Jackie Walker – abused and vilified

JVL Introduction

Since answering questions at the Labour Representation Committee conference on Saturday, John McDonnell has been misreported and vilified. His crime: acknowledging that Jackie Walker should not be subjected to vile racist abuse.


Here is the text of the exchange that took place at the LRC Conference/AGM 9th February 2019

Q&A section with John McDonnell – following his keynote speech

1. Hi John, I’m Deborah Hobson, vice chair of LRC and co-chair Grassroots Black Left.

I want to just ask you a question on the Labour Party disciplinary process. We have a number of good comrades who have dedicated decades of their life to the movement and to the anti-racist campaigns and find themselves unjustly dragged through a process that Jennie Formby, General Secretary, has admitted is not fit for purpose.

When will the Labour Party implement the Shami Chakrabarti recommendation of the right to review?

[2. Question on the Criminal Justice system and English prisons – regarding prison teachers’ pay – not transcribed]

3. I’m Jackie Walker and as you know I – many of you might know – I’m up for my final hearing in front of the LP disciplinary process on 26th [March]. I’m not going to say very much, I’m not going to say much about that, because I don’t want it to be the main feature but one thing I would like to ask, in terms of natural justice, is how come a Member of Parliament, Louise Ellman, every time she comes on the media – so 3 times this week – can call me out as an anti-semite and demand that I am expelled, without the Labour Party actually insisting that this means there will be no natural justice for me.

I think it’s outrageous, outrageous that the party allows this to happen, and a minimum I would ask is for some kind of moratorium on comments like that from the PLP, who appear to me to be allowed to say the most outrageous things – not just about members but to the leadership – without any censure at all.


John’s responses

In terms of the disciplinary process now, the new General Secretary Jennie, she’s as you know brought Gordon Nardell in now, who’s our QC, to provide I think sound, absolutely sound, and often unchallengeable – not often, unchallengeable,  legal advice and actually is a member of the LRC if I recall rightly. And what she’s now doing is literally going through every aspect of what the Chakrabarti report recommended to seek its implementation. Now I’m not on the NEC but I’ll check again exactly where they’ve go with all of that and the right to review was a key element of securing justice (inaudible few words). I believe that will be implemented. I’m not sure where they’re at with that, but I’ll double check.

But I think it’s been to a large extent a breath of fresh air in terms of dealing with the cases that are happening at the moment. But the historic cases are the ones where the right to review would enable our (organisation?) and the NEC in particular to look at again. I’m hoping that will be speeded up. And I’ll raise this with Jennie to see how far they’ve got.

I was reassured because the key thing to ensure that NEC members got the appropriate and proper legal advice and the appointment, of Gordon Nardell, for me, gave me that assurance. He’s a brilliant lawyer and at the same time has demonstrated independence of mind throughout and that is demonstrated through all the years I’ve known him in different aspects of his roles, and demonstrated courage as well in standing up for basic human rights.

[Prisons – reply not transcribed]

On Jackie’s point, I can understand now why she’s so angry. I’ve just seen some of the scale of abuse that she’s been getting. I hadn’t heard about Louise Ellman and the ones this week until Graham contacted me yesterday. I’ll take that up with Jeremy and the General Secretary too.

Because whatever happens – we can have political disagreements, but it cannot be on the basis of unfounded allegations etc . And it cannot be on the basis of the personal attacks that many have endured. And although the media have not exposed what Jackie has gone through in terms of the level of personal attacks – and maybe one day people will see what she’s had to go through in terms of the vile comments that have been made about her in terms of social media and also some of the comments that have been made by others aswell, who should know better.

So I’ll take that particular issue that Jackie has raised today – I’ll take those up.

Can I say also that we try to be as open and transparent as we possibly can as a party. If there are issues where people feel abused, I think you should formally complain and I think we should – yes Jackie, you have and I don’t think there’s been adequate redress so far and that’s what Jeremy is trying to do now is putting in place a system where complaints are tackled properly where they haven’t been in the past. So I just say to people if you have grounds for complaint – do so. Because the new system that Jeremy is putting in, we want to ensure is far more effective and also just, of course, and that’s the nature of the politics on the left that we’ve always had.

What I try to do is ensure that we have, as best we can, our influence on the National Executive Committee and others to introduce a fair system and a just system. The introduction of a new General Secretary, with the appointment of a Counsel and I think also the need for the training that has gone on amongst NEC members the first steps towards improving that system have been taken to get a just system in place. But where it’s not working we have to challenge it just as much and challenge the system as well. And Jeremy is personally committed towards that.

I have to go now, but I do want to say – In this coming period there will be heightened role of political activity that we need to undertake against what will be media attacks all the time and we know that will be coming. What we proved in 2017 is that no matter what they throw at us – if we stand together in solidarity, not only will we be able to defend ourselves, we will be able to succeed.

Compare this with how the Times reported it:

McDonnell backs activist who said Jews financed slavery

Caroline Wheeler and Gabriel Pogrund
10 February 2019

John McDonnell has strongly defended a prominent Labour activist suspended from the party for anti-semitism after saying Jews were “chief financiers” of the slave trade.

In a leaked recording passed to The Sunday Times, the shadow chancellor used an appearance at a left-wing conference this weekend to express his sympathy with Jackie Walker, Momentum’s former vice-chairwoman, who was suspended in 2016. She faces an expulsion hearing next month.

He told the Labour representation committee conference in London that Walker had faced “vile” abuse and he could “understand why she’s so angry”.

“[I’ll] take that up with Jeremy [Corbyn] and the general secretary,” he told supporters.

In comments that will provoke outrage, McDonnell continued: “I’ve just seen some of the scale of the abuse that she’s been getting . . . I’m hoping one day that people will see what she’s had to go through in terms of the vile comments that have been made about her.”

His remarks come just days after McDonnell appeared to suggest that the Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger had herself to blame for the deselection campaign being waged against her.

The Liverpool Wavertree MP had been due to face two deselection motions that accused her of disloyalty to Corbyn after she was critical of him over his handling of the anti-semitism crisis that engulfed Labour. Both were withdrawn.

Despite her party suspension, Walker was at the conference, where she repeated her claims that accusations of anti-semitism are an attempt to undermine Corbyn’s leadership.

She went on to claim that Jewish Labour MPs complaining about the issue were now “untouchable,” adding: “Look at Luciana Berger — they think they’re untouchable. And they’re right.”

She then asked why the Labour leadership was failing to “censure” Jewish Labour MPs speaking about anti-semitism.

Walker has never fully apologised for her remarks that Jews financed the slave trade. She also provoked fury by erroneously complaining that Holocaust Memorial Day commemorates only Jews.

Last night Labour told The Sunday Times: “Where there is evidence of anti-semitism in the Labour Party, which has always prided itself on being anti-racist, we will take action to stamp it out.”

This was the reaction of the Board of Deputies of British Jews

McDonnell lacks ‘honesty and integrity’ by defending Jackie Walker, says Board

Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl eviscerates shadow chancellor for backing Jackie Walker

Joe Millis, Jewish News, 10 February  2019

Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl has launched a scathing attack on John McDonnell, accusing him of “double-speak” and lacking “honesty and integrity” after the shadow chancellor appeared to support a suspended Labour activist…

More here

Here is some of the material sent to Jackie over time




Finally, read this interview from 2016:

Jackie Walker Responds to Accusations of Antisemitism