressive, and it’s just not true.
‘That’s the smear, and now it’s coming from the very top. Jeremy Corbyn is making it more widespread. He’s trying to make me persona non grata.’
Although Mr Millett accepts that he may have had a conversation with the Palestinian representative, he called the idea that he was aggressive ‘ridiculous’.
‘He’s the last person I’d have a go at,’ he said. ‘We don’t agree on Israel but I’ve always got on with him personally.
‘He’s a very personable chap. He always answers my questions and we never get into arguments.’
The Labour leader knew Mr Millett personally at the time, the blogger said, as they ‘mixed in the same circles’ and were both involved with the same television station.
This, he said, made his comments about him not understanding ‘English irony’ all the more hurtful.
‘Corbyn knew me to say hello to me,’ he said. ‘It’s not like I was a stranger. He read my blog. He knew that I was British and Jewish. He was targeting me.’
Mr Corbyn has since said his use of the word Zionist was ‘in the accurate political sense and not a euphemism for Jewish People’. He has also committed to being ‘more careful’ with his language in future.
Mr Millett, whose father founded the Millets chain of outdoor clothing stores, said Jewish people are ‘scared on a physical level’ amid Labour’s ongoing anti-Semitism crisis.
Gideon Falter, Chief Executive of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA), said: ‘When Jeremy Corbyn’s comments about “Zionists” being un-English came to light, they sent shockwaves through the Jewish community.
‘Over the last four years, as the evidence of Mr Corbyn’s antisemitism has mounted, instead of apologising, he has dug deeper, responding to each allegation against him by splitting hairs and spinning tales that beggar belief.
‘As the Labour Party faces the scrutiny of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, at long last Mr Corbyn himself must now face a British court so that a judge can separate fact from fiction.’
Fiona Sharpe, spokesman for Labour Against Antisemitism, added:
‘Labour Against Antisemitism fully supports the legal action being taken by Jewish activist Richard Millett against the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
‘Mr Corbyn’s comments that “British Zionists… don’t understand English irony”, made at a Palestine Return Centre event in 2013, and his subsequent comments regarding Mr Millett made on the Andrew Marr Show in September 2018, were in our opinion offensive, defamatory and arguably antisemitic.
‘Racial discrimination on the Left needs to be confronted and tackled effectively and aggressively – even if to do so requires recourse to the law courts.’
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