David Rosenberg on the Wadsworth show trial

David Rosenberg: Photo from David's Facebook page

David Rosenberg writes: “I was proud to be one of the witnesses Marc called to try to prevent this injustice, and I was motivated to do so above all, because I detest dishonesty and manipulation.”

In defence of Marc Wadsworth

‘Today a longstanding Black anti-racist campaigner, Marc Wadsworth, was expelled from the Labour Party. I was dismayed but not surprised at the outcome. It was a grave injustice in an atmosphere in of “guilty until proved innocent”. He was expelled by a catch-all rule that it is very easy to fall foul of, though in my view his main accuser has a much bigger case to answer on that score.

I was proud to be one of the witnesses Marc called to try to prevent this injustice, and I was motivated to do so above all, because I detest dishonesty and manipulation.

I was present at the event (the launch of the Chakrabarti Report) where the key incident on which the case hung. I know exactly what I saw and what I heard. I will quote from my witness statement just to clear up any confusion people may have should they read newspaper reports of the incident and any misplaced belief that any question of antisemitism was presnt. After that I will make some comments about other players in this farce.

After Shami Chakrabarti and Jeremy Corbyn spoke…

“Shami Chakrabarti invited members of the press… to ask questions… not one of them asked about the report itself, or about antisemitism. Instead they abused the privilege of being invited to ask questions by pressing Jeremy Corbyn about extraneous Labour leadership issues, and allegations about Momentum and “Trotskyists”.

The tone was set by a Daily Telegraph reporter (Kate McCann) who referred to someone present who had been handing out Momentum leaflets before the formal event began. I never saw these leaflets. As the exchanges became more tetchy… it became apparent that the leaflet incident…concerned … Marc Wadsworth, who was standing just behind where I was sitting…

Wadsworth made a remark about the Daily Telegraph journalist, whom he said had passed a press release to Labour MP Ruth Smeeth before the meeting. In the meeting Smeeth was sitting not far from the Telegraph journalist (and in clear view of myself). Wadsworth added: “We can see who is working hand in hand.”

This comment was unremarkable given the state of conflict within the Labour Party after a significant section of the Parliamentary Labour Party refused to accept the democratic vote by party members that Jeremy Corbyn should be party leader. Throughout this period, his opponents, including Labour MPs, were briefing against him, their comments frequently appearing in the right wing anti-Labour press such as the Daily Telegraph, The Times, Daily Mail and Daily Express.

Smeeth… looked alarmed by Wadsworth’s comments, and said, ‘How dare you?’ The audience turned towards her and Wadsworth, irritated that a private argument was distracting from the the launch of an important report. Smeeth stood up and calmly walked out, followed soon afterwards by Kate McCann, the Daily Telegraph reporter.

Further irrelevant questions from the press corps followed until Rabbi Abraham Pinter… asked to speak. He admonished the press for their disgraceful lack of interest in antisemitism and the Report that was being launched. Shami Chakrabarti welcomed his comments… and closed the proceedings. Jeremy Corbyn and Rabbi Pinter greeted each other warmly. People calmly left the room.

I was absolutely astonished to hear and read news reports just hours after this event… which claimed that Ruth Smeeth MP had walked out of the event in tears and that there had been an antisemitic incident at the launch of the report from the Labour Party’s inquiry into antisemitism. I had not witnessed any such incident and she did not walk out in tears.

… later that day I saw that Ruth Smeeth MP had published tweets claiming that she had been a “victim of traditional antisemitic slurs”, and subjected to “vile conspiracy theories about the Jewish people”. This is a travesty. It simply had not happened. None of the Jewish people who attended, that I subsequently discussed it with, heard any words that could be construed as antisemitic…

Smeeth tweeted that the Labour Party was “no longer safe for Jews”, an unjustified slur not only on the Labour leadership but on all non-Jews in the party. It is the kind of comment that brings the party into disrepute.”

There is video evidence that was shown during the hearing which shows unmistakeably that Ruth Smeeth was lying about the words she attributed to Marc Wadsworth.

The very worst you could say about Wadsworth’s behaviour is that it wasn’t very sensitive to the event and, as I said, people were a bit irritated by the sideshow, but how does a bit of insensitivity compare with telling outright lies and making unwarranted slurs against Labour members up and down the country? Which is worse? I think the answer is obvious, but she seems to be strictly protected. Have I seen worse behaviour at ward/GC meetings? Much worse.

Of course once you know someone tells brazen lies it is hard to believe anything else they say. Ruth Smeeth says she has received 25,000 abusive antisemitic tweets/messages. That may be the case. At every opportunity I have seen her write about them she tries to attribute them to Corbyn supporting Labour/Momentum members. And yet the Labour Party confirmed the other day it has 90 outstanding complaints of antisemitism against members to investigate. I’m not great at maths but this doesn’t add up. Will Ruth Smeeth ever tell us how many Labour Party members she has reported for antisemitic abuse?

In recent weeks people who regard themselves as “leaders” and “spokespersons” for the Jewish community have been calling for the full implementation of the Chakrabarti report. Let’s remind ourselves that these are the same people who at the time were castigating the report being extremely insulting and borderline racist towards Shami Chakrabarti.

if only Iain McNicol had not spent a year and a half blocking it, because one of its key recomendations is to prioritise education to deal with complaints and only use disciplinary measure such as suspensions and exclusions as a last resort

A final comment about my interactions when I was called in to answer questions about my evidence. I was asked to accept that if a Jewish person perceives an action against them as antisemitic then it is. I said this was a misreading of the MacPherson principle which is when someone feels they have been victim of a racist incident, then you acknowledge it and listen respectfully to what happened. But that is only half the story. You then try to marry that with objective evidence and witness evidence. As a further example I referred to the CST who are recognised for collecting statistics on antisemitic incidents. I explained that in their last report (for 2017) they recorded more than 1300 incidents but rejected several hundred more because although the victims perceived them as antisemitic incidents, CST could not prove antisemtic motivation.

They then suggested to me that the comments about Smeeth and a newspaper “working hand in hand” were an antisemitic trope because Smeeth was Jewish. I retorted that I was familiar with the Jews and media trope especially from my book about antisemitism in Britain in the 1930s, but the trope was about *control* of the media not collusion or cooperation with it. I added that in the 1930s the only paper antisemites could prove Jewish control over was the Jewish chronicle. I talked about the known collusion between Labour right wingers ,opposed to the leadership, and the right wing press they kept getting quoted in. That was said about several MPs, a small number of them Jewish. The accusation doesn’t suddenly become an antisemitic one when a Jew is accused of working with them. That was the “quality” of the arguments on which they found Wadsworth guilty. It was a disgrace and to be honest I resent my membership money funding this charade.’