The re-suspension of Chris Williamson amid renewed – and malicious, in This Writer’s opinion – screams of “anti-Semite” is a scar on the face of the Labour Party.
The Labour MPs, peers and party employees who have vilified Mr Williamson – without any real evidence, let’s remember – all deserve to be subjected to the same disciplinary procedure, with the threat of being thrown out. Every single one of them. They have done more to bring the party into disrepute than he ever did.
Here are the names of the MPs and peers involved: Tom Watson, Holly Lynch, Stella Creasy, Anna Turley, Rosie Duffield, Louise Ellman, Ruth Smeeth, Jenny Chapman, Roberta Blackman-Woods, Stephen Dought, Karin Smyth, Baroness Thornton, Lord McNicol, Baroness Morgan of Huyton, Lord Turnberg, Gloria de Piero, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Yvette Cooper, Baroness Massey of Darwen, Baroness Kingsmill, Lord Soley, Madeleine Moon, Kate Green, Ruth Cadbury, Owen Smith, Seema Malhotra, Liz Kendall, Chris Matheson, Margaret Hodge, Stephen Kinnock, Jeff Smith, Chris Bryant, Wes Streeting, Julie Elliott, Lord Levy, Lord Knight of Weymouth, Lord Harris of Haringey, Ali McGovern, James Frith, Lucy Powell, Bridget Phillipson, Pat McFadden, Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall, Lord Triesman, Lord Dubs, Ian Murray, Darren Jones, Alex Sobel, Karen Buck, Neil Coyle, Lord Mandelson, Anna McMorrin, Chi Onwurah, Baroness Taylor of Bolton, Lord Willie Bach, Susan Elan Jones, Ged Killen, Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale, Lord Livermore, Kevin Barron, Dan Jarvis, Jess Phillips, Martin Whitfield, Rachel Reeves, Peter Kyle, Baroness Armstrong of Hilltop, Lord Young of Norwood Green, Ellie Reeves, Baroness Maggie Jones, Rushanara Ali, Debbie Abrahams, Daniel Zeichner, Lilian Greenwood, Graham Jones, Toby Perkins, Lord George Robertson, Baroness Mary Goudie, Barry Sheerman, Tonia Antoniazzi, Ian Lucas, Lord George Foulkes, Lord Wood of Anfield, Cat McKinnell, Ben Bradshaw, Lord Haskell, Lisa Nandy, Gareth Thomas, Lord Brooke, Sharon Hodgson, and Lord Kennedy of Southwark.
Of course, context is everything. If any of them can demonstrate that they were misled and did not understand that they were supporting false accusations, I would certainly advocate leniency. But they all deserve to have their cards marked for this particular abomination.
The letter they signed provides absolutely no evidence in support of their demand.
The most relevant line – ironically – is “It is clear to us that the Labour Party’s disciplinary process remains mired by the appearance of political interference.” Of course, their letter is the most blatant example of political interference there could be. They didn’t like the result of the party’s investigation so they’re trying to change it.
That is how the public sees this and the public has responded with disgust at Mr Watson and his co-plotters.
Here's @tom_watson and the usual right-wing suspects brazenly trying to undermine, overturn, second-guess and takeover the disciplinary processes of our Party.
Totally unpleasant lynch-mob type mentality being driven by its Deputy Leader and a bunch of Blarites.
Shame on them. https://t.co/riYFv33m26
— Cllr John Edwards (@JohnEdwards33) June 27, 2019
On the basis of that letter, one may be forgiven for thinking that these Labour MPs and peers are attacking Mr Williamson because they don’t like him. That is the limit of the information in their letter.
Fortunately, The New Statesman‘s Patrick Maguire has provided a letter from 68 anti-Semitic – yes, anti-Semitic – Labour Party staffers, providing details of their accusations against Mr Williamson.
NEW: 68 Labour staff have put their names to this letter to Jennie Formby. They say that Chris Williamson’s presence in the party makes them feel “unwelcome” at work pic.twitter.com/854kwa5Dww
— Patrick Maguire (@patrickkmaguire) June 27, 2019
These details include claims that Mr Williamson:
“Shared a platform with Tony Greenstein, suspended from Labour for using terms such as ‘Zio’ and describing a Jewish member of the Labour Party as a ‘Nazi Bitch’.”
I have bad news for these Labour staff – who should know better: Tony Greenstein is himself a Jewish man. He was suspended from Labour for standing up and saying that, as a Jew, he did not accept the way certain prominent members of the party – not all of them Jewish – were making claims of anti-Semitism that did not stand up to scrutiny. You might not like the language he has used but the vilification of this man by these people is clear hatred against a Jew, as a Jew. That is anti-Semitism and everybody who signed this letter is therefore an anti-Semite.
They also complained that Mr Williamson:
“Attended events in solidarity with individuals suspended from the Labour Party for antisemitism.”
How kind of these Labour officers to confirm what many of us have known for years – that those accused of anti-Semitism are automatically assumed to be guilty by the party machine. There’s no justice in Labour’s disciplinary procedures while these people are around!
They said he
“campaigned for the reinstatement of Marc Wadsworth, who attacked Ruth Smeeth MP at the launch of the Chakrabarti Inquiry and accused her of ‘working hand in hand with the press’.”
Mr Wadsworth was well within his rights to accuse Ms Smeeth, as is well-documented. She instantly accused him of anti-Semitism, despite the fact that he did not even know she was Jewish at the time. Labour’s disciplinary procedure led to his unfair expulsion – a decision that created a wave of disgust at the party’s biased system.
You can read this article for more information. It includes Mr Williamson’s tweet in support of Mr Wadsworth, pointing out that he is an anti-racism campaigner who was instrumental in the campaign for justice after the death of Stephen Lawrence.
They said he
“reasserted his support for Pete Willsman, after a recording surfaced of an antisemitic rant about Rabbis and that antisemitism in the Party was manufactured by Israel, an antisemitic conspiracy theory.”
How many times do we have to repeat that criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic? There is a wealth of evidence to show that the Israeli government habitually interferes in Labour Party affairs – read this article for a taste of it.
“just hours after 11 Jewish people were murdered in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Chris Williamson tweeted a conspiracy theory article from the website Skwawkbox, accusing the Board of Deputies of British Jews of using antisemitic language.”
Here‘s the Skwawkbox piece. As you can see, it was reporting on claims in the Jewish Chronicle that Marie van der Zyl, chair of the self-elected Board of Deputies, had used an anti-Semitic stereotype in a speech.
And you know what Mr Williamson’s comment was? It’s in my article here: “Wow, well blow me down with a feather.” That’s an expression of surprise or shock – not of anti-Semitism. Maybe he was being sarcastic but, in context, that should be no reason for vilification either.
I don’t have personal knowledge of the claims regarding a petition in support of Gilad Atzmon or endorsement of Scott Nelson. I have heard that he was asked to support a petition against calls to boycott a concert by Mr Atzmon, who is a musician by trade. For some reason, at the time of writing, I am unable to access that petition on the Change.org site, so I cannot tell whether there is any mention of his political views. If not, it’s possible Mr Williamson was not aware of any accusations of anti-Semitism against that person. In Mr Nelson’s case, my understanding is that this is a person who accepted he had made anti-Semitic comments in the past and apologised for them – and Mr Williamson was calling for people to accept the apology and move on.
So, on the face of it, the evidence against Mr Williamson is spectacularly weak.
There was no anti-Semitism in the speech that prompted his suspension in the first place. See my article here for the facts about that.
The manufactured anger over that speech seemed to be part of a co-ordinated campaign against Mr Williamson; he was also attacked for trying to host a screening of the film Witch-Hunt, that covers the false claims of anti-Semitism against Jackie Walker (and others). Not mentioned by opponents of Ms Walker is the fact that she is herself Jewish. Like Mr Greenstein, she stands up – as a Jew – to denounce the misappropriation of anti-Semitism accusations. Those who accused her, in turn, of anti-Semitism were in fact guilty of the offence themselves.
But they always seem to get away with it, don’t they?
Mr Williamson has tweeted his own impatience with the inconsistency in Labour’s disciplinary process:
They say a week is a long time in politics: it seems two days is even longer. I'm naturally concerned by the lack of due process and consistency in how my case is being handled. I've been a loyal Labour member for 43 years, and will do my utmost to fight for my membership.
— Chris Williamson (@DerbyChrisW) June 28, 2019
As a resident of Brecon and Radnorshire, where Labour is about to field a candidate in a by-election, I am deeply concerned about the misbehaviour of party members and officers who should know better.
It will undoubtedly reflect on the campaign and people may decide not to support Labour because of it.
And then who will be to blame?
It won’t be anyone who has been falsely accused of anti-Semitism but I can’t see Tom Watson biting the bullet. Can you?
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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