“They say a week is a long time in politics: it seems two days is even longer.” These were the words of Chris Williamson, the left-wing MP for Derby North, in a tweet from last Friday, responding to the scandalous news that the decision to lift his suspension from the Labour Party had been overturned.
The attacks against Williamson - a vocal opponent of austerity, racism, and imperialism - are a disgrace. The left must not tolerate any more of these Blairite smears and slanders.
Concessions to Labour’s right-wingers are futile. In fact, they are worse than futile - they are actively harming our fight for a Corbyn Labour government, since they demoralise and disorientate the motor force of our movement: grassroots activists and party members.
We call on all our readers to defend Chris Williamson and say no the Blairites and their campaign to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and the left:
- Sign the petition in support of Chris.
- Attend the lobby of Labour’s NEC outside the Labour Party HQ next Tuesday.
- Pass the model motion below in CLPs across the country.
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 MP #GTTO (@DerbyChrisW) June 28, 2019
Like Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, and Marc Wadsworth before him, Chris Williamson is a victim of a witch-hunt in which the accused are deemed guilty from the outset, with no chance of ever proving their innocence. Let us remind ourselves, after all, of what ‘crime’ Williamson is alleged to have committed.
Williamson was originally suspended earlier this year, on 27th February. This was in response to comments made by the MP at a Momentum meeting in Sheffield, where he correctly asserted that the Labour Party was being “demonised as a racist, bigoted party”, and was being “too apologetic” in its response to these spurious allegations.
Last week, on 26th June, a three-person panel from the Labour National Executive Committee (NEC) met to assess the ‘evidence’ against Williamson. Despite right-wing attempts to swing the vote by presenting a ‘dodgy dossier’, the panel deemed that Williamson’s remarks were not antisemitic. None of his actions or statements, the disciplinary body concluded, warranted anything more than a formal warning. As a result, his suspension from the party was to be removed.
This decision was quickly met with a cacophony of cries from the Labour right wing. Despite previously admonishing Jeremy Corbyn and his office for ‘interfering’ in other high-profile cases, a 144-strong assortment of Blairite MPs, Lords, and Baronesses signed a letter calling on the Labour leader to intervene “by asking for this inappropriate, offensive and reputationally damaging decision to be overturned and reviewed”.
The hypocrisy is astounding. In the same breathe, the signatories of this letter state that “the Labour Party’s disciplinary process remains mired by the appearance of political interference” before calling on Corbyn to “show leadership” by...interfering in the Labour Party’s disciplinary process!
Amongst the hypocrites were all the usual names from the right wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP): Margaret Hodge, Wes Streeting, Jess Phillips, and Stephen Kinnock. Various Labour grandees added their signatures too, including the ‘Prince of Darkness’, Peter Mandelson. And no surprise which name topped the list: Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader and self-appointed Witchfinder General.
This poundshop Machiavelli has been central to every scheme and plot to sabotage the chances of bringing a Corbyn Labour government to power. Earlier this year, for example, the deputy leader was himself given a slap on the wrist by Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, due to his attempts to circumvent the party’s official procedures and structures by personally taking charge of the internal complaints process.
Following the announcement that Williamson was to be let back into the party, pressure was quickly brought to bear on Keith Vaz, a former minister under Tony Blair, who was one of the two people on the NEC panel to vote in favour of Williamson. As a result of bullying and harassment by Labour’s right wing, the Leicester East MP U-turned on his previous decision. Vaz wrote to Jennie Formby, asking her to review his own conclusion. As a result, party officials announced last Friday that Williamson’s suspension would be reapplied.
Before this recent episode, Williamson had already been caught up in the Blairites’ smear campaign as a result of standing up for Marc Wadsworth - another anti-racism campaigner who had been falsely accused of antisemitism. Williamson supported Wadsworth at his hearing by the party’s National Constitutional Committee (NCC) in April last year, but to no avail. Wadsworth was found guilty by this kangaroo court and was expelled.
Now, following last week’s decision, Williamson is likely to face the NCC himself, which will no doubt draw the same conclusion as they previously did with Wadsworth. Despite the transformation of the rest of the party, the NCC is still dominated by the right wing. And how can there be any talk of a fair hearing, given the hysteria that has been whipped up by the Blairites and their media mouthpieces?
This is a travesty of justice. We cannot allow the Blairites to call the shots and act as judge, jury, and executioner. All honest Labour members must mobilise to support Chris and fight against his potential expulsion.
No to compromises
The vitriolic attacks against Williamson from the likes of Hodge, Mandelson, and co. obviously come as no surprise. But what is truly disgraceful is the voices on the left that have joined this clamorous chorus.
Amongst these are figures such as Jon Lansman and Owen Jones, the unelected leader of Momentum and self-appointed spokesperson of the left respectively. Lansman, for example, was one of the first to call for a reversal of the NEC panel’s decision, responding on Twitter by stating that Williamson had shown “such contempt for the party’s verdict”. “He has to go!” the Momentum founder wailed.
This tweet reveals not one iota of contrition nor any acknowledgement of wrongdoing following a further formal warning from the Labour Party for behaviour grossly detrimental to the party. Such contempt for the Party’s verdict! He has to go! https://t.co/f9E0MelrZK— Jon Lansman (@jonlansman) June 27, 2019
From the beginning, these ‘lefts’ have pandered to the Blairites and done their dirty work by parroting accusations of antisemitism against Labour left-wingers such as Walker, Wadsworth, Willsman, and Williamson.
All of this is part of their strategy of appeasement that has been in place since day one. At every turn, Lansmann and co. have bent over backwards in order to accommodate Corbyn’s critics.
On each and every issue they have buckled to the Blairites, holding out endless olive branches and peace offerings in order to stem the tide of opposition and attacks from within the PLP. But their tactics have done nothing to stop the right wing’s antics. Rather, weakness has only invited more aggression, emboldening Watson and his gang to go on the offensive ever more boldly.
At first, it was over the question of mandatory reselection, with Momentum’s leaders categorically ruling out attempts to deselect right-wing Labour MPs. More recently, it has been over the question of antisemitism. Labour’s left-wing dominated NEC even adopted the full IHRA [International Holocaust Remberance Alliance] definition of antisemitism and made examples of activists like Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth.
But none of this has sated the appetites of Labour’s right wing, who will only be happy when the Corbyn movement has been completely broken. Their whole raison d’être is to act as a Trojan horse on behalf of big business, using their position inside the Labour Party to undermine Corbyn and the left, and to defend the interests of the capitalists and imperialists.
It is not by chance, in this respect, that each wave of attacks has been perfectly timed to distract from the various crises facing the fragile Tory government. No doubt the results of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) investigation into the Labour Party’s supposed ‘institutional antisemitism’ will be utilised by the Blairites and the establishment as yet more fuel for the fire.
By attempting to prove how ‘respectable’ and ‘reasonable’ they are by throwing figures like Willsman and Williamson under a bus, Lansmann, Jones, et al. are only aiding the Blairites in their project to reclaim their grip on party. This, in turn, paves the way for electoral defeat, since it is only by mobilising workers and youth around bold left-wing demands that Labour can kick out the Tories.
Defend Chris Williamson! Kick out the Blairites!
Thankfully there are plenty of people within the labour movement - unlike the spineless invertebrates of Lansmann and Jones - who have had the decency to support Chris Williamson and others falsely accused of antisemitism. Amongst these are left-wing film director Ken Loach, ASLEF union president Tosh McDonald (pictured with Chris Williamson), leaders of the RMT railway union, and grassroots groups such as the Jewish Voice for Labour and the Welsh Labour Grassroots.
“The ones trying to silence him [Chris Williamson] are those who don’t want campaigning MPs, don’t want an end to austerity,” McDonald correctly stated. “What these MPs’ letter is doing is nothing short of bullying. As a trade unionist I’ve fought bullies all my career and you have to stand up to them.”
McDonald is 100% right. The attacks against Williamson are not coincidental. He has been targeted by the Blairites because, as one of the most vocal campaigners for party democracy and ‘open selection’ (i.e. mandatory reselection), he threatens their cosy careers.
And now the Labour right wing are feeling the heat like never before. Last week, Jennie Formby set the ball rolling on the process whereby Labour’s parliamentary candidates for the next general election will be chosen. In the coming months, Labour members and trade unionists will have the chance to deselect local Labour MPs through the ‘trigger ballot’ process.
As agreed at last year’s Labour Party conference, where a sitting Labour MP wants to restand, Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) will have the opportunity to choose a different candidate, if either a third of the CLP’s branches or a third of local affiliated organisations (e.g. trade union branches) demand a contest.
This process falls far short of the demand for mandatory reselection; the result of a compromise with conservative - but influential - trade union leaders who do not want to rock the boat.
Nevertheless, rank-and-file Labour members and affiliates must seize this opportunity and organise to kick out the careerists. We cannot allow the Blairite saboteurs to wreck our party and our chances of defeating the Tories anymore.
Chuka Umunna’s trajectory from Corbyn opponent to ‘Independent Group’ splitter to Liberal Democrat enthusiast should be a warning to our movement. If we do not rid ourselves of the big business Fifth Column in the PLP, then these vandals will eventually attempt to cause fatal damage by breaking away in order to bring down a Corbyn government.
Such treachery must be fought now, in advance, not after the fact. The best form of defence is offence. It is time to get rid of Watson and his cronies. Only then can we unite and mobilise our full forces in order to put this wretched Tory government out of its misery and into the dustbin of history.
This CLP / branch notes with disappointment that the decision to lift Chris Williamson MP’s suspension from the Labour Party has been overturned.
We are particularly alarmed by the lack of due process in this case. Chris Williamson’s case was reviewed by a panel of the Labour NEC, which judged that there was no evidence to warrant Chris’ ongoing suspension or his referral to the National Constitutional Committee (NCC).
However, political pressure from those hostile to Williamson was applied in order to reverse the panel’s decision. In particular, the demands put forward in a letter signed by critical Labour MPs and peers - which explicitly called for intervention to overturn the NEC panel’s conclusion - fly in the face of the most basic principles of natural justice.
Williamson has been falsely accused of anti-Semitism. This is an excuse for Tom Watson and the anti-Corbyn wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) to demand his removal from the Party.
These right-wing elements are opposed to Williamson because he has been outspoken about the need for mandatory reselection of all Labour MPs by local party members, which is a basic democratic right.
We note with concern that the establishment media and the right wing of the PLP continue to assert that the Labour Party is institutionally antisemitic. The accusation of ‘institutional antisemitism’ in the Labour Party is asserted as a fact, despite data released by the party which show a 0.08% incidence of antisemitic behaviour by party members.
We note that Chris Williamson has simply questioned the characterisation of the Labour Party as a racist organisation. This statement is clearly not antisemitism, nor is it a crime worthy of any punishment.
It is a scandal that Williamson has been harassed and suspended from the party for this. Meanwhile, figures like Tony Blair - who bear responsibility for the death and destruction of the Iraq War and who repeatedly, openly attack the democratically elected leadership of the Party - are allowed to remain as Labour members. We completely reject such double standards.
We therefore call upon the NEC:
- To uphold the original decision of its panel from 26th June and reinstate Chris Williamson.
- To stop the witch-hunt against left-wing Labour members and readmit all those falsely accused of antisemitism, including Pete Willsman, Jackie Walker, and Marc Wadsworth.
- To open up trigger ballots in all CLPs, so that grassroots party members can decide who is to represent them in Parliament.