accusation, Anti-Semitism, Black Members Council, BMC, chair, Claudia Jones, false, Jeremy Corbyn, journalists, Kerry-Anne Mendoza, Labour, Marc Wadsworth, memorial lecture, Mike Sivier, mikesivier, national, NUJ, Sarah Ditum, union, Vox Political
This is what happens when the Labour Party refuses to acknowledge the facts in a false accusation of anti-Semitism.
I hope you remember the case of Marc Wadsworth, the anti-racism campaigner who was instrumental in helping the family of Stephen Lawrence get an inquiry into his death, and who was then accused of anti-Semitism by right-wing MP Ruth Smeeth for no reason at all.
A judging panel from Labour’s National Constitutional Committee later expelled him from the party on the grounds that he had brought it into disrepute, even though it was the behaviour of Ms Smeeth that had done the damage. She remains an MP and a member of the Labour Party, although her actions certain warrant her removal from both positions.
Calls have been mounting for Mr Wadsworth’s case to be reviewed. At last week’s Labour Party Conference, MP Clive Lewis called on party leader Jeremy Corbyn to “come out fighting”
The Morning Star reported: “Mr Lewis said Mr Wadsworth had merely been making a political point about right-wing MPs working with right-wing newspapers.
“‘It was not an anti-semitic trope. It was a political observation,’ he said to applause…
“He added: ‘You’ve seen what happens when you stick your head above the parapet on this issue. It gets shot off,’ but he had had to stand in solidarity with a comrade and for the principle that ‘people should be able to express themselves politically.’
“He declared: ‘I would like to see Jeremy Corbyn come out fighting on this issue.’”
A crowdfunding campaign to fund the cost of Mr Wadsworth’s appeal has raised £30,000 since it was launched in April, and all I can say is I wish my own attempt to raise funds to clear my name had that kind of back-up (I’ve raised more than £5,000 since June – only a fraction of his total. Anyone willing to help me out is invited to visit my JustGiving site). Then again, our situations are slightly different as Labour has yet to arrange a hearing to judge my case.
It’s a curious coincidence that, just when the tide was beginning to turn in favour of this honourable and principled man, someone had to try to put a spanner in the works.
That person was Sarah Ditum, a critic, columnist and fellow member of the National Union of Journalists.
She waded into this matter after attending a meeting of the NUJ in which Mr Wadsworth, in his capacity as chair of the union’s Black Members Council, spoke supporting the choice of Canary editor in chief Kerry-Anne Mendoza to deliver the Claudia Jones memorial lecture (an issue I have discussed in a previous article; NUJ members also voted to support her).
Still can't get over my union, represented by The Guy Who Disrupted The Launch Of An Anti-Semitism Inquiry To Accuse A Jewish MP Of Colluding With The Enemy, defending The Woman Who Publishes Steve Topple. What a shit show.
— Sarah Ditum (@sarahditum) September 29, 2018
Notice that it was a carefully-worded attack. Mr Wadsworth had suggested that Ms Smeeth and the Telegraph reporter, with whom she was exchanging a leaflet that he had been distributing, were “hand in glove” – but there was no mention of her Jewishness until she started hollering about it herself. Her tweet stops short of saying that he was engaging in an anti-Semitic trope but that is clearly her implication. And the use of the word “defending” in reference to Kerry-Anne as “The Woman Who Publishes Steve Topple” makes it clear that we are to consider any publication of Mr Topple’s articles to be a bad thing, without having any reason to do so. Sinister.
And she drew out a series of tweets in her support, which I won’t mention any further as it is far more instructive to examine some of the comments in favour of Mr Wadsworth.
Chris Williamson, a Labour MP who has long supported Mr Wadsworth’s cause, wrote:
You should withdraw that remark Sarah and apologise. I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that wasn't why he was expelled. Furthermore, @Marcwads has spent his entire adult life fighting racism and was a key adviser to Stephen Lawrence's family.
— Chris Williamson MP #GTTO (@DerbyChrisW) September 28, 2018
Mr Wadsworth himself had something to say:
Appalling a fellow NUJ member @sarahditum should effectively accuse me, a black campaigner against racism, of being "racist". Guess I should take this up with the @NUJofficial. Thanks for the principled support of the many, including @DerbyChrisW @JVoiceLabour @luqmankhan555 https://t.co/r93wlKXf6o
— Marc Wadsworth (@Marcwads) September 28, 2018
And I think the following is especially pertinent:
Marc…. Nobody can ever forget the work you did on behalf of the Lawrence family. Those that do suffer from a selective memory. The Labour movement is predicated on people like you, who stuck their head above the parapet and stood up to be counted.
Solidarity. ✊ https://t.co/ALVJDQ7YLM
— Trot Rabble Dog (@PeterTwohey) September 29, 2018
This is the real issue, is it not?
It isn’t about any claim of anti-Semitism against Mr Wadsworth, that is easily disproved.
It is about his willingness to stand up and talk about what those in positions of power and privilege would prefer to keep hidden.
That’s why a false claim of anti-Semitism was cooked up against him.
It is also why that claim was reheated when he spoke in favour of a social media journalist who the right-wing, mainstream press wanted to silence.
And it is why prominent figures like Mr Lewis are asking Jeremy Corbyn to weigh in and take action.
But Mr Corbyn has been, himself, targeted with false accusations many times – especially over the summer months.
He may conclude that it would not be productive for him to speak out at this time – a decision that, I’m sorry to say, may have been the sole intention of his own accusers.
That is why people like Mr Wadsworth – and myself (don’t forget that JustGiving page) need the help of people of good conscience – from all parts of the political spectrum.
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