A reporter calling himself Gabriel Pogrund contacted me with the following:
Several suspended members of the Labour party were readmitted following a recent meeting of the NEC.
I understand that:
i) you were given a warning and mandated to attend Jewish Labour Movement training, after which you will be readmitted to the party as a member of Brecon and Radnorshire CLP
ii) you were previously suspended from the party in 2017 for posting comments and material online that was interpreted to be anti-Semitic
Could you confirm that the above details are accurate?
And, if you are happy to, could you also provide a comment about your readmission and your view on the current direction of the party?
Sure. Why not?
But it occurred to me that my words might not be reproduced as I intended them.
So I decided to reproduce them here, at the same time as the Sunday Times came off the presses and was distributed to the nation. Hopefully, that way, there would be no going back and readers could check the words published in the paper against those I provided.
Paranoid? Well, you are reading an article by someone whose words were lifted and twisted to fabricate the case against me in the first place.
Here are my words. Yes, there are a lot of them. No:
My membership of the Labour Party was suspended in early May 2017, after allegations were received that I may have been involved in a breach of Labour Party rules, “relating to social media posts which may be described by some as anti-Semitic and may cause offence to some members”. The complainant had sent an article, published on the Campaign Against Antisemitism website, which had cherry-picked words from several pieces on my website, http://voxpoliticalonline.com in order to present a false impression of my work. So the description of my posts as anti-Semitic was a deliberate lie, and it seems to me that any offence caused was after reading the CAA article, not my original work.
I was running as a candidate in the Powys County Council elections at the time, and the CAA article – together with the complaint to the Labour Party – were, in my opinion, politically-motivated; an attempt to affect the election by making false statements about my personal character/behaviour, in breach of s.106 of the Representation of the People Act, 1983. Nothing in the allegation had anything to do with my political activities. The articles, from which the CAA mined its quotes, dated back to April 2016, so there had been plenty of opportunity to air any grievance before the election. It is my opinion that the only possible reason for publishing it at the end of April 2017, days before the vote, was to corruptly influence the result.
One example of my alleged anti-Semitism that has been quoted very often is this line: “This conspiracy – and it is a conspiracy, have no doubt about that,” which the CAA – and its many supporters who have been sending hate messages to me via the social media and writing blog articles about me ever since the allegations were made – demands must refer to the anti-Semitic trope about a fictitious “international Jewish conspiracy”. In fact, it refers to the very real and actual attempt at a conspiracy by former Israeli embassy official Shai Masot, as exposed in episode 4 of the Al-Jazeera documentary The Lobby. He was trying to get Tory aide Maria Strizzolo to help him remove Alan Duncan from his position as a Foreign Office minister, on the grounds that Mr Duncan’s pro-Palestine stance was considered to be against Israel’s political interests. At one point in the episode (around 23 minutes in), he actually says, “It sounds like a conspiracy” – because it was. He also claims, around 21 minutes in, to be working with Labour Friends of Israel, and this raises real questions about the influence of a foreign country on politics and political decisions here in the UK – questions that, it seems to me, are being dodged with false accusations of anti-Semitism.
At the meeting of the NEC disputes panel in January, I understand that a very one-sided report was put to members which referred to an interview I attended at Welsh Labour HQ, falsely suggesting that my answers were “vague”. I brought a witness to that meeting, and – like me – she is furious at that inaccurate claim. Several members spoke up in my defence, raising points that I made during that interview, but my understanding is that other members wanted to reject this evidence because it had been omitted from the report that had been submitted to them. The recommendation had been for my case to be referred to the National Constitutional Committee, with a recommendation for my dismissal, but the disputes panel was not happy with it. However, members were not willing to dismiss the case altogether. It seems that some of them take a “no smoke without fire” attitude to reports that are submitted to the panel, so a compromise was discussed and agreed, in which I would be given a warning and told to attend “training” by the Jewish Labour Movement.
I have rejected that. It implies guilt for an offence I have not committed.
Also, of course, it was at a “training” session run by the Jewish Labour Movement that Jackie Walker was recorded, and her words were subsequently used to support a claim of anti-Semitism against her. My understanding is that the event had been advertised as a “safe space” meeting, in which attendees were encouraged to discuss their concerns without fear of being recorded or having the concerns they raised used against them. Clearly this did not happen; the JLM either made the recording or allowed it to be made. So you will appreciate my reasons for doubting the motives behind such “training” sessions, and for referring to them in quotation marks; they are said to be training sessions but seem to be something else.
For the time being, I have been restored to full membership of the party. My case will be reconsidered after I reject an invitation to a JLM event. Personally, I think that’s just prolonging the matter – I have already made my rejection of the decision perfectly clear and I am keen to demonstrate to my fellow Labour Party members that they have based their decision on false information.
How do I feel about my readmission? As you can tell, I’m not accepting it under the terms offered to me. I don’t blame the disputes panel members; they can only act on the information that has been provided to them. I do question the procedure it has followed. Clearly the report they received was biased against me; I thought people facing accusations in the UK were deemed to be innocent until proven guilty, but there appears to have been a presumption of guilt in my case, and I had no opportunity to set the record straight. The procedure needs to be reformed to ensure fairness.
That being said, I hold no grievance against the Labour Party as a whole. I believe our policies are better for the UK than those of any other political party – obviously, as I wouldn’t be a member otherwise – and the growing list of catastrophes affecting Theresa May’s government is demonstrating that to the general public. The huge increase in membership since Jeremy Corbyn became leader has fuelled reform of internal party democracy that means Labour in Parliament is increasingly reflecting the wishes of its members. That is an ongoing, and healthy, process.
I would like to add that I consider the behaviour of the Campaign Against Antisemitism and its supporters to be a politically-motivated act of violence against me. This hate campaign was an attempt to ruin my reputation as a reliable political commentator and, in doing so, seriously harm my income. It raises serious questions about the political allegiance of an organisation which – according to Charity Commission rules – is supposed to be impartial. And it seems very strange that an organisation dedicated to the fight against hatred directed at innocent people, for no reason other than their religious/ethnic origin, should fabricate reasons to engage in a campaign of hate against me.
It’s far too much information for a news story about a wider issue – but enough to make my meaning clear.
I wonder if it tallies with Mr Pogrund’s story.
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