Change in the chair won’t stop Labour’s disputes panel being a kangaroo court

Christine Shawcroft, newly-elected chairperson of the Labour Party disputes panel [Image from her website].

This Writer seems to have become a minor part of a major political news story – that really shouldn’t be.

It seems a certain quality of commentator has been trying to make a big thing of the fact that Ann Black has been replaced by Christine Shawcroft in the chair of Labour’s disputes panel, which rules on the handling of issues including allegations of anti-Semitism against members.

Like Aaron Bastani, I’d rather be discussing something else. Never mind – this has happened, so it must be addressed.

No sooner was she voted in than Ms Shawcroft was accused of going soft on anti-Semites, with announcements that some members were to be given a warning and sent for “training” by the Jewish Labour Movement, rather than their cases going on to be examined in detail by the party’s National Constitutional Committee, with a view to expulsion. It turns out that she didn’t vote and therefore had nothing to do with the decision apart from running the meeting at which it was made.

So attention shifted to Momentum founder – and recently-elected member of Labour’s National Executive Committee – Jon Lansman, who – we’re told – managed to clear This Writer of the anti-Semitism charge against me.

That one isn’t true either.

For a quick recap of the claims about me – and my response to them – nip across to the article I wrote about it back in April last year. Basically, someone with malice aforethought took comments from some of my articles out of context and presented them as proof that I was an anti-Semite, in a bid to affect the result of last year’s council election in the Powys ward where I was standing.

Labour HQ, in its wisdom, suspended my membership pending an investigation – which didn’t start until October, six months after the claims were made. Late that month, I attended – with a friend of Jewish heritage who was acting as a witness – an interview with an officer of Welsh Labour who questioned me about my allegedly dodgy comments. I spoke for nearly two hours, putting forward a forceful case (I thought) that the claims were rubbish, put forward by people who were making mischief at election time (which is a crime).

If what I’ve heard is accurate, then I may as well not have bothered attending that meeting.

You see, the report presented to Labour’s disputes panel contained none of the information I passed on. I’m told it repeated the out-of-context quotations from my articles and then claimed that I was “unclear” in my responses to questioning and did not seem to understand how my words could be interpreted as anti-Semitic. I can only interpret that as a lie.

The officer conducting the meeting had handed me a pile of printed copies of some of my articles, and questioned my on passages he had highlighted. In one such passage I stated that the Jewish Labour Movement “is not a movement that represents Jews; it represents Zionists”, and asked me why I had made that suggestion.

I looked at the printout and asked him if he had read the article in full. He said no – he had only been told to ask about the parts he had highlighted (meaning, incidentally, that was admitting he had absolutely no understanding of my attitudes or what I actually do).

I then pointed out that this was a shame as, if he had glanced down the page, he would have realised that my source was the organisation’s own website, which states that the JLM “is also affiliated to… the Zionist Federation of the UK, and organise within the World Zionist Organisation… Our objects: To maintain and promoted Labour or Socialist Zionism as the movement for self-determination of the Jewish people within the state of Israel.”

“‘Zionist’… ‘Zionist’… ‘Zionism’,” I had written. “It should be ‘Zionist Labour Movement’.”

That is an accurate description – the evidence bears it out. Nobody can honestly say that my response was unclear. And how can those words be interpreted as anti-Semitic? They are the Jewish Labour Movement’s own words, from the JLM’s own website.

The officer suggested that I had used the anti-Semitic trope of the international Jewish conspiracy in the comment, “it is a conspiracy, have no doubt about that.” I pointed out that the comment was in an article about Israeli Embassy staffer Shai Masot, who was exposed in an attempt to conspire with UK citizens to undermine members of the government who were deemed to be unsympathetic to the state of Israel, including then-Deputy Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan. You can read about the organisations he claimed to have set up and supported here (among many other pages). That’s the conspiracy to which I was referring – and it was a conspiracy.

Is there anything unclear about that? Anything anti-Semitic about discussing an Israeli diplomat’s attempt to undermine the UK government at a time when it was an issue of the day? No. Of course not.

I could go on, but the point is made, I think.

The problem with the disputes panel is that it acts as a secret court, in which members who are accused of breaking party rules are tried and convicted without seeing any evidence or having a chance to argue against it.

The prevailing attitude among members seems to be that “there’s no smoke without fire” – that virtually anyone facing disciplinary charges is guilty and the officers are just doing their job. Those who challenge the officers’ recommendations, I’m told, are regularly reproached in the strongest terms for impugning the professionalism of the officers and, in effect, attempting to shield bullies, bigots and trouble-makers.

This brings me back to Jon Lansman. I’ve never met Mr Lansman. I understand he is of Jewish heritage but self-defines as an atheist. All things considered, he has no reason to stand up for me…

Apart from a belief that I am innocent of the accusations against me.

Perhaps – unlike the officer who investigated my case – he has read This Site and carried out a bit of research.

Anyway, his intervention – and that of Welsh NEC member Darren Williams, who does know me – seems to have done some good, as the recommendation to refer my case to the National Constitutional Committee with a view to expulsion was rejected.

But those interventions weren’t completely successful. The disputes panel voted to give me a warning – and send me for “training” with the Jewish Labour Movement, of all people.

The JLM? The organisation that advertises “safe space” “training” meetings in which people are encouraged to discuss any issues they may have with Judaism, only to discover later that their comments have been recorded and released to the media as evidence of anti-Semitism? I should bleedin’ cocoa.

It is a choice that was put forward by another left-winger, Pete Willsman, as a compromise after certain members refused to accept the facts of my case – and I am grateful to him for trying.

But it is a result that still assumes guilt.

I am not guilty of anti-Semitism and won’t be treated as such. I have rejected the decision and the members of the disputes panel had better think again. They can try considering the facts this time.

The disputes panel itself is a kangaroo court that considers reports that are fabricated to confirm a predetermined conclusion, and consequently treats members referred to it as guilty, regardless of whether the evidence suggests this – with no opportunity to prove themselves innocent.

That cannot be changed by the arrival of a new person in the chair.

The conduct of the disputes panel is an offence to British justice and must be reformed.

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  1. jill phillips January 18, 2018 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Where is the Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL)? As Conference recognised – with delight and relief – Its values are concordant with those of the UK Labour Party.
    Their truly humanistic values lie at the very centre of the UK Labour Party’s heart.

  2. Florence January 20, 2018 at 11:37 am - Reply

    JLM is writing to all CLP secs offering “free training” to members. It was discussed in our CLP and it was agreed this should be politely ignored. It was apparent that all in the room were well aware of the reputation of JLM. It appeared that the members were (happily) all very well informed on the whole issue and the organisations.

    There is a great deal of support for your stance, (even among members who know nothing of your actual problems). I know you will succeed in resisting any attempt at forced political reeducation (Stalinist, much?). Good luck Mike, you have right on your side here, and a lot of support.

    • Mike Sivier January 20, 2018 at 12:25 pm - Reply

      That’s a relief. You should see my Twitter notifications – full of hate tweets from the usual suspects (people who have been stirring up opposition to me from the very start) and from people who have been influenced by them. None of them actually discuss my words – they’re all about the distortions put forward by the ringleaders, or personal attacks against me.
      It seems strange that the people who are arguing so strongly that I am a hatemonger are so willing to stir it up themselves.

      • Florence January 20, 2018 at 6:26 pm - Reply

        The tactic of attacking the man not the issue just shows how low they are. You stand head and shoulders above all of them – even if they were standing on each others shoulders.

        I have actually had a look at your twitter account, and as you say, full of vitriol, bile, personal attacks, etc, and if it were not bad form to stoop to their level, I would say it reflects the verminous nature of some of these losers. I was always told that if you’re right, you will get attacked for standing up for your beliefs. It takes guts and strength, which you have in spades Mike, but it still takes it toll. You provide real leadership, and that is rare, and we need more in the party to lead us into the next election as the winning team. Take heart it will be OK in the end. You have right, and the ordinary members’ support, on your side.

        • Mike Sivier January 21, 2018 at 2:38 pm - Reply

          Thank you. Your support is very welcome.

  3. spirit January 20, 2018 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    I expect you’ve already noticed but the main page of the Guardian right now (Saturday, though it is unsurprisingly tagged as Observer) indicates that Jeremy Newmark and JLM are on manoeuvres again this weekend.

    • Mike Sivier January 20, 2018 at 6:26 pm - Reply

      I’ve seen it. Mildly surprised to see I’m not mentioned in it.

  4. Stephen Bellamy January 22, 2018 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    The JLM have to be stopped.

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