Zelo Street looks at the Labour leaks and the role of Emilie Oldknow

Emilie Oldknow

JVL Introduction

Zelo Street blog assesses the role of Emilie Oldknow, a key figure at Labour Party HQ in recent years, in the light of the leaked Labour report.

Oldknow is – or at least was – rumoured to be Keir Starmer’s choice for General Secretary to replace Jennie Formby.

This article was originally published by Zelo Street on Mon 13 Apr 2020. Read the original here.

Labour Leak And Emilie Oldknow

While many Labour members agree that now is not the time to indulge in acts of internecine blood-letting, the leaked internal report into the party’s handling of anti-Semitism complaints has given new leader Keir Starmer a serious problem: the individual widely believed to be his choice to replace Jennie Formby as General Secretary has come out of this with her reputation damaged, and probably irretrievably so.

Emilie Oldknow, who is now COO for UNISON, was previously Labour’s regional director for the East Midlands, and later executive director for governance, membership and party services. She stood unsuccessfully for the Sherwood constituency in 2010. Her experience should make her an outstanding candidate for General Secretary.

Except for that leaked report and its revelation of hyper-partisan unpleasantness within Labour ranks. Ms Oldknow was part of the party machine where the likes of Andy Burnham and Ed Miliband were considered too left-wing (Burnham has responded by telling “Always felt like the Party machine opposed my pro-public NHS & social care policies between 2010 & 2015. Not sure I had even-handed treatment from them in either the 2010 or 2015 leadership elections”). She was definitely around in 2015.

[click on images to sharpen them]

And she was definitely around when the question of former London Mayor Ken Livingstone came up: was he to be expelled from the party? The report tells “WhatsApp discussions among senior Labour HQ staff show that LOTO [Jeremy Corbyn] was unhappy with the NCC panel’s decision to suspend Ken Livingstone for another year rather than expel him”.

There was more. “Emilie Oldknow wrote that ‘Karie [Murphy] has been telling shadow cabinet members that I’ve orchestrated the Ken situation so … Tom [Watson] got his people on the panel to make a soft decision, all to embarrass JC and create a crisis’”. That, if true, is sufficient to have her straight out the door on a gross misconduct charge.


After one Tweeter concluded “This is the most damning quote I’ve found thus far: Emilie Oldknow saying she had Tom Watson delay the expulsion of Ken Livingston to embarrass Jeremy Corbyn, despite his demanding a resolution”, Diane Abbott asked “So is Emily Oldknow seriously going to be [Keir Starmer’s] pick for [Labour] General Secretary? Surely she should never be employed by the Labour Party in any capacity ever again?


It got worse: another exchange recorded in the report shows Ms Oldknow describing Katy Clark (Corbyn’s political secretary) as “Pube head” and “Smelly cow”, going on to also say of Karie Murphy (Corbyn’s chief of staff) “Karie is actually fat too”.

Former Crewe and Nantwich MP Laura Smith did not mince her words at the sight of that. “Anyone in the Labour Party calling this report self indulgent and calling for this stuff to be ignored is a complete and utter hypocrite. This exposes bullying and racism at such a massive scale. Own it, face it and sort it out for goodness sake”.


There is no need for blood-letting, though – just the confirmation that Ms Oldknow will not be the next General Secretary. Followed by swift action on anyone else proved to have behaved in that manner. But Starmer must know that he cannot evade on this.

Then he can move on to the easy part – going after the Tories.

Comments (20)

  • Doug says:

    Puts into perspective her partners contribution in the 2019 GE, Jonathan Ashworth is now a busted flush
    Great opportunity for Keir and Angela to go through the right wing like a dose of salts
    Let’s hope they are genuine

  • Philip Ward says:

    Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner have already set off on the wrong foot. Firstly, they have announced an investigation without consulting the NEC, which nominally oversees the LP apparatus (the leader and deputy don’t). Secondly, the investigation includes finding out why this dossier (indeed, investigation) was commissioned in the first place and how the leak happened. This looks like an attempt to divert from the main issue – the content of the dossier – which they have failed to comment on. I think that is an insult to all those abused in the dossier and to those members of the Labour Party who were actually fighting to get it into government in 2017.

    I still think that there is more in the WhatsApp files than is in the dossier, but that it would not suit those who are victimising antizionists to release those entries. After all, Jennie Formby’s case is “yes, we are now efficiently ‘processing’ cases against opponents of zionism: look what the right wing did to slow it down” so stuff in the WhatsApp exchanges that would indicate glee at receiving complaints against prominent pro-Palestinian campaigners I think will have been surpressed.

    Maybe more of that will come out in the various legal actions that some victims of the witch hunt are pursuing, or that the EHRC will ask for it. I don’t think Starmer and Rayner will be asking for more files to be made public!

    I emailed the EHRC with the dossier attached, basically saying that they should drop their investigation as what they are looking at is a faction fight in the LP apparatus, really about getting rid of Corbyn, in which antisemitism and antizionism were weapons. I got an automated response to say that they would read the email and act on it if necessary.

  • Steve Griffiths says:

    Doug, if you expect Keir and Angela to go through the right wing like a dose of salts, well, I think that’s an unfortunate but perhaps apposite simile. The most that will happen is for Jonathan Ashworth to be weakened by this revelation of how things worked, presumably including his appointment by Sir Starmer – but weakened in the eyes of whom? At the very least the curtain has been lifted. Let’s keep it that way.

  • Naomi Wayne says:

    There has been enough misrepresentation in this ghastly saga. Please do not add to it by posting material that is carelessly inaccurate.

    I hold no brief for Oldknow – her behaviour as shown in the report appears to have been a mix of obnoxious, unacceptable and incompetent. But she did NOT say that “she had Tom Watson delay the expulsion of Ken Livingston to embarrass Jeremy Corbyn”. Rather, she said that was an accusation made by Karie [Murphy]. She does not comment on whether this accusation was true. This is really important: the report shows how truth, professional judgment, integrity went out of the window in Labour’s Head Office. Anyone on the left who is commenting on the report has a moral and political obligation to make sure they don’t spread even more untruth, even inadvertently.

  • Jake says:

    Thanks for making the connection between Oldknow and the lamentable Ashworth – I guess that means that the ‘secret’ recording of him predicting a Labour wipeout at the GE may not have been that much of a ‘secret’ to him after all.
    I do wonder if the various petty and spiteful minds involved in drumming up false charges of anti-semitism against their political foes know exactly how much potential damage they are doing to the Jewish community in this country?
    Not of Jewish extraction myself, but was brought up to value and appreciate Jewish heritage and contribution to society – and had never actually encountered truly vitriolic anti-semitism until I mixed with supposedly educated people in the U.S. (which I countered in as calm a manner as I could muster).
    However the overt interference in UK-wide politics by certain people from the Chief Rabbi down, and its gleeful appropriation by disreputable people from all political parties – including these rather sad Student Union types on the Blair-wing of the Labour party – is understandably provoking concern and alarmingly negative reactions from many hitherto reasonable people.
    Assuming this originates from a possibly noble aim of protecting Israel from criticism and thwarting associated pro-Palestinian actions such as BDS, the people involved (I assume from Netanyahu and Mossad downwards) really need to think again. Yes, a temporary benefit may be the removal of pro-Pal activists such as Corbyn and co., but I dread to think what the long-term affects will be on general opinion.
    A substantial number of the many thousands of Labour party members – many of whom probably had no strong opinions either way when it came to Israel or the Jewish faith – are very likely now to be firmly in the negative camp when it comes to the former, though hopefully far fewer when it comes to the latter.
    And whilst many on the cynical right-wing of the Conservative Party may have gleefully appreciated the various accusatory anti-Corbyn interventions from the community, I find it hard to believe that they are the type to turn into loud supporters of the country of Israel itself (unless maybe briefly if CFoI paid-for holiday trips are involved) or of their Jewish neighbours over here.
    A perceptive Jewish columnist in the New York Times raised this whole backlash issue as a concern last year – sadly, few members in the community over here voiced similar concerns in a loud enough manner to be heard over the hysteria.
    Very concerning.

  • John Bowley says:

    Thank you, JVL and all else, for publishing this account of dishonourable manipulation against our Labour Party by those entusted to adminster it.

    Come on Keir and Angela. Get real.

  • Ieuan Einion says:

    Disagree: there can be no unity of the graveyard. Starmer and Watson engineered Labour’s 2019 debacle. Sir Keir is now going after the whistle-blowers rather than the traitors. Wake up people.

  • Jophn Webster says:

    I had no idea that Oldknow was rthe partner of Jon Asworth. I never trusted him. Starmer MUST get rid of him now and his vile wife. Seed below:
    https://thoughtsofaleicestersocialist.wordpress.com/2020/04/14/the-truth-about-jonathan-ashworth-and-emilie-oldknow-an-anti-corbyn-retrospective/

  • Les Hartop says:

    I agree with Ieuan, we’ve seen enough to be warned that Starmer is a commited Zionist, and intends to unite the party by ‘wrenching out’ the left, and going after the whistleblowers rather than the right-wing bureaucrats who somehow come to hold unelected positions of power in the head quarters and so many regional offices.

    You can judge a person by the friends they keep.

    This report provides a chance for Angela Rayner, to stand up against this brigade or entrenched jobs worths, but so far no indication of the bravery needed.

  • Camille says:

    I was interested to read ” WhatsApp discussions among senior Labour HQ staff show that LOTO [Jeremy Corbyn] was unhappy with the NCC panel’s decision to suspend Ken Livingstone for another year rather than expel him”. I do not believe that Ken Livingstone did anything to deserve expulsion. This reflects badly on Corbyn in my view. Corbyn did also state that ‘ Ken Livingstone had caused a lot of offence”. I was wondering whether Ken Livingstone had caused Corbyn offence and if so why?

  • RC says:

    How on earth can the aim of protecting Israel from criticism be ‘possibly noble’ – or indeed the thwarting of peaceful actions in support of the interests of the Palestinians? After all, Zionists have for decades admonished Palestinians and their supporters to give up violence (unlike the Zionist settlers and their regime) and use peaceful methods. Claiming that Israel must be above criticism is even worse than the ‘IHRA’ definition’s examples: what more evidence can genuine antisemites (old style – people who hate Jews as such) need to reinforce their claim that Jews and (their allies) are above the rest of us? Jake goes further, to lament the possibility that Tory supporters of Zionism may not support Israel loudly. The withers of democrats and socialists will remain unwrung.
    Or can Jake’s comments, based solely on the slogan “Is it good for the Jews?” be tongue in cheek?

  • Jake says:

    replying to RC – apart from the comment about “CFoI paid-for holiday trips”, nothing of my post was tongue-in-cheek.
    Most of the reasonable people I have met who strongly support the rights of the Palesinian people also accept that the accelerated desire of many Jews for effectively a ‘safe haven country’ in the light of what happened during the 2nd World War cannot be considered totally illogical.
    Saying that does not by extension mean that any negative actions by the Israeli government towards the Palestinian people cannot equally be criticised.
    Instead of talking in conveniently abstract terms, let’s talk about real people.
    There will be those residents of Israel who genuinely believe that even stepping out of the country is likely to lead to violence and death for anyone of Jewish origin (I’ve met them). There will be Israeli politicians and security service workers who genuinely believe that these people need to be protected from external and internal threats to their safe-haven country (real or imginary), and will count pro-Palestinian supporters such as Corbyn & Co. as a threat to the country.
    Ergo, in their minds at least, by taking any means possible to avoid pro-Palestinian supporters, they believe they are engaging in a ‘noble’ act.
    However much I may disagree with their belief and behaviour, I still count that as an entirely different situation to those who promote pro-Israeli, anti-Palestinian and anti Palestinian-supporter views simply out of venality and/or the desire for personal promotion. Some of the Labour Party people mentioned in this article clearly fall into the latter category.
    RC, you’ve had a knee-jerk reaction to my phrase ‘possibly noble’, which has led you to incorrectly extrapolate into suggesting that I am “Claiming that Israel must be above criticism…”
    Any calm re-reading of my previous post will see that none of it was “based solely on the slogan “Is it good for the Jews?” – mainly because I stopped believing in slogans after university, having seen how people obsessed with slogans often often the most unthinking and intransigent types out there, not to mention secretly the most-bigoted. And often the type to swing from being stridently left-wing to stridently right-wing in later years.
    As I tried to point out in my post, I am indeed worried about whether the bullying activities of the various actors are “good for the Jews” in this country in the long term just as I worry whether the activities of Modi and his government are “good for the Hindus” in the long term, mainly because I have always been keen to avoid any rationale developing that could be used to conveniently discrimate againt any race or religion.
    I realise that it takes much less thought and effort to simply divide people into various ‘-ists’ – sexist/anti-sexist; racist/anti-racist; fascist/anti-fascist; Zionist/anti-Zionist – but the inconvenient reality is that many human beings are capable of varying shades of opinion, even across the same subject.
    Whether in real life or forums like these, I voice my opinions openly – yes, I can see why many Jewish people believe in Zionism and the protection of Israel; no, I don’t believe that Israel has – so far – done the right thing regarding the Palestinian people; yes, I do believe that people like Corbyn who have campaigned for this and other unpopular causes deserve respect; no, I don’t believe that it is acceptable for a cadre of Labour officials to conspire against democratically elected MPs and hard-working colleagues; yes, I do believe that cynically using the vehicle of mostly unwarranted accusations of anti-Semitism to try and remove legitimate criticism of Israel and/or legitimate criticism of Blair-ite supporters is unacceptable. And yes, I do believe that this will lead to more people in this country having negative opinions regarding others of the Jewish faith.
    Hopefully that makes my position clear. I do not spend my life sitting in my bedroom posting in forums or on Twitter, but when I see a reasonably sane posting on a reasonably sane site that I feel deserves a response, I do occasionally post.
    Forgive me if I do not have the time to engage in any lengthy correspondence.

  • Jake says:

    Hello Camille,
    “This reflects badly on Corbyn in my view. Corbyn did also state that ‘ Ken Livingstone had caused a lot of offence”. I was wondering whether Ken Livingstone had caused Corbyn offence and if so why?”
    Yes, that is an interesting question, though Ken L clearly bears no malice towards Corbyn, I heard him on Galloway’s MOAT talkshow the other week being complimentary.
    The fact that the various actors in this saga managed to pull the rug from under some very competent and long-standing politicians – Galloway, Livingstone, Corbyn, McDonnell etc. – would suggest to me that the latter did not manage to organise themselves into a cohesive group and so were able to be picked off one by one. I’m sure many panicked and made comments they would later genuinely regret (regarding the ‘guilt’ others). I would imagine the same happened during the McCarthy era.
    Clearly the minute the first claims of anti-semitism appeared, the sensible thing to do would have been to immediately create a new database of claims as they arose, together with ongoing status updates (‘being researched’ ‘corroborating evidence found’ ‘not proven’ ‘false claim’) being entered into the system. An 18-year old with Microsoft Office skills could have done this.
    Adding two columns – ‘Anti-Semitic?’ and ‘Anti-Zionist?’ – would have then allowed the non-Blairite wing of the party to provide a daily update on the veracity of the allegations, as well as frustrating any attempt to suggest that the two types of activity were in fact both the same (‘Anti-Semitic’).
    I would dearly love to hear from the people at Labour HQ and in the PLP who suggested the above procedure, and why they were not listened to.
    From the leaked document, it is clear that many Blairite staffers were happy to avoid this kind of clarity emerging – this site interviewing the people who tried to implement such a procedure but who were stymied would be particularly enlightening.

  • Mike Kennard says:

    Sorry, I don’t agree. Now is definitely the time for ‘bloodletting’. The party bureaucracy has been an obstacle to socialist ideas for decades and we need to clear out the Stalinist clique now, while there is time to rebuild the party in time for the next general election. Sadly I fear that the only consequence will be the human sacrifice of the whistleblower, and that Sir Keir will stand by the guilty ones, just as Prentis is rumoured to have told Unison hacks that they will be OK

  • Camille says:

    Hi Jake I don’t agree with you about what would have been the right way to respond. Corbyn’s INITIAL approach was right..this was to say that anti Jewish racism should be treated no differently from any other forms of racism and that all forms of racism are wrong. He was also wrong to wish to object to only parts of the INHRA policy/ definitions. I can see no benefit of that policy/ definitions to anyone who believes in fairness and equality.( I feel the same about having a policy on Islamaphobia). These separate definitions/ examples for one specific racial group and one specific religion are a very bad idea. They create division. I believe that the Labour party already had policies to promote racial equality and to prohibit unreasonable religious discrimination. They could have monitored stats to see if some forms of racism/ unreasonable religious discrimination were more prevalent than others…..but once you change a defintion of racism and once you make one group have privileges which another does not have..your figures do not become very meaningful..because you are not using the same definitions for anti Jewish/ anti Judiasm as other anti-racism/ anti unreasonable religious discrimination rules.

  • RC says:

    So in Jake’s view “taking any action to avoid pro-Palestinian supporters” includes and justifies not only conflating opposition to the repressive, larcenous and murderous activities of the Israeli state with antisemitism – and prosecuting ordinary socialists for that opposition – but also justifies those activities themselves – all on the basis of paranoia about the imaginary desire of the entire world outside Israel to murder any Israeli Jew who leaves the country. Does fostering this paranoia do Israeli Jews any good? or fostering paranoia about the alleged threat to them of a Corbyn government to British Jews do those Jews any good? Jake (possibly?) nobly admits that Israel has not done the right thing by the Palestinians, but seems to believe that it will in the future. One wonders what ‘doing the right thing’ would in Jake’s view actually be. What steps does he advocate and take, to press Israel to do the right thing? Would the abolition of the entire corpus of discriminatory legislation (Jake does claim he opposes racial discrimination) be a good start?
    Jake also confuses the issue by acquitting the more extreme paranoids amongst the Israeli state ethnic cleansers, land-thieves and murderers of greed and ambition. Many White Army pogromists in the civil war in Russia took an oath only to murder, but never to plunder, local Jews (allegedly persecutors of the Russian poor). Is that really to their credit? Were their reasons ‘possibly noble’? Their paranoid views were as genuine and as well-founded as those Israeli persecutors Jake is so eager to ‘understand’?

  • William Forrester says:

    As a member of the LP since 1976, and having worked in quite a senior position within large County Councils for 37 years, I am absolutely appalled by the language and attitudes shown in this report, and believe that this new investigation is vital to enable my and our Party to move on with the right people leading us, to tackle the vital issues facing us.

  • Robert Burns says:

    Anyone thinking that now is not the time for blood letting is clearly misjudging the mood of ordinary members who furious with rage at these individuals who prevented the election of Labour Goverment in 2017. How many people are now dead or will die because of that? These people have broken party rules and are the organisers and instigators of the greatest scandal in Labour’s history. Expulsion is the prescribed punishment and justice must be seen to be done or the Party will have no members left worth mentioning. I have a strong feeling that the reason not all of the evidence has been released is that it clearly shows that the extent of the corruption and the rot at the heart of the Labour goes a lot further than the Formby report and everyone knows who and what I am talking about. This cancer must be removed as they say in the movie industry “with extreme prejudice” otherwise it will kill the party.

  • Pat Mc Ginley says:

    Although Corbyn obviously knew he was a victim of this blatantly anti-democratic lobby, he refused to even acknowledge this and meekly caved-in to it because he knows the minority Blairite/Zionist lobby – supported by the right-wing billionaire-owned UK media led by state broadcaster BBC – controls the Labour Party majority. A ‘government for the many not the few’ i.e. real democracy, is obviously impossible in this totally corrupt system based on greed, privilege, gross inequality, gross injustices against the poor, sick, vulnerable, etc., fraudulently disguised as ‘democracy’. Propped-up and enabled by so-called ‘free press’ owned and controlled by right-wing billionaires, led by state broadcaster BBC controlled by the right-wing Establishment. A republic based on real democracy is the only realistic solution. Anything less will always end in bitter disappointment for the many good people working for a fair and just society.

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