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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