“Jackie Walker was a long-standing anti-racist ally of Mr Corbyn,” stated John Ware in voice-over, around half-way through the now-thoroughly-discredited BBC Panorama documentary (mockumentary would be more accurate) Is Labour Antisemitic?
“She seems to have had a blind spot when it came to anti-Semitism.” Did she? Did she really? Or did her concept of anti-Semitism simply not correspond with the Labour disputes team’s view – which was that any criticism of the Israeli government or the Zionist ideology that informed it must also be anti-Semitism? (That is a view that is not upheld by any accepted definition of anti-Semitism, of course.)
A confused and worried-looking Louise Withers-Green appeared, to explain what happened when she interviewed Ms Walker. She started by saying Ms Walker had said “a number of very offensive things”. The first that she listed was that “the Jews were financiers of the slave trade”.
It is interesting that the BBC allowed this claim to appear on Panorama as the corporation had been forced to admit that Nick Robinson was wrong to say that, when he tweeted the suggestion in February. That correction had come at the end of June – at least 10 days before the transmission of the Panorama programme. Why had the BBC allowed itself to repeat this – call it what it is – libel?
“She suggested that Jews were… unwelcoming to black people.” This is a new one on This Writer and I would like to hear more evidence.
“And [she] repeatedly reiterated tropes about Jews having undue power and influence.” Did she? My recollection is that members of the Israel Advocacy Movement (an organisation with connections to the Campaign Against Antisemitism) hacked into Ms Walker’s private messaging system on Facebook and grabbed whatever they could get, which included a comment in a discussion with a friend that the Caribbean slave trade, at the time her ancestors were slaves, had numbered Jewish people among its chief financiers – and this is why the Caribbean has many very old synagogues. Later, in what was advertised as a “safe space” session during a Labour conference – where attendees were encouraged to air controversial views in order to discuss them, my understanding is that a recording was taken of Ms Walker saying she had not found a definition of anti-Semitism with which she could agree, that she wished Holocaust Memorial Day was open to all peoples who have experienced holocaust (going on to point out that it excludes “the African holocaust” during the slave trade, among others), and when the subject of security at Jewish schools was raised she questioned the trainer’s point – as she understands that all London primary schools have security now.
Who was acting in bad faith during those incidents? Was it really Ms Walker? Or was it the Israel Advocacy Movement members who broke the law by hacking into her private messages and presenting a distorted version of what they found to the Jewish Chronicle, and the Jewish Labour Movement members who claimed to have organised a “safe space” training session and then betrayed the faith attendees placed in them by recording what was said and pretending it was evidence of anti-Semitism?
“She showed absolutely no contrition or remorse for the things that she had said,” claimed Ms Withers-Green. Why should she? Ms Walker had said nothing wrong.
The complaint was sent to Labour’s National Constitutional Committee, which has authority to expel members (I have personal experience of this), and former party general secretary Iain (now Lord – when was he ennobled?) McNicol was wheeled on to say the NCC is completely independent and should make decisions based on the facts of a case.
I have personal experience that this is not true. When my case went before the NCC, its members decided against me – but not on the facts of the case. I had proved those facts wrong and the party representative who had been brought in to make its own case had been unable to deny anything I said. Instead the NCC seemed more perturbed that I had discussed internal Labour Party issues on This Site, even though all the issues I had discussed had been matters of public knowledge and it was my job as a responsible journalist to write about them impartially. In fact, the decisions I had made had been based on the facts of the individual cases and the NCC panellists could have learned from my example. Their final reason for expelling me was the limp excuse that I had made statements which had upset somebody (who was never named and therefore, legally, does not exist). Of course, the Labour Party makes statements every day that somebody will find upsetting – Tories in particular, I suspect. But that double-standard was ignored.
Back in the documentary, Mr Ware stated that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership discussed how to “control” the NCC in an email chain. It seems there was an attempt to interfere with the selection of the NCC panel set to hear Ms Walker’s case, back in spring 2018 – which is interesting as her case was not actually heard until earlier this year.
He quoted from an email in which Jennie Formby allegedly stated, “The NCC cannot be allowed to continue in the way that they are,” adding “and I will also be challenging… the panel for the Jackie Walker case.” I wonder what came between “challenging” and “the panel” in the original email?
As you can see from my own experiences, there are genuine reasons to doubt that the NCC has acted in good faith over cases of alleged anti-Semitism and the woman who chaired the panel in my case – one Maggie Cousins – has been subject to particular criticism, having contributed to the expulsion from Labour of the son of two Nazi Holocaust survivors. Evidence has shown that her judgement is not to be trusted.
There was more discussion of whether interference with panels should be allowed with Iain McNicol, even though the quote from Ms Formby’s email doesn’t mention any challenge to the composition of an NCC panel.
Labour’s response, flashed on-screen was: “The emails… are simply about ensuring the NCC is held accountable for the length of time they take to hear cases and about protecting the party against any successful legal challenge on the basis of perceived bias if the same panel is used in high profile cases.” Such fears may well be justified, as the length of time between this alleged email discussion and the date of Ms Walker’s NCC hearing, together with my reference to Ms Cousins, show.
Mr Ware had to admit that there is no evidence the email chain he discussed had any effect on the NCC and its deliberations, as Ms Walker was (wrongly) expelled from Labour after her hearing. She had walked out of it after being denied the opportunity to make a statement at the start, so it is unsurprising that the panel had run roughshod over any evidence that she may have submitted.
As for Ms Formby – Mr Ware quoted from another email in which she stated that she had deleted all parts of the chain as “too many eyes” were watching her address. He made no comment on the morality of people – like his own informers – spying on the private correspondence of a senior officer of the Labour Party. Hmm…
Mr Ware moved on to make an unsubstantiated claim that last summer the Leader’s office had ordered the transfer of batches of complaints files from Labour’s Southside HQ to the Leader’s office itself, in a different location. Considering the claim in another leaked letter – the legal correspondence between Labour solicitors Carter-Ruck and Sam Matthews (former head of Governance and Legal) – that documents had been leaked wholesale to the press or shredded, this seems an appropriate precaution to have taken.
Labour’s on-screen statement was that, as with any large organisation, it occasionally seconds staff to do alternative work where there are capacity issues [as with the number of anti-Semitism complaints it was having to handle]. “This in no way contradicts the party’s position that the complaints process operates independently of the Leader’s office.”
Another testimony: “People were posting Nazi and openly anti-Semitic material from conspiracy websites on the constituency party’s Facebook page.” Which CLP page? “We are very frightened of what Corbyn might do because we have seen these behaviours before. We know what happens when people don’t speak up against things that are patently wrong. Zero tolerance just doesn’t apply for hatred towards Jewish people.”
But people are speaking up – against the falsehood of the attacks against Mr Corbyn. People like this speaker are acting in bad faith, it seems – and may in fact be creating the very hatred towards Jewish people – with their lies – that they are pleading against.
Mr Ware was now saying that by last spring there were several hundred anti-Semitism cases waiting to be resolved, but Labour would not provide accurate figures. They were made public a few months ago, in response to a (public) demand by Parliamentary Labour Party members. Perhaps Mr Ware missed it because he was rooting around in stolen email chains?
He said by spring the number of members who had been expelled stood at only 15.
“That was a figure that really shocked me when I read it,” said Martha Robinson. “I think I was actually brought to tears with anger and frustration.” That all her hard work to rid the party of innocent people had come to nothing? “It was just horrifying to hear that all the work I had tried to do had essentially been for nothing.”
Indeed. Never mind justice; she just wanted to purge the party of anyone who criticised her particular – and narrow-minded – view.
Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne responded to the numbers. He was asked: “Do you regard 15 expulsions of anti-Semites in a crisis that has been running over three years as evidence of having dealt with this crisis?” A loaded question. Ms Walker wasn’t an anti-Semite, and wasn’t expelled as one. Neither am I, and neither was I. Marc Wadsworth is bringing legal action against Labour; so am I.
Mr Gwynne’s response: “Well 15 fewer racists and people who hold obnoxious views, I think is important.” Oh really? I’m a racist, am I? I hold obnoxious views? Has Mr Gwynne even heard of my case? From this evidence I think not and I will challenge him on this.
“We are serious about getting shot of this problem,” he said. Well, I’m here to say the Labour Party is going about it the wrong way.
Here in the UK we have a fundamental principle of justice, which is that a person is innocent until they are proven guilty. Labour’s disputes team – especially the former members interviewed in this documentary – inverted that principle. They decided that anybody who had been accused of anti-Semitism must be guilty of it – the mere fact of having been accused was enough.
In my dealings with the disputes team over my own case, I was never given the impression that anybody involved considered me to be anything less than guilty of all charges, evidence be damned, and my innocence in respect of some of them has only been demonstrated by contact with other authorities.
Yet Labour has never acknowledged its errors in these instances and I have received no apologies. The claim is that “the decision of the NCC is final” – even when it has been made in error (or, more likely, through prejudice).
Labour is in the wrong – but not in the way Mr Ware claims. The problem is not that the party has wrongly acquitted too many people, but that too many have been wrongly demonised.
Next came a segment about the Chakrabarti report of 2016. Disputes team members were negative about it – but by this point their claims were so clearly prejudiced that there’s no reason to bother with them. “It was so poorly researched,” whined Kat Buckingham. “Pitiful is the right word.” Yes – to describe Ms Buckingham’s own reaction.
Mr Ware used part of the report – that people should not be judged by the company they keep – to link to the next section, which is criticism of the people with whom Mr Corbyn has shared a platform. We’ll discuss that next time.
To be continued…
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