Labour’s leadership shot itself in the foot yet again at the end of a disastrous week for relations between the executive and rank-and-file members.
Earlier in the week, general secretary Jennie Formby’s refusal to suspend Wes Streeting and investigate his behaviour after he launched a despicable attack on a 70-year-old female member, using faked evidence and publicising her true identity which she keeps hidden, put her in hot water – with members telling her in no uncertain terms that the complaints system was not fit for purpose, prioritising representatives over the people who put them there.
Then Wavertree CLP cancelled two ‘no confidence’ votes about the behaviour of that constituency’s MP, Luciana Berger. The first was withdrawn by its proposer, and the second by the CLP itself after it emerged that the member proposing the motion will be out of the UK on the day planned for the debate. This Writer’s understanding is that both motions referred to the actions of the MP, whose false claims of anti-Semitism within the party have caused deep offence.
Yet some within the party hierarchy have made reference to abuse that the MP receives (Ms Formby), to the fact that she is eight months pregnant (Harriet Harman – and what does that have to do with anything?)…
We criticise Berger for being anti-Labour. She's Jewish so we must all be antisemitic, she's a woman so we're all misogynists, now she's up the duff so we're all anti equality. What's she going to bring up next? Maybe she has a secret disability and we're all disablist too? YAWN https://t.co/YR1VhLlD0J
— ʍֆ ɢ ʀɨƈɦǟʀɖֆ (@Grombags) February 9, 2019
… and to racism/anti-Semitism within the CLP (Tom Watson – who should know that it has a large Jewish contingent and is chaired by a Jewish person; Wes Streeting (again) – who accused the people of Liverpool of being anti-Semitic en masse in yet another ill-advised tweet;
…and Chuka Umunna).
How about MPs who were perfectly happy to vote no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn in 2016 stop whinging when one of their own faces a similar vote.
How about MPs threatening to leave the party stop using antisemitism to tarnish Labour's reputation before they finally bugger off. https://t.co/165VMI6hVH
— Frank Owen's Legendary Paintbrush (@WarmongerHodges) February 8, 2019
The attempted bullying by the members named above incensed party members across the UK – many of whom are now threatening to burn their membership cards in protest at what they see as clearly prejudicial behaviour – in favour of MPs who are spreading lies, and against members who are the victims of those lies.
Mr Watson’s comments in particular – as a non-Jew potentially implying the “wrong kind of Jew” argument against Jewish party members – disgraced the Labour Party. Wavertree CLP’s executive has released a statement to “strongly reject the media inaccuracies and the accusations of political bullying, for simply adhering to Party rules and doing our jobs” and asserting that “the suggestion that the CLP Executive is in any way a party to bullying and antisemitism is a false and slanderous accusation”.
Kate Hoey. Not Jewish.
Chris Leslie. Not Jewish.
Joan Ryan. Not Jewish.
All faced and lost NC votes.
Give over. She was NC'd for several counts of failing to back her party.
— Chris Clee (@CCleePolitical) February 9, 2019
It's disgraceful of Tom Watson to intervene in CLP business. I think all the treacherous Blairites can feel the cold wind of deselection coming so expect some more desperate measures as they try to bring back Toryism to @UKLabour Party.#iStandWithWavertree#JC4PM2019#Brexit
— Carole Rogers (@CARogersNo1) February 9, 2019
"Tom Watson" has some nerve referring to "bringing the party into disrepute".
Remember Project Anaconda which was devised by Tom Watson which he openly boasted about?
“Project Anaconda” – the plan to isolate Corbyn and regain control of the Party through a war of attrition
— ☼ Dallo #BDS 🇵🇸 Ex LP Member – BLM ☼ (@dallo100) February 8, 2019
And Mr Streeting’s tweet – following Ms Formby’s call for no more “trial by Twitter”, this indicates he believes she was lecturing rank-and-file members, not him – will undoubtedly have led to more calls for his Labour membership to be suspended and an investigation into his behaviour held. See this article for further details.
Ordinary Labour Party members took offence at the glib way so-called leaders of the party tried to pretend that the “no confidence” motion was an attack on Ms Berger as a person, rather than as a representative of the party. Ms Formby came in for particularly strong criticism. See:
I agree with abuse & antisemitism being abhorrent but that’s not what the motions were about, it was on basis that she would do everything in her power to stop a Labour govt from delivering its manifesto. Which is why this disappoints me, but I’m glad you didn’t suspend CLP tho.
— DismayEntertainment ™ (@DismayENT) February 9, 2019
Donahue Rogers tweeted: “Gen Sec should not be voicing an opinion about this – especially as you’re asking members to show solidarity with someone who refuses to show support for a Labour government and also refuses to dismiss rumours that she is about to join another party #iStandWithWavertree”
Here’s the ever-controversial George Galloway – with an opinion that, for once, wasn’t:
In the whirlwind unleashed by #TomWatson and #WesStreeting against #Liverpool and #WavertreeCLP the #Labour General Secretary has tweeted her solidarity…with #LucianaBerger! This is a very grave error of judgement and will be extremely damaging to @UKLabour
— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) February 9, 2019
It was an error of judgement, especially as it allowed party members to compare support for an MP who consistently undermines her party with the lack of it for the MP who has endured more abuse than all the others put together. As “Audrey” put it: “I didn’t see that many ppl falling over each other publicly to defend Diane when she is abused permanently even by tv journos. Guess some ppl are just not worth standing in solidarity with…Planning to do something about Watson or aren’t the members worthy of solidarity either?”
Albert Trigg also took issue with Ms Formby’s claim that party members should stand in solidarity with Ms Berger: “‘Solidarity’? The same kind of solidarity she shows Corbyn and the membership? She could not even bring herself to say she wanted a Corbyn Government. Abuse is wrong but it works both ways. False accusations of racism from Labour MPs is not on.”
It was withdrawn. Rightly or wrongly that’s the decision of the CLP. However, to suggest this is AS is crazy. She was Jewish when she was voted into office by her CLP who has a large Jewish representation. If Wavertree pushes a VONC then it would go ahead.
— Michael Gardner (@MGardner1977) February 9, 2019
Totally agree, she not shown solidarity towards the party or @jeremycorbyn or the members. I give up. Np point in standing by them, when at first opportunity they won't stand up for us, in fact they attack us. Disgusting, thats not socialism.
— Qualified to think for myself. (@darrenmark69) February 9, 2019
Carla Marx added: “More disappointing responses from our leaders. This isn’t enough from Jennie. The online abuse has nothing to with Wavertree activists – they have a perfect right to hold their MP to account for her signal lack of respect to them and the Party she’s meant to represent.”
Some suggested that the Labour leadership had lost focus and needed to concentrate on the real troublemakers in the party:
I agree when good grassroots socialists are being labelled as AS with no evidence it's time to move and get rid of those MPs and others who use anything to further their own advantage They must be removed from the party so we can move on
— Dave (@_Dave_Ryan) February 9, 2019
Ms Berger has already called for a “no confidence” vote in the Wavertree CLP executive in what can clearly be recognised as a piece of “tit-for-tat” vindictiveness:
Luciana Berger: New calls for no confidence in team leading local Labour branch https://t.co/4yICtkYB9S
— Josie 64 for the many (@josie1964) February 9, 2019
Labour’s national leadership has already confirmed that there will be no action taken against Wavertree.
Then came the threats to quit:
I am definintely planning to quit my membership. If the Gen Sec is saying that Luciana Berger deserves solidarity, when she has shown none towards the party, the leader or the members, it's time I went. #Solidarity
— Qualified to think for myself. (@darrenmark69) February 9, 2019
Took the words out of my mouth 🇬🇧😡 between Watson and Berger I've just about had enough 😡😡 https://t.co/003M2vr94c
— P J (@maddtabb) February 9, 2019
Fortunately other members took a more rounded view: “There is a greater need than us,” tweeted Teri_Card007. “The 14 million in poverty, 1.5 million in destitution, 330,000 homeless and the disabled who are dying every month because of Tory policy. We stand together, support each other. Labour is Socialist and there are many of us and they’re the few.”
Here are a few more such opinions:
All those good folk in despair over events of the last 24 hours, stay strong.
The Blatcherites want you to give up. The tories want you to give up.
Invoke the spirit of Liverpool and stay strong. Now, more than ever we need you to believe. #iStandWithWavertree
— Wolfie. 🖐 (@Tpopularfront) February 9, 2019
Pinning this to my profile to keep my spirits up! Solidarity, all, let’s keep on marching!
— Mel (@melaniekmelvin) February 9, 2019
It may feel like the attacks on our party have mounted again in the face of what seems a defeat for socialism in recent days. You may feel deflated, beaten, angry. That's how they want you to feel, That's how they regain control of our movement if we let them. Not on my watch. pic.twitter.com/PSHiObGCVF
— Damo (@Cornish_Damo) February 9, 2019
Perhaps the best reflection of the way Labour members feel came from a former 2017 general election candidate going under the handle @DisIdealist, who wrote: “Where members tend to draw the line, in my experience, is when a representative is seen as both politically unsympathetic and not helping to obtain a Labour government. If an MP ever crosses a line to be seen as actively helping to prevent a Labour government, then members will almost always move against them. If one looks at those Labour MPs who have faced motions of no confidence – and it is a relatively small number – one finds that it is inevitably the case that they not only have serious political differences with the leadership, but they are seen by members as making a Labour government less likely through their public provision of ammunition to the hostile media and the Tories.”
That is the real spirit of Labour. Not the fake-Tory divide-and-rule we’re seeing from the likes of Berger, Harman, Watson, Streeting, Umunna (always the same names, aren’t they?) and (I’m sorry to say) Formby.
But those are just six voices – loud voices, maybe, but not many – among more than half a million. They want to deceive the rest into thinking that their few voices matter more than those of the rest of us – and they hope that their lies will convince people of good conscience to quit the party, so they can have their cosy little club back; never challenging the Tories enough to make a difference, just making sure they take their ministerial salaries home.
To the mass of Labour members: Don’t let them win. Force the issue. Make them defend themselves – and prove that they can’t.
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