Condemn Expulsion of Black Activist Marc Wadsworth!
(Picture shows Marc Introducing Nelson Mandela to Stephen Lawrence's Family)
Motion to demand the reinstatement of Labour Party membership for Marc Wadsworth
This is a motion of protest at Marc’s expulsion. It is promoted by Grassroots Black Left, of which Marc is a leading member.
This branch notes that:
1. Marc Wadsworth has been a prominent campaigner against racism and antisemitism, inside and outside the Labour Party and in the trade union movement, for more than 30 years. In particular he formed the Anti-Racist Alliance in 1991; helped set up the Justice for Stephen Lawrence campaign, introducing parents Doreen and Neville to Nelson Mandela.
2. Marc attended the launch of the Shami Chakrabarti report on antisemitism and racism. During this event, he challenged a Labour MP, Ruth Smeeth, who has been a high-profile opponent of the Labour leader, for receiving a document (a press release Marc was distributing) from a Telegraph journalist. Marc commented: “You can see who is working hand-in-hand”. This was only three days after some members of the Parliamentary Labour Party began resigning from Labour’s front bench, on camera and briefing the press against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Marc then went on to question the under-representation of black party members in the room. In early 2018, he stated:
“My crime, as a black activist, was to call out an opponent of the party leader at the launch of the Chakrabarti report. I didn’t know that the Labour MP was Jewish, yet I’ve been smeared and vilified as ‘antisemitic’. As someone who has fought racism and antisemitism all my life, including side-by-side with Jewish comrades against the fascist BNP, I have been devastated by the false allegation against me.”
3. A ‘trial by media’ followed, but the allegation against Marc is not supported by video recordings at the event, which support his account. Marc’s proud record as a veteran anti-racist campaigner is also completely at odds with a suggestion of antisemitism. Despite this, Marc’s membership of the Labour Party was suspended by the general secretary, Iain McNicol, on 30 June 2016.
4. After a suspension lasting 22 months, the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) eventually gave Marc’s case a hearing starting on 25 April 2018 and on 27 April the NCC announced Marc’s expulsion. Given the absence of evidence to substantiate an allegation of antisemitism, it is unsurprising that the NCC did not level that charge against Marc. However, this highly significant fact has been largely ignored by mainstream media.
5. Instead, Marc was charged with bringing the Party into disrepute. But it is hard to see how his comments in themselves could have brought this about. Is a comment about a Labour MP’s close relationship with a Daily Telegraph journalist not legitimate? Is a complaint about under-representation of black and ethnic minority people within the Party machinery unacceptable? In reality, any reputational damage that has arisen has come from the deliberate ‘spin’ created around the misreporting of the incident and its false labelling as antisemitism by the mainstream media. Ruth Smeeth left the press conference and a statement was posted on her website calling for the Labour Leader to resign for failing to defend her from an antisemitic attack. It is noted that this posting was removed only a few weeks before the NCC hearing into Marc’s case.
6. The principal findings and recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report were largely overshadowed by the media’s focus upon the so-called antisemitic incident and its aftermath. That was certainly a convenient diversion for those seeking to dismiss the report’s findings as a whitewash and to maintain a narrative of Labour’s alleged widespread problem with antisemitism.
7. Among the recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report was a reform in the handling of disciplinary cases to ensure due process and natural justice. Despite the NEC recommending that the Report’s findings should be implemented, this has not yet been carried out by Labour Party officials. Prior to Marc’s case being heard, both Jeremy Corbyn and the new general secretary, Jennie Formby, had declared that Chakrabarti’s recommendations on changes to Labour’s disciplinary procedures would be implemented immediately. Jennie Formby described the existing procedures as unfit for purpose.
This branch considers that:
8. Marc has already been severely ‘punished’ with a suspension lasting 22 months as a direct result of unsubstantiated allegations of antisemitism.
9. Marc has suffered serious reputational damage through being falsely labelled as antisemitic.
10. The handling of Marc’s case sets an unsound and dangerous precedent for the handling of other disciplinary cases by the Labour Party through its denial of natural justice and due process.
This branch therefore resolves:
11. To call upon the NEC urgently:
(a) to review and overturn the decision of the NCC to expel Marc Wadsworth, and to lift his suspension of membership; and
(b) speedily to implement all proposals in the Chakrabarti Report, including those that would have disciplinary cases handled with fairness and transparency to ensure natural justice.
This resolution gives a valuable factual background to the issues involved.
Statement from Jewish Voice for Labour
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.
Chris Williamson MP adds -
The veteran anti-racist campaigner, Marc Wadsworth, has been expelled from the Labour Party by the party's National Constitutional Committee for allegedly bringing the party into disrepute. The case was brought following his question at the press conference for Chakrabarti Report into "Anti-Semitism and other forms of racism".
This is my response to the decision:
"I am astonished by the National Constitutional Committee's (NCC) perverse determination of Marc Wadsworth's case.
"It flies in the face of the evidence that was presented and offends against the principles of natural justice.
"The NCC's decision has all the hallmarks of predetermination and tramples on the Labour Party's record of standing up fairness.
"I will therefore continue to stand four-square behind Marc and assist him in his efforts to clear his name, and his reputation as a veteran anti-racist campaigner, which have been besmirched by this absurd NCC ruling."