Jeremy Corbyn will give evidence at High Court to defend libel claim from Jewish blogger
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will give evidence at the High Court in October to give evidence at trial to defend himself against libel claims made by a political blogger.
Richard Millett, 50, has sued Mr Corbyn, who now sits as an Independent MP, over remarks he made during an interview on the BBC‘s Andrew Marr show in 2018.
Mr Justice Nicklin considered pre-trial issues at a High Court hearing in London on Monday (June 27).
Lawyers representing Mr Corbyn, who is fighting the claim, said 41 people, including Mr Corbyn and Mr Millett, could give evidence at the trial.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London in 2018. His premiership was marred by accusations of anti-Semitism within the party
Richard Millett, 50, has begun libel action against Mr Corbyn, saying that the allegations were entirely untrue and have caused lasting damage to his reputation
Jeremy Corbyn at a pro-Palestine event in 2012, before allegations around systemic anti-Semitism under his later leadership came to light
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 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.’
Jeremy Corbyn has had the Labour Party whip removed since he was replaced as leader by Sir Keir Starmer – although the allegations date back to his leadership
The Labour leader knew Mr Millett, whose father began the Millets high street outdoor clothing chain, 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 Millett said in 2019: ‘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.
‘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.’
On the programme, it is claimed that 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 says that the allegations were entirely untrue and have caused lasting damage to his reputation. He is suing Corbyn for £100,000.
Court proceedings were allegedly delayed several times while Mr Corbyn was still the leader of the Labour Party – an allegation the Labour Party robustly denied at the time – but began in June 2019.
Mr Corbyn is preparing a truth defence against the defamation claims but faces a claim for damages of up to £100,000 as well as a further £100,000 in costs if he loses the court battle.
Mr Justice Nicklin is due to begin overseeing the trial on October 10. Lawyers estimate it will last 15 days.
The judge told lawyers at today’s hearing he will not let the trial turn into ‘some sort of showpiece’.