The expulsion from the Labour Party of antiracist activist Marc Wadsworth marks a new low in the unprincipled campaign by enemies of the left to misuse justified concerns about antisemitism for factional ends.
In ruling that Wadsworth subjected Ruth Smeeth MP to antisemitic abuse at the launch of the Chakrabarti Report on June 30, 2016, the National Constitutional Committee panel has ignored the factual evidence and based its decision on a distorted interpretation of the incident in question.
An individual’s clam to have felt abused, and the perception of their supporters, must of course be taken seriously. So the Party was right to investigate Ruth Smeeth’s complaint. But that claim and those perceptions cannot be the deciding factors in the case. Sir William Macpherson’s ruling in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry was precise on that point. (Wadsworth, as it happens, played a leading role in the campaign for justice for the Lawrence family.)
In this case, a comment by Wadsworth about an exchange he witnessed between one Daily Telegraph journalist and one MP has been represented as a generalised attack on Jews. The NCC have given their stamp of approval to manipulation by media and other commentators, which twisted an unremarkable throwaway comment to claim it as a vile antisemitic slur – that Jews collectively control the media.
The NCC made its judgement against the background of Wadsworth’s summary suspension 22 months ago, which was itself a travesty of the transparent, fair and equitable procedures one would expect from a labour movement organisation.
Wadsworth was punished in advance of investigation and hearing of the case. He was universally pilloried in the media as guilty of a detestable hate crime. Headlines described him as “the activist who made Jewish MP weep” and his name was linked repeatedly with antisemitism. Representing this veteran Black activist as guilty of abusing a Jewish politician is not only unjust. It risks damaging the essential cause of combating rising racist bigotry in society by pitting blacks against Jews.
It is a bitter irony that Wadsworth’s unjust treatment would not have been possible if the relevant recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report had been implemented rather than being obstructed by the party’s entrenched bureaucracy. The machinery in place since long before Corbyn was elected leader has continued to deploy the flawed processes, that Chakrabarti declared unfit for purpose, against pro-Corbyn party members.
Some cases of genuine antisemitism – hostility towards Jews for no other reason than that they are Jews – have been identified,, and these need to be dealt with in a just, equitable and transparent manner.
It must be a priority for the new General Secretary to ensure that:
* Marc Wadsworth has the opportunity to appeal the judgement against him and to have the appeal heard by an independent arbiter
* other outstanding disciplinary cases, involving antisemitism and other allegations, are reviewed and unjust suspensions lifted,
* disciplinary procedures and structures are reformed as part of a review process involving the full spectrum of opinions in the party.
Jewish Voice for Labour looks forward to playing a positive role in this process.
A Network for Jewish Members of the Labour Party