Here’s why Owen Smith really shouldn’t kick up a fuss about bullying

160714 Owen Smith

We’re discussing degrees of guilt, here.

Today, according to The Guardian, Owen Smith said of Jeremy Corbyn: “Under his leadership there has been a culture of bullying. There has been intolerance and abuse in the Labour party, that we have never seen before. Women in Labour have found themselves subject to awful awful misogynistic abuse, some of our Jewish MPs have been subjected to antisemitic abuse, some of our Asian MPs have been subjected to abuse. None of that can be acceptable in the Labour party… I fundamentally believe both Conor McGinn and Angela Eagle. Neither of them would tell lies about this.”

Why not? We know Angela Eagle lied about her office window being bricked, and about cancelling a public appearance at a hotel for fear of violence (the proprietor simply didn’t want a Labour event on his premises). There are also questions about Conor McGinn’s part in the resignations of shadow cabinet members on June 26.

So all Mr Smith can allege is that people other than Jeremy Corbyn may have been involved in bullying, depending on who you ask.

This Writer can go one better, because Owen Smith made a direct attempt to bully me.

It happened in the run-up to the 2015 general election, and concerns comments he made in a meeting in south Wales. I’ll hand over to Liza Van Zyl, who was also bullied by Mr Smith:

I was a Labour Party activist who had no choice but to resign from the party after a very unpleasant encounter with Mr Smith. I am recounting it now because I believe it is very important that his views are robustly challenged if he stands for the Labour leadership.

On Saturday 7th March 2015 I attended a Labour meeting in Pontypridd at which the guest speaker was Owen Smith MP, then shadow secretary of state for Wales. When questions were invited from the floor, I asked Mr Smith why, given that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has been responsible for a great many more deaths than the Bedroom Tax, Labour had pledged to scrap the Bedroom Tax but had said nothing about pledging to scrap the WCA. Mr Smith replied that Labour could not pledge to scrap the WCA because this would make Labour appear weak on benefits in the eyes of the media and compromise Labour’s general-election chances.

I posted this on Facebook and a journalist took it up and posted the story online. Subsequently the journalist was threatened with legal action by Mr Smith if he did not take the story down. I was very intimidated by the prospect of defending myself in court, and I had no money for a legal defence. In addition my Labour colleagues were terribly keen to maintain good relations with Mr Smith and would probably have backed Mr Smith and not me if it came to a court case (one of them had even contacted the journalist and briefed against me). So I asked the journalist to pull the story and I deleted references to it on Facebook.

I am the journalist she mentions.

I didn’t pull the story – I don’t give in to bullies. You can read it here and the follow-up here.

And here’s Owen Smith’s response to me, from Twitter:

160722 Owen Smith tweet

He never followed through on the threat because I told him not only that I had Ms Van Zyl’s evidence but I had intimate knowledge of the work capability assessment and the harm it has done (as long-term readers will know, I forced the government to publish death figures related to the assessment last year).

He went away.

Because that’s what bullies do when people stand up to them.


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33 thoughts on “Here’s why Owen Smith really shouldn’t kick up a fuss about bullying

    1. A.Chapman

      Thumbs up article Mike, goes to show the depths of this man ambition at all cost for his own benefit. That basis alone he shouldn’t be in any position of power or trust.

  1. Brian

    The only way to refute the truth is tell more lies. Owen Smith MP, you have been exposed as a cad.

  2. John

    This isn’t related to bullying, and I’m not sure if I am getting this right or not, but on the Marr Show last week, Smith said that if Corbyn wins, he will still serve. But in another interview at a later date (and I can’t remember which one), I could have sworn he said he wouldn’t??
    Can anyone help me on this? Am I wrong?

  3. Rusty

    Good for you Mike, I think I would have acted a different way but I’m not a cool customer!

  4. Fibro confused

    This is why so many would rather back Jeremy (who is not perfect but has a heart) rather than Owen Smith and why personally I’d rather Jeremy in opposition than the Owen Smith style Labour party in Govt, simply because they would offer the disabled the same as the Tories, at least we would have a voice. Until they change tack and actually admit they were wrong, wrong to not challenge the Tory lies spin and awful damaging rhetoric, the chances of that are……..Zero

  5. fiona

    He is a PR man – he will say whatever he thinks is advantages to him at any one particular time and then deny what he previously said

    1. Andrew Lloyd

      Exactly. He is like Trump in that respect who threatens to sue anyone who says anything he doesn’t want them to say. It is pure and simple a bullying tactic. But then at the next interview he denies any of it ever happened as if once a moment is passed it never existed in the first place.

  6. philipburdekin

    Owen smith is just another d camerun in different clothing, Jeremy is about the only mp that actually gives a damn about the people of Great Britain, the sick and disabled are not ridiculed by the Labour Leader. For me it’s long may Jeremy rule the Labour Party.

  7. peej1952

    No John you’re not wrong this is roughly what he said not verbatim if Jeremy didn’t stand down he would destroy the Labour Party and if Jeremy won the race the Party would cease to exist, I am the Leader the Party needs. Aye Right the Guy is full of Piss and Wind like all new labours Tyranical Bullies.

  8. Dave

    How do these people get elected to the position that they hold in the first place? Expert liars, manipulating the truth of the lies we have been fed.

  9. jeffrey davies

    Under his leadership there has been a culture of bullying hmmm 172 mps who are bullying jc how they make a mockery of that house of ill repute yet his kind wont go easy they have to be pushed greedie mps who aint working for the people back home wca has killed abused more people than the nazi partys aktion t4 plans how quaint owen while you talk about it people are dying yes its you and your bullies please cross the floor jeff3

  10. Sam

    Smith isn’t doing himself any favours by accusing Corbyn of abuse, when Corbyn has been the first politician to absolutely refuse to play the game and personally attack people for political points. Who cares though, Smith s going to lose, he can invent all the PR smears he likes.

  11. Caitlin mallon

    Vile vicious piece of work but allegedly financed by the “Blair PR” machine

  12. Jessie

    These sort of MPs were elected through centrally dictated lists and local voters voting, often despondently, for the nearest thing they could get to Labour.

    This is why candidates for being a Labour MP need to be brought back under local control.

    Transposing one’s own state of mind as the actions of someone else is a psychiatric condition, and also another Tory trick, where the truth is usually the opposite of what they are saying. I bully, therefore I accuse my opponent of bullying.

    We have witnessed Corbyn being actively and deploringly bullied from the first day of gaining office, from those who prefer to vote with the Tories than back their leader in a viable opposition, while accusing him of not giving a viable opposition, while what they are opposing is a genuine socialist Labour leader.

    We’ve been presented no evidence for any of the accusations of bad behaviour against Corbyn, but have and are seeing a lot of bad behaviour from his accusers.

    And if Smith is the best they have got, then this illustrates their poor overall calibre; and the need for their CPLs to deselect those involved and put in their place people who do want to serve their communities, and not corporate power.

  13. Alan Goodenough

    Not an Owen Smith fan, but I noticed a discrepancy in the image where he’s asking for your address. In the top tweet you put @owensmithMP, yet the reply came from @owensmith_MP.

      1. A J Goodenough

        Ah cool. Had to be sure for my own peace of mind. Thank you for clearing that up!

  14. Dez

    Definitely someone who is totally out of touch with real world labour and the real world. I would have taken the exact opposite thinking that scrapping the WCA would have pulled in votes….there is more empathy/knowledge from the grass roots about this unfair system than from this Conservative lookalike and his right wing pals. As for using alleged scare tactics to get his own way… yup a good indication of a spoilt Con implant. . Vote for this guy and you will get what you deserve.

  15. paulus (@pauluseto)

    People need to realise who is responsible for WCA’s… Corbyn is the first Labour leader under whom the policy is to Scrap WCA’s.

    Ed Milliband’s “Third way” crew would only commit to “Tweaking” WCA’s
    presumably… like Yvette Coopers planed third way “Tweak” in 2010… Owen’s plan is the same?
    see here >>>

    The info in the link will interest you if you’ve not already seen it mike 😉

  16. Liza van Zyl

    Hi Mike, I’ve just read this article, and read, for the first time, the two articles you link to from last year that relate to Owen Smith’s response to my WCA question. I want to thank you for publishing this story, and for not backing down in the face of intimidation like I did. With hindsight I should not have allowed myself to be intimidated.

    It was a truly horrible episode: firstly learning that a senior member of the Labour front bench was happy to sacrifice disabled people’s lives in order to look “tough on benefits” to the media. And secondly because of the backstabbing and vitriol I experienced from my Labour Party comrades for having the temerity to object to Smith’s position. It was clear that to many folk in Labour, disabled people’s lives also came pretty low on their list of priorities and they were quite happy to sell us down the river to cozy up to Labour bigwigs like Smith. Not something you like to learn when you spend most of your time campaigning for Labour and your entire social circle is made up of other Labour activists. I’d been a very hardworking Labour activist up to that point; but following this episode I had to resign from the party.

    Thank you Mike for caring about what happens to disabled people. Sometimes I feel that nobody does.

    1. Luther Blissett

      As a complete stranger, I say it was perfectly normal for you to feel intimidated. (Smith knew exactly what he was doing. Bullying the powerless)
      Sometimes having ethics and compassion leaves you without previous ‘friends’, and hurts a lot at the time, but better one true friend than lots of fair-weather ones.

      Thank you for asking the question in the first place, and then telling Mike about it. (And thanks to Mike for publishing)

      I hope you find better friends, and happiness. An internet solidarity hug to you.

  17. stevecheneysindieopinions4u

    What is clever about the coup’s tactics (in a “would work pre-Internet” way) is that they take incidents that mostly happened as described, but then attribute them to

    Corbyn supporters. So the effort goes towards debunking the version of events, but largely ignores the more egregious deception of attributing the incident to a Corbyn supporter.

    To give some examples:

    Angela Eagle attributes the vandalism at Sherwood House to Corbyn supporters. There is no evidence that she personally was targeted, but even if she had been… did someone write “btw, I support Corbyn” on the brick throw through the window? Probably not, or we’d have seen it by now.

    Anti-semitic misogynistic abuse has been hurled at Luciana Berger for years, leading to the repeated arrest of a far-right serial offender, and more recently of Joshua Bonehill, who is too far-right for UKIP. Despite these facts being easily Googled, we have seen “opinion” pieces from Carole Malone, toeing a similar line – speculating about the motives of Corbyn supporters in committing this crime even though we know exactly who did it and why. To her credit, Luciana Berger has not been willing to sit back and let these far-right crimes by attributed to Labour members, and has spoken out against the Malone article.

    And then there’s Johanna Baxter’s claim that, after speaking out about bullying, she received lots of abuse on Twitter – which is true. What’s not true is the implication that this abuse came from Labour members – since even a cursory glance over the accounts of those who committed the abuse will show that they are, again, right-wingers, often extreme right-wingers.

    The idea that Labour MPs would rather accuse Labour members of these crimes – knowing that they have been committed by the far-right – is incredibly troubling. When recently we have seen an MP murdered by a far-right Nazi sympathiser, you would think that we’d have to discourage people from jumping to conclusions that crimes were committed by the far-right, not from supporters of someone who has consistently opposed them and the tactics that they use.

    1. Dharma

      It’s disgraceful that the media particularly the BBC report these claims without giving us the full story, they give us just enough to cast doubt on the integrity of Jeremy Corbyn and his team.
      I have spoken to several people who believe that Owen Smith’s claims of online abuse against his wife is somehow connected to the current leadership campaign when apparently this happened back in February and has nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn or his supporters.
      The rebels have tried every dirty trick in the book to destroy Jeremy Corbyn and have failed miserably so all they can do now is to feed the media with these bullying allegations day after day hoping some of it will stick.

      1. Rusty

        Welcome to the real world! This has been going on for a very long time, this media set up of JC is only recent All the while poor or disabled people are dying after this supports been cut by tax dodging bullies, sad this could go unnoticed by the bbc.

  18. roxarama

    Who is more likely to be versed in dirty tricks than the one-time chief palm-greaser of a global pharmaceuticals company? Ooo…I know this one…is it Jeremy Corbyn?

  19. Richard Lewis

    He’s such a hypocrite…..He’s an English nationalist in Welsh sheepskin – he doesnt care for these communities

    ….who claims that a Welsh cricket team….is parochial/nasty nationalism and divisive…
    Absolute nasty piece of work…..

  20. jacobusmcmxlvii

    Thanks for that, Mike – shared on all the platforms I have available! Yes – Smith (where have I heard that name before…?) does seem to be a nasty piece of work, like a lot of his friends.

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