The Labour Party Inquisition – a case study

We reprint the more-than six month saga of George Wilmers’ investigation by the Governance and Legal Unit of the Labour Party.

This record raises many questions, some of which have been raised previously – such as the scant evidence on which the Party chooses to pursue an investigation, and a style of  interrogation that appears designed to give those accused little choice but to incriminate themselves.

But what may be new is the rigour of the challenge George has presented to the way in which this investigation, like others, has been conducted. As George, says it’s not as if these inquisitorial procedures are confined to his case and his purpose was to challenge the juridical foundations of the investigative process. The Party has yet to respond to this challenge.

But this, coupled with the “I accuse myself”  letters sent by a number of Jewish members, might be a turning point in what has seemed up till now a one-sided battle where those subject to allegations of antisemitism have been prevented from defending themselves.

 

Photo credit: www.allenandallen.com

On 31 July 2019 I received from an anonymous functionary of the Governance and Legal Unit of the Labour Party a Notice of Investigation informing me that I was to be investigated for a possible breach of Rule 2.1.8 of the Labour Party’s Rules. I was reassuringly informed that

at no time during an investigation does the Labour Party confer an assumption of guilt on any party. You are not currently administratively suspended and no restrictions have been placed on the rights associated with your membership at this time.

This was certainly welcome, given what I knew about the way others had been treated. However the sting was in the tail:

Attached to this letter is the evidence pertinent to this case, along with a series of questions which require your response. Upon receipt of your answers, the Party will be able to conclude this matter as quickly as possible.

The allegation of a possible breach of Rule 2.1.8 turned out to be the following:

On Thursday 21st March 2019 at the xxx Branch Labour Party meeting during a discussion regarding a motion on solidarity with JLM, you allegedly stated that “JLM were a front for Israel.”

No evidence or other details for this allegation were given, nor was any explanation provided as to why this might constitute a breach of Rule 2.1.8. However this allegation from an anonymous source was followed by a number of strange questions, most of which appeared designed to induce me to incriminate myself in a thought crime which the inquisitors found it more convenient not to specify:

1) What is your response to this allegation?
2) Please can you explain the reason for your comments?
3) Do you feel that your comments were appropriate?
4) Rule 2.I.8 in the Party’s rulebook states:

“No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party. The NEC and NCC shall take account of any codes of conduct currently in force and shall regard any incident which in their view might reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on age; disability; gender reassignment or identity; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; or sexual orientation as conduct prejudicial to the Party: these shall include but not be limited to incidents involving racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia or otherwise racist language, sentiments, stereotypes or actions, sexual harassment, bullying or any form of intimidation towards another person on the basis of a protected characteristic as determined by the NEC, wherever it occurs, as conduct prejudicial to the Party. The disclosure of confidential information relating to the Party or to any other member, unless the disclosure is duly authorised or made pursuant to a legal obligation, shall also be considered conduct prejudicial to the Party.”

What is your response to the allegation that your conduct may be or have been in breach of this rule?

5) Looking back at the scenario, do you regret making this statement?

………………………………………………………………………………………………

My first reaction to the above letter was one of astonishment. The local party meeting at which I was supposed to have uttered the six offending words had taken place more than four months previously. Whatever I had said it was clearly not verbatim the words as written above, and I could no longer remember exactly what I had said. On the other hand I could not deny that I might have used vaguely similar language. However no one had personally objected at the time, or indeed since, to what I had said.

The context had been a debate on a motion put forward by local party bigwigs to “affiliate the local party to the JLM”, and had been couched in language which was clearly aimed at giving the JLM official recognition as the representative voice of “the Jewish community” in the Labour party, and by this means delegitimising the views of JVL members and of all those opposing the colonial and apartheid policies of Israel. Furthermore it was evident that this was not a local initiative, but part of a coordinated campaign, because the same or similar motions had been put forward in several other branches and CLP’s.

Several Jewish members present, including myself, had expressed passionate views opposing the motion, which was eventually, in essence, defeated. During the course of the debate I had indeed attacked the overtly Zionist politics of the JLM and the fact that its main campaigning function within Labour appeared to be to conflate the concepts of antisemitism and anti-Zionism in order to promote the interests of the apartheid state of Israel, and to hound principled supporters of Palestinian rights by falsely accusing them of antisemitism. The proposers of the motion had quite obviously been infuriated by their unexpected defeat.

On reflection however I could see absolutely no reason why I should attempt to answer an anonymous allegation that I had said something at a private Labour Party meeting four months previously which might constitute a breach of a rule, without even any indication as to why that rule might have been breached: apparently it was my duty to figure out my own indictment because the Governance and Legal Unit were too lazy to do so, and the anonymous accuser was presumably too busy making a plethora of other anonymous accusations to bother with such trivia.

So, in my mounting fury, rather than engaging with the ridiculous “allegation”, I resolved instead to attempt to challenge at its base the whole monstrous edifice of inquisitorial procedures.

This resulted in the following letter:

Your Ref: xxxxxx Case No: xxxxxx

From: Dr. George M Wilmers
To: The Governance and Legal Unit of the Labour Party.

5 August 2019

I acknowledge receipt of your unsigned communication dated 31 July 2019, which informs me that

(a) “Allegations that you may have been involved in a breach of Labour Party rules have been brought to the attention of national officers of the Labour Party. These allegations relate to your conduct which may be in breach of rule 2.I.8.”

The evidence which you adduce in your letter to support the above assertion is given by the following claim:

(b) “On Thursday 21st March 2019 at the xxx Branch Labour Party meeting during a discussion regarding a motion on solidarity with JLM, you allegedly stated that ‘JLM were a front for Israel.’ ”

I do not find any content in the sentence at (a) above which would constitute a correctly formulated allegation to which it would be appropriate for me to respond. Taken together with the allegation at (b) and the rest of your communication, these so-called allegations cannot be classified as anything other than the relaying by your office of vague insinuations by anonymous complainants that a breach of rule 2.1.8 has occurred.

I will be very happy to engage with the investigative process which your unit has commenced into my alleged speech act at (b), provided that certain minimal procedural conditions required by the principles of natural justice are observed, in line with the recommendations of the Chakrabarti report.

To this end I kindly request that you supply me with the information stipulated in the four points (i) – (iv) below:

(i) A clarification of the precise nature of the allegations against me. I am asking for an explanation of the reasons why the alleged speech act at (b) above might in the opinion of the NEC constitute a breach of Rule 2.1.8 as is suggested at (a). My detailed reasoning concerning why this is necessary is given in the Appendix below.

(ii) The name(s) of the complainant or complainant(s), the precise date(s) on which their complaints were made, and whether the complaint(s) were made in writing. In the unlikely event that there exist valid reasons why the name(s) should not be revealed, I request a precise statement of those reasons. In the latter case kindly inform me as to whether any of the complainants were present at the xxx LP branch meeting on 21 March, and if not, by what means they acquired a report of my alleged words at the meeting.

Additionally please inform me whether the Governance and Legal Unit has knowledge of the existence of any audio or video recording of the above mentioned meeting, and if so how it was obtained.

(iii) In the case of any formal communication from the Labour Party regarding this matter, starting with your letter of 31 July 2019, I request to be apprised of the name of the functionary who takes responsibility for that communication, and of their formal role within the Labour Party.

(iv) Please supply me with a full list of those individuals who have been copied into your email communication to me, together with their email addresses.

In formulating your reply to my requests above I would ask you kindly to take account of the following ten numbered points which also raise some additional questions.

1. I am a 74-year old academic of secular Jewish heritage. I have been a socialist for more than 50 years. Professionally I am a mathematical logician. Despite the deeply unpleasant position in which your email has placed me, I remain committed to the Labour Party and its ideals.

2. Neither the identity of the complainant(s) nor that of any single Labour Party functionary involved in the processing of these anonymous insinuations has been revealed to me, despite the fact that your communication has been copied to the generic addresses “Withington CLP” and “NW Labour Party”. This is not acceptable to me.

3. Your letter states that in order to protect the rights of all concerned “we must therefore ask you to ensure that you keep all information and correspondence relating to this investigation private, and that you do not share it with third parties.”

Please take a moment to reflect on the precise nature of this demand. You are the anonymous conduit for scurrilous insinuations against me by an anonymous complainant, which you have circulated to anonymous functionaries in other parts of the Labour Party, an organisation which has a history of leaking allegations to the press, in some cases before the accused has been informed. Yet you demand that I should not even share these insinuations with my family or my closest advisers.

I am puzzled however that you suggest that in case your investigation causes me distress I may contact my GP, the Samaritans, or Citizens Advice. How would I talk to them about my problem without violating your demand for confidentiality?
Please explain this strange contradiction.

4. The “allegations” have been communicated to me over four months after the Labour Party event to which they refer occurred, yet you request that I reply within seven days. Do you consider this reasonable?

5. The wording of the “allegations” at (a) above uses the phrase
“…that you may have been involved in a breach of Labour party rules..”.

Is there a suggestion that I acted in concert with others or was part of a conspiracy to breach Labour party rules?

Please explain what you mean to suggest by the otherwise otiose use of the words “involved in”.

6. Whatever the nature of the reasons might be for the anonymous claim that the alleged statement at (b) “may” breach rule 2.1.8, I do not believe they could possibly involve any genuine injury to any individual. Indeed no objections of improper speech on my part were raised at the meeting of March 21, or subsequently. If someone other than a person present at that meeting claims to feel personally aggrieved at the words attributed to me, then the question naturally arises as to who reported those words, for what purpose, and what the political affiliations of both the reporter and the complainant may be.

7. For the present this reply and its contents remain strictly confidential and I do not permit you to share it with any person outside the Governance and Legal Unit without my express permission. In particular I do not permit you to share it with the complainant(s) or with the local Labour Party offices to which you copied your email to me of July 31.

8. I need to advise you {some personal details redacted}I will probably not be able to participate in any further correspondence with your unit until October.

9. I understand that the personnel of the Governance and Legal Unit are obliged to implement flawed policies and procedures to the best of their abilities under immense and contradictory external pressures, and I have every sympathy with their predicament.

I wish to make absolutely clear that I am not in any way seeking to obstruct a proper investigation of any allegations which have been made against me, and I am entirely willing to answer any such allegations when I have been given the details requested above. My request for such details is entirely consistent with the recommendations of the Chakrabarti report which were accepted in full by the Labour Party, but still appear not to have been implemented in several essential respects.

I am very concerned that I have not been given these details at the outset. This indicates to me that there remain serious problems with current procedures.

The allegations against me arose in the context of a Labour Party branch discussion on March 21 about the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). I am a full member and a local co-ordinator of the Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), an organisation whose full members are all members of the Labour Party of Jewish heritage. The two organisations have very different views on a range of political issues including the situation in Israel/Palestine. Political issues on which the two organisations differ should be legitimate topics for debate in the Labour Party, which is a political organisation committed to supporting robust free speech within the confines of respectful discourse.

The fact that the Governance and Legal Unit has not obtained and sent to me the specific details requested above poses the risk that the investigative process becomes a surrogate for political discussion, and is thereby exploited as a political tool to shut down legitimate debate. In short I can only regard the present inquisition as an attempt by political opponents to silence me. Indeed the possibility of politically motivated complaints is considered in the Chakrabarti report as a particular reason for the need for transparency of the investigatory or disciplinary process.

As you will be well aware, the present case is occurring in the context of attempts by sections of the Labour Party, supported by a largely hostile news media, to exert pressure on your unit to accept complaints as valid and proven without due process. While I believe there have recently been some improvements in procedures, they are clearly insufficient.

Unfortunately there continues to remain a systemic danger of the application of mob justice.

It is surely essential that you now specify, and where necessary require the complainants to specify, the details which I have requested. Otherwise the Labour Party will be haunted by Arthur Miller’s question

“Is the accuser always holy now?”

10. I believe that my logical analysis in the Appendix below of the pitfalls of current procedures with respect to Rule 2.1.8 stands, with trivial adjustments, as a rigorous general critique which, if taken seriously by the Labour Party, could result in procedural and rule changes which would avoid the risk of serious legal problems in the future. After the conclusion of the present investigation, I am willing to offer my professional expertise in logic and reasoning under uncertainty pro bono to the Labour party in order to help it to resolve its present difficulties.

In conclusion I kindly request that you acknowledge receipt of this email.

Yours Sincerely,
George Wilmers
Appendix below

APPENDIX

An Analysis of the Lack of Clarity in the Formulation of the Allegations to Which I Have Been Invited to Respond

The first point to be made is that no argument has been presented in favour of the proposition that a violation of rule 2.1.8 has occurred. The use of the modal operator “may have” to qualify the main verb in (a) is improper in the present quasi-legal context. This is because in normal semantics the words “may have” merely imply possibility without any level of certainty. No allegation which uses the words “may have” in this way can be considered to be correctly formulated. Such a formulation is inquisitorial in the most egregious sense, since it places the entire burden of proof on the respondent to refute the allegation.

Secondly the first sentence of Rule 2.1.8 is formulated in general and subjective terms:

“No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the party.”

The remainder of the text 2.1.8 provides a lengthy list of examples of such conduct, but no further qualification of the above sentence. There is no reference in your letter to any of the examples mentioned in 2.1.8.

What is the relationship between the allegations at (b) and at (a)? Do the allegations at (b) relate to one of the examples, to a protected characteristic, or to some other unspecified transgression? If so, how?

Elementary transparency requires that any allegation that a particular speech act breaches rule 2.1.8 be accompanied by an explanation of the reasons why the alleged speech act might in the opinion of the NEC constitute such a violation. The opinion of the NEC on such matters is determined by a vote which, in the context of the present internecine warfare in the party, is in many cases very likely to be far from unanimous, and dependent on transient factors of a political character. I cannot be expected to second guess the probable reasoning of the NEC, nor the current balance of opinion on that body.

Your relaying of the complainant’s “allegations” referred to at (a) is therefore either disingenuous on your part or else it is incomplete. There is no reason why you should need my participation in order to decide whether or not, on the basis of the complainant’s assertion at (b), a prima facie breach of rule 2.1.8 has occurred. If a complainant in fact gave an explanation as to how in his or her opinion the allegation (b) constituted a breach of rule 2.1.8, then it was your duty to consider the reasoning, decide for yourselves whether or not there was a plausible argument for such a breach, and in the case of an affirmative decision, to communicate that argument to me. If on the other hand the complainant gave no explanation for the claim of a breach of rule 2.1.8, then it was your duty to evaluate, possibly in consultation with the complainant, whether in your opinion a valid argument could be made that such a breach had occurred, and to contact me only if you considered that to be the case.

In short it is up to you to decide whether the words attributed to me by the complainant or complainants constitute a prima facie violation of rule 2.1.8 or not. If you judge that they do indeed constitute a prima facie violation, then, prior to any inquisitorial investigation, natural justice requires that you present the outline of an argument as to why you consider this to be the case. This you have not done. However if you do not believe that there exists any such prima facie case, then you are improperly relaying the unsubstantiated insinuations of the anonymous complainant(s), since absolutely no connection has been proposed, let alone established, between (a) and (b) above.

It is not my duty to act as an unpaid legal adviser either to you or to the complainant, for the purpose of constructing some dubious argument by which my own alleged actions may be shown to have been in violation of a Labour party rule.

George Wilmers


After sending the above reply, I did not hear back from the anonymous inquisitors for a further six months, though after repeated requests I did extract an email acknowledgement that my reply had been received. Finally on 4 February 2020 I received a sly letter informing me that members of the NEC Disputes Panel had found that

“..subject to the final approval of the next meeting of the NEC, your behaviour on this occasion did not amount to a breach of the Party’s Rules. However, they considered it appropriate to remind you of the high standards of conduct the Party expects of its members.”

This was followed by an entire page of pious cant, informing me of the standards of behaviour expected in the Labour Party. It is hard to think of a more brazen case of chutzpah, given that such standards are so conspicuous by their absence from the communications of the party’s own Governance and Legal Unit.

My reply to this letter is copied below.

From: Dr. George M Wilmers 11 February 2020

To: The Governance and Legal Unit
The Labour Party

Dear Wilfully Anonymous Functionaries of the Governance and Legal Unit,

Thank you for your letter and email, dated 4 February 2020 and headed “Reminder of Labour’s Values” in which you inform me that:

“Members of the NEC Disputes Panel met and considered your case.

The Panel found that, subject to the final approval of the next meeting of the NEC, your behaviour on this occasion did not amount to a breach of the Party’s Rules. However, they considered it appropriate to remind you of the high standards of conduct the Party expects of its members.”

1. I note that you chose not to reply to or even acknowledge the many substantive points which I made on 5 August 2019 (emailed on 6 August) in my comprehensive reply to your initial notice of investigation of 31 July 2019. Nor have you answered a single question which I posed to you concerning the conduct of this so-called investigation.

2. Instead of engaging with my reply to you, you have chosen to continue the ”investigation” behind my back, and have convened some sort of “panel” which, without bothering to involve me in any way, has come to the conclusion cited above. I am naturally pleased that the panel finds that my behaviour “on this occasion” did not amount to a breach of the Party’s rules, but the tone of the communication and the frankly insulting homily which follows, unmistakably imply that I am considered to have behaved improperly.

3. For the above reasons I wish to make clear that I do not accept the decision of the panel in its present form, and I therefore request that the matter be referred to the NEC itself, which must however be given full access to my reply cited above, which you have chosen to ignore. In short I request proper answers to my questions and that I be completely exonerated without any disingenuous caveats.

4. Your email refers to “members of the Disputes Panel” having met to consider my case, but does not explain whether this was an official meeting of the Disputes Panel itself, nor does it explain under what official procedure these members met to discuss and evaluate my “case”, having refused to engage with me regarding the content of my email of 6 August. Please explain.

5. I am also requesting an apology for the disgraceful manner in which I have been treated. I would remind you that in your initial letter you state that “at no time during an investigation does the Labour Party confer an assumption of guilt on any party”. How then do you account the weasel words directly following your finding that my behaviour had not breached Party Rules:

“However, [the members of the panel] considered it appropriate to remind you of the high standards of conduct the Party expects of its members”.

The arrogance inherent in this sentence should be contrasted with the utter disregard for the norms of civilised conduct with which the Legal and Governance Unit has conducted itself in relation to my person.

Indeed in relation to Rule 2.1.8 which it was insinuated that I might have broken, it appears to me that that accusation was made against me because I have been targeted as a Jew by fanatical persons who hold that political support for the ethnocratic nature of the actually existing state of Israel is an essential characteristic of being Jewish, and that because I reject such a dogma as repulsive, I am to be hounded out of the Labour Party. I hereby denounce such targeting as antisemitic, and itself a violation of Rule 2.1.8, with which the Labour Party, by its persecution of Jewish members adhering to the great universalist traditions of humanity espoused by Jewish thinkers from Spinoza and Marx to Einstein and Chomsky, has sadly become complicit.

6. I am requesting a reply to this email within seven days, this being the period which was allocated by you for me for a reply to your initial notice of investigation. However I note that you have already been in possession of the majority of my questions to you since August, so the fulfilment of this request should not prove too arduous.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr. G.M. Wilmers


On 19 February the inquisitors of the Governance and Legal Unit, determined to protect their anonymity to the last, emailed me the following two sentence dismissal:

“The NEC Disputes panel, consisting of elected members of the NEC, met and reviewed your case. The NEC approved the panel’s decision to issue you a Reminder of Values, therefore making the decision final. There is not an appeals process for members issued with a Reminder of Values, as the letter outlines that the outcome of the investigation did not amount to a rule breach.

Yours Sincerely,
The Governance and Legal Unit The Labour Party ”

 


In view of the consistently arrogant and contemptuous behaviour of the Labour Party inquisitors, I have now decided to publish my correspondence above, so that their shocking procedures, in violation of all norms of natural justice, may be thoroughly exposed as a historical record of the moral corruption which, sadly, has seeped from the sewers of corporate power into the very heart of the Labour Party bureaucracy.

I fully expect that, by publishing this correspondence, I will be expelled from the Labour Party under the infamous Rule 2.1.8 for “conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial to the Party”. Of course I hope that this does not happen. Yet ironically if the Labour Party expels me for this crime, it will only indict itself in the historical record. For there is nothing untrue about the procedural injustice which I have revealed. A party which cannot face the revelation of such a truth is neither democratic nor socialist, and I would not wish to remain a member of it.

I am well aware that the treatment which many others have received has been incomparably worse than mine; after all in my case the allegations were abandoned and no formal charge was pressed. By contrast, precisely because of their vile treatment, many others have been intimidated into silence. Even worse, many conscientious antiracist activists who have devoted their entire lives to the Labour Party have been summarily expelled by these cowardly inquisitors, at the behest of anonymous accusers backed by a baying corporate mob of politicians, journalists, charlatans, and celebrities, for whom mendacity which shatters the lives of others is a mere means to an end.

I can only hope that the publication of the correspondence above will help to encourage others to reveal their own case histories of persecution, and thus open the floodgates, so that the horror of these modern witch trials can be exposed to the full light of day.

George Wilmers 20 February 2020

Comments (53)

  • RH says:

    George Wilmers has provided a forensic examination of the ridiculous inadequacy of the Party’s disciplinary procedures. I’m stating the ‘bleedin’ obvious’ when I say that they are observably not fir for purpose.

    Amongst all other issues, he sloppiness of Rule 2.1.8 is at the heart of the matter. Simply, it (like the IHRA ‘definition and examples’) is an amateur concoction/concatenation not fit for purpose in a quasi-judicial setting.

    Take just one key extract :

    “…conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party …”

    In what rational framework is ‘opinion’ by a politically determined body a sufficient condition of judgment and conviction? The nonsense begins …

    We then get an open-ended definiton of ‘offense’ :

    “.. any incident which in their view might reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice …”

    … which, when coupled with the catch-all :

    ” … these shall include but not be limited to incidents … [then the listing of a current sensitive – but undefined – areas]”

    …. covers about any statement made from a political standpoint …

    It might even seem that an attack on Tories or Tory supporting activity could be included. Which is absurd … except that it *has* already happened in the case here (allegedly) criticizing the JLM, and in the case of Marc Wadsworth, and in the ‘offense’ of criticizing the Cheif Rabbi!

    Then of course, there is the catch-all condition against transparency :

    “The disclosure of confidential information relating to the Party or to any other member, unless the disclosure is duly authorised or made pursuant to a legal obligation, shall also be considered conduct prejudicial to the Party.”

    … which needs no further comment. It’s just the final straw in this trail of unfitness.

    The ‘Rule’ is simply open to abuse by any partisan interest group holding sway at a given time. Which is a description of events, not theoretical fears.

    That isn’t ‘justice’.

  • dave says:

    The JLM states that it has an object ‘To maintain and promote Labour or Socialist Zionism as the movement for self-determination of the Jewish people within the state of Israel’ and its values include promoting ‘the centrality of Israel in Jewish life’. And: ‘To work for democratic socialism in the UK and Israel.’

    I wonder if someone were to repeat these exact words in a meeting they would be reported.

  • Michaelk says:

    Oh dear, how deplorable it all is! Franz Kafka, reading this, would have agreed and nodded and sighed. So it’s come to this, and where does it end? The only positive thing is Dr. Wilmer’s masterly reply and way he uses basic logic to totally demolish the ridiculous allegations thrown at him.

  • Michaelk says:

    The more one thinks about it; the dreadful treatment of George Wilmers’ by the Labour Party’s inquisition, the more one is astonished by the party leaderships totally inadequate and incompetent ‘strategy’ for dealing with the ‘antisemitic’ smear campaign it was subjected to. Their ‘response’ was… hopeless and only seemed to give legitimacy and credence to the allegations, which were just as vague and unsubstantiated as those being flung at Dr. Wilmers. Yet, Wilmers’ response was so much better and more ‘courageous’ in contrast to that of the party leadership, why was that, precisely? That Wilmers, someone with a Jewish background, like others, was effectively being accused of ‘antisemitism’ is truly grotesque. However, the ghastly irony inherent in these allegations, seemed lost on the party leadership, who seemed to imagine that when one is being hammered with a mallet, the best ‘defence’ in to get down on one’s knees! Thankfully, Dr. Wilmers doesn’t agree.

  • Dr ALAN MADDISON says:

    This unprecedented smear campaign, in which the low prevalence of antisemitism in Labour is deliberately and grossly exaggerated, then weaponised to silence critics of Israel’s racist policies in the Labour Party, could only be successful with the disingenuous participation of many Labour members, MPs and staff.

    It is they who have done most to bring the Party into disrepute and there is abundant, available and documented evidence for this.

    Those making claims to the media that our Party is ‘infected with’ or is a ‘cess-pit’ of antisemitism, that Jeremy Corbyn himself is unfit to be our leader because he is antisemitic, or has made Labour a welcome place for antisemites, or an unsafe place for Jews, should be investigated.

    These damaging lies and exaggerations have gone unchallenged for too long. They certainly contributed to our losing the GE, with the consequences that, amongst other things, 30 000 excess deaths attributed to Tory austerity NHS underfunding will continue. The racist extreme right Tory Governments will inflict even more suffering on our most vulnerable.

    Surely such relentless lies and exaggerations to the media are far more serious, and the consequences fsr more appalling for anyone sharing Labour values, than someone speaking the truth about JLM’s unquestioning support Israel.

    It seems that some of those involved in such clearly unjust treatment of complaints, such as exposed so clearly by George Wilmers, by being part of the problem, will never be part of the solution.

  • Martin Davidson says:

    A most significant formulation occurs towards the end, where George Wilmers says “… I have been targeted as a Jew by fanatical persons who
    hold that political support for the ethnocratic nature of the actually existing state of Israel is an essential characteristic of being Jewish, and that because I reject such a dogma as repulsive, I am to be hounded out of the Labour Party. I hereby denounce such targeting as antisemitic…”

    Since Zionism goes against the basic tenets of Judaism, namely, justice, welcoming the stranger, and most important of all: ”Do unto others as you would have them do to you,” then I do not consider Zionists to be real Jews. (I am not even taking into account the fact that most Zionists are fundamentalist Christians.)

    Since Israeli Zionists claim that their atrocities against the Palestinians are done in the name of all the Jews in the world, it is surely they who are most responsible for any recent rise of antisemitism.

    Maybe the Trades Description Act can be used to change the JLM to the ZLM; the JC to the ZC; the BoD to the BoTZ (Board of Tory Zionists); the United Synagogue to the Zionist Synagogue; the Chief Rabbi to the Chief Zionist; etc, etc.

    Also the much misused term “antisemitism”, based on the limited 19th century knowledge of ethnology, should be replaced by “Judaeophobia” or some such. Calling Jews “Semites” is akin to calling American Aboriginals “Indians” which was due to Columbus getting lost.

  • Alasdair MacVarish says:

    I was place in administrative suspension with no explanation of offence. Many months later I was summoned to a meeting in London with someone called Ms Finn M’Gurk. No information about the alleged offence was offered or who if anyone had been offended. I was allowed to take a friend who would not be allowed to speak. Responded by offering to take my dog with a warning that he is mixed race. Sent up the hapless Ms M’Gurk … and posted copies of our exchanges along with her photo on my local pub notice-board. Did not have to buy a pint for months after …. General secretary replaced by Jenny Formby and my suspension lifted still with no explanation. One can only be amused at the behaviour of the Labour Party — have been a members since 1956.

  • Simon Dewsbury says:

    If a judge were to be presented with a legal case formulated against an opponent as “we think you may have done something wrong, but we are not specifying what: please comment on why you may have been at fault”, it would be given pretty short shrift. They are excellent letters and could serve as a template for others who are being investigated, if George Wilmers did not object.
    Also, I doubt that the Party will take any further action against George for publishing this. They know that he is prepared to publicise and would probably not want the further embarrassment. Perhaps a lesson for others to take on board.

  • John C says:

    The poor quality of this inquisitorial procedure, indeed its moral poverty, as courageously documented here, is so much more serious than the (non) allegation of its subject. This is what perhaps more urgently is in need of investigation by an equalities commission, rather than the Party’s alleged indifference to alleged racist or otherwise offensive behaviour by its members.

  • Steven Reynolds says:

    Thanks for your erudition and hard work George. As a lawyer Supporter of JVL , I am truly astonished at what is being done to my Palestinian supporting Jewish comrades and others. In a party about to be led by a knighted former barrister prosecutor. Exceptional clarity in the face of manipulated incompetence. Thanks. Steve Reynolds.

  • Naomi Wayne says:

    Terrific response by George Wilmers. Since the Labour Party doesnt seem to be able to do it for itself, perhaps the next stage should be to develop a legally respectable disciplinary procedure for them.

  • Kate Adams says:

    Solidarity. This is a brave act.

  • Clare Palmer says:

    Dr Wilmers has dealt with these ludicrous accusations in a masterly way, and offers the Labour Party a critique of its procedures it would do well to accept. As an ordinary member of the Party, it is truly shocking to read what is happening. I have one personal example of a friend being treated in this way, which appalled me. It is Kafkaesque in that it is very difficult to see who is responsible, and how these “procedures could be successfully challenged.

  • Jon Grunewald says:

    When it comes to “conduct which is prejudicial to the party” surely one of the most egregious examples is in the Jewish Labour Movement’s dossier of complaints, made public in December 2019 just before election day. The words I had in mind are:
    “Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, he has made the Party a welcoming refuge for antisemites. He has done that in a number of ways, including by publically supporting antisemites and antisemitic tropes. The Labour Party is cast in his image. As such,it is a Party that: promotes known antisemites to positions of power; does not take action (and in fact subverts action) against those guilty of abhorrent antisemitism; victimises those that speak out against antisemitism; fails to protect Jewish members from antisemitism; allows Jewish MPs to behounded out of their political home; and derides the issue of antisemitism to the extent that its very existence within the Party is denied.”
    and
    “Mr Corbyn himself has repeatedly associated with, sympathised with and engaged in antisemitism”

    My question for the three leadership candidates is: do they now embrace this narrative as the truth? Or do they merely pretend to do so as a way of mollifying the Party’s critics both in the jewish community and in the world of journalism? Are we all of us expected to adopt the lie that Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic and has encouraged and condoned antisemitism, and must we expect to be punished if we dare to deny it?

  • My first reaction on reading this account is to offer a profound “thank you” to George Wilmers for his his skill, determination and courage in exposing the way in which the Labour Party – of which I am a member – now seeks to silence all criticism of Israel. I am reminded of the warnings given by Sir Stephen Sedley a couple of years ago when the leadership of the Labour Party agreed to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-semitism: it would lead to the suppression of free speech.

    My second reaction is to mourn what appears to be the absence of moral courage among Labour MPs. If the men and women who have sought election in order to represent and defend the interests of their constituents are so ignorant of the way in which their party bureaucracy is now operating then they are incompetent; if they are aware but choose to remain silent, then they are complicit in behaviour which is neither democratic nor socialist.

    The late Lord Wilberforce once observed that the reason courts of law are open to the public is not only so that justice may be seen to be done, but also to enable the public to judge the judges.

    Dr Wilmers’s account is an awful warning of what happens when secrecy is more important that truth.

  • Chris Moores says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I am neither a Jew nor, as yet, a person “of interest” to the Compliance Committee. In my legal career I was frequently involved in tribunals, principally as legal adviser to the tribunal and have, on more than one occasion devised and written the disciplinary procedure. I fully endorse everything you have said so precisely.

  • Stephen Tiller says:

    Well said, George. Socialist – and Jewish – hero.

  • Mike French says:

    During my seventeen year tenure as a National Officer with a Midlands based metal working Trade Union I frequently assisted small family companies lacking a personnel division in the drafting of Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures consistent with the norms of natural justice in order to reduce my time spent at Employment Tribunals representing Unfair
    Dismissal and Constructive dismissal cases.

    The following were absolutely essential procedural ingredients:-
    The right to sufficient information and detail as to particular rule that was allegedly breached.
    The right to a proper hearing, to call witnesses and to know one’s accusers.
    The right to transparency, to know one’s judges.
    The right to confidentiality – to know that one’s case details were not in circulation on the factory floor or company offices.
    Suspension to be used sparingly only in cases of alleged gross industrial misconduct.

    George Withers’ clinical deconstruction of his inquisitorial investigation at the hands of the Party’s Governance and Legal Unit reveals an operation out of control, lacking in even the basics of due process, pursuing political ends by administrative means. ‘Mob justice’ as he succinctly puts it and
    absolutely unacceptable. Transparency would reveal for instance how many accusers, inquisitors etc were supporters of a rival faction with a political axe to grind.

    The vast majority of Disciplinary action of course has as its epicentre the Party apparatus’ attempts to suppress criticism of the State of Israel’s human rights abuses, which criticism is cynically conflated with anti-Jewish bigotry.
    As a result we have the extraordinary situation where a member can be suspended and expelled as an anti-Semite for observing that Israel is an Ethnocratic State reliant on past and continuing violence to guarantee the subjugation of the indigenous Palestinians as an ethnic under class. Yet in Israel itself the notion of the racist state is unashamedly paraded by no other than Avi Dichter, MK and Likud Party member who on July 21st 2018 moved the Nation State Bill into law with the observation-“The right to determine national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people…we are enshrining this important Bill into Law today to prevent even the slightest thought, let alone attempt. to transfer Israel into a State for all its people.”
    Dichter’s comments in the British Labour Party would have him suspended/expelled as an anti-Semite! you couldn’t make it up.

  • What a brilliant reply!
    It seems the apparatchiks could get off the tree fast enough.
    However, this reminds all of us that we (I have been expelled 2 years ago for antisemitism i.e. criticising the State of Israel on Twitter. BTW: I am a son of Holocaust survivors) – are not out of the woods as yet and the Labour witch hunt is still raging.

  • Moshé Machover says:

    My friend and colleague George Wilmers has shown with forensic brilliance that the allegations made against him reduce themselves to absurdity. The anonymous allegators should crawl back into the moral swamp and become politically extinct. The Labour Party should take up his kind offer of “professional expertise in logic and reasoning under uncertainty pro bono … in order to help it to resolve its present difficulties.”

  • Steve says:

    Bravo Dr Wilmers

  • Simon Hughes says:

    The accuser/s should be made known and a full apology made! Or are they still free to make false claims?

  • Liz Screen says:

    Thank you so much for publishing this. The lack of moral fibre of those perpetrating these policies It’s so disheartening. I only hope that these issues can be dealt with by the party and that we could move forward to promoting real socialist policies.

  • t porter says:

    take a bow Dr Wilmers, impressive, lang may yer lum reek

  • Vaughan says:

    Knowing someone who has also been through this, I feel an enormous sense of relief that George Wilmers has had the skills to be able to respond with such clarity and wiseness to his accusers. I also want to have names of this legal group. Why do they hide behind anonymity and yet offer no protection to the accused (clearly found guilty before being tried). Quite apart from the nastiness of this whole process, it is just so amateur – pompous people playing at being inquisitors.

  • Graham Korn says:

    Useful to have this to hand as I suspect in the not too distant future I will have to defend myself in a similar way and this is a useful model. We live in interesting times.

  • Bruce Hogan says:

    The most worrying aspect of this case is the unwillingness of the Compliance Unit to respond to any of the points raised by George Wilmer’s replies to the “possible breech” of Party rules and the Party’s processes. One can only admire the forensic way he disassembles the Party’s disciplinary processes but I am deeply concerned for those who have suffered similar accusations and do not have the skills to respond as he has.

  • Dr Keith Hussein says:

    Can I just thank everyone in Jewish Voice for Labour, the Labour Reresentation Committee and Red Labour for urging the Party to investigate the ridiculous claims of anti-Semitism made against myself and others or that they otherwise immediately lift our suspensions.

    It seems that anybody on the left that supports the right to Palestinain self-determination who gained enough nominations for the NEC positions was immediately publicly smeared – in my case for innocuous comments made on social media 3-4 years ago which were grossly distorted out of all context by an unidentified source.

    I have the same administrative suspension where the onus is now placed on the accused to incriminate one’s self based on similar unsound juridical foundations.

    I intend to fully challenge these damaging personal accusations and have already sought legal advice on the matter – the Party owes a duty of care to its members so I will also seek full redress. Several of us have also contacted the Equalities and Human Rights Commission over the Labour Party’s decision.

    Thank you so much to George Wilmers for this brilliant response to the inquisition – with his permission I’d like to adapt it as a template for my own response.

  • elizabeth ross says:

    we need to get this addressed with votes from all members. to ensure that members are not targeted for free thinking that does not meet with anonymous cowards with nothing better to do than make rediculous claims with no actual evidence of ANY offence. if a member is called to defend an action that action must be clearly stated in full in order for the member to see, understand and answer. no court of law would behave like this. it is not right

  • Mike Scott says:

    I greatly enjoyed George Wilmers’ exchange of letters and will save them to refer to if/when they come for me…..!

  • Bill Hicks says:

    It’s difficult to believe that even Orwell could have envisaged this sort of nightmarish machination in the British Labour Party. It is horrific.

    Dr Wilmers rightly suggests that the content and conduct of this complaint itself constitutes an antisemitic attack. Indeed, the case for this assertion is many degrees stronger than the nebulous and patently vexatious case against him.

    This debacle adds to the evidence that suggests the surge in complaints of antisemitism in the Party, that emerged with Corbyn’s election to the leadership, that has left the Tory Party unexamined and has consistently conflated antisemitism with criticism of the Israeli State’s actions in Palestine, is a project selectively engineered by folk whose agenda is not primarily to oppose all forms of racial and religio-cultural hatred.

    Furthermore, the prosecution of any investigation within our democratic party must be open, honest and decent. Anonymous, untestable accusers, hooded inquisitors imbued with righteous omnipotence who refuse to define the indictment or delineate the evidence and, when unable to respond to a reasoned challenge, simply issue an imperious written caution, this is the stuff of tyranny and witch hunts.

  • Nicola Malleson says:

    I have been deeply upset to read of this Kafkaesque ,Orwellian, situation that you and other members have found themselves in, your response has been brilliant but it still leaves us in a situation where the Board of Deputies,(many of them Tory Party members) have demanded that those standing for election sign 10 pledges which would hand over LP decisions to outside bodies. This has to stop. The CLP’s need to demand implementation of the Chakrabarti report with transparency as to who the accusers are and if their allegations are mendacious will they face disciplinery action. Conference needs to have the balls to stand up and state that the Labour Party is not antisemitic that it has less antisemitism than the general population and that all MPs who constantly brief the media with false claims should consider whether they should be Labour Party members. Nobody should be punished for saying that the propaganda department of the right wing Israeli Government has taken a very active role as shown in the Aljerzera documentary, The Lobby, in the smearing of lifelong antiracist LP members.

  • Issho says:

    I wonder what the EHRC would make of this given they are looking at other allegations of “antisemitism” in the Labour Party and how the disciplinary procedures are being enforced – Simon Dewsbury sums this farce up nicely – Stand Firm Brothers.

  • Marco Chiesa says:

    George Wilmers, you have my full admiration and respect. What you have done is breathtaking and have exposed the coward, relentless witch hunt present in the Labour Party, which has ruined so many lives.

  • Mike Scott says:

    It’s absolutely right that smearing people with antisemitism for political reasons must stop, but there’s no chance of that until there are some consequences for making evidence-free allegations. Anyone fancy putting together a model motion for CLPs to send to the next conference?

  • Tahir Hussain says:

    Thank you for sharing such a fine defence. Your reply is an education and master class. Truly humbled to read and utterly devastated to see the route the Labour Party has taken.

  • Margaret E Johnson says:

    Thank you Dr George Wilmer, for developing a logical and very capable response to the vague accusation with which you were intended to be browbeaten and silenced. My response to the way you and others have been treated is fury, at the unprofessional and deliberately intimidatory process by which many long-standing members have been decried as antisemitic suffering suspension and expulsion when they have a record of anti-racism and helping those with real problems.

  • Thank you for a well-written and thoroughly enjoyable expose cutting to pieces the Labour Party’s inquisition. The issue is obviously very serious and not unfamiliar to us in Finland either. As former Social-Democratic Foreign Minister of my country I am more and more troubled by the systematic efforts to deligitimitize any critique of Israeli policies as anti-semitism, targeting also people who have a long record of fighting any kind of racism, ethnic discrimation and anti-semitism, including Jews themselves.

  • John Leonard says:

    Phew! Slow reader but couldn’t put it down. I simply wanted to know what was going on but got soo much more. Getting both side of the dispute and seeing the greatness of this single person demolishing each and every argument or dictate from the Labour Party bureaucracy even though it is my Party – fabulous! Let’s hope this will result in big changes plus common sense over the coming months.

  • Kevin Mullins says:

    An excellent exposition of the Nature of the Witch Hunt that like woodworm is destroying the very structure of the Labour Party hidden behind false quasi judicial structure
    There’s only one way to eradicate this. Complete MEMBERSHIP LEAD spring clean. I see the possibility of this being immense. Easier just to move house and take your contributions that pay their wages and expenses

  • Philip Blunt says:

    An excellent and thorough challenge to a deeply flawed process in which seemingly random allegations are flung about by people desperate to show that they are on top of antisemitism, without providing context or following due process.
    Your treatment at the hands of the (strictly anonymous) NEC is lamentable and deeply insulting. Clearly, a process for pursuing any Labour party member where someone attached to one or t’other of the various Jewish movements has decided that they are going to take offence and report, has not been devised properly, but in haste as a knee-jerk reaction to the accusations from various bodies of a ‘deeply-ingrained climate of antisemitism within the Labour Party.’
    I will never tolerate antisemitism in any form, but I will also never tolerate a situation where a people and their homeland are systematically attacked, brutally repressed, murdered, walled-in or persecuted in any way, and will always put my head above the parapet to protest such treatment.

  • Richard Samson says:

    Thank you, Dr Wilmer.

    Your brave testimony is the truth made manifest, I believe.

  • Steve Jack says:

    Brilliant. All power to you, George Wilmers, and sincere thanks.

  • Iain Hedley says:

    Solidarity George.

  • Helen Green says:

    Thank God people like George Wilmers exist!

  • Hannu Reime says:

    Thanks George, for your brilliant reply to the Kafkaesque accusation.

  • Harry Powell says:

    This is reminiscent of the sort of ludicrous investigations many Americans were subject to during the McCarthyite period.

  • George Hardy says:

    The idea that the Jewish Labour Movement is the sole voice of the “Jewish Community” within Labour is obviously false. The actions of this group need to be examined as they seem to pose a risk to the Party.

  • Philip Wagstaff says:

    My god that brings back the nightmare. K

  • patrick kerrigan says:

    Well done George. These nonentities need to be exposed for their lack of integrity intelligence morals and audacity. They are knowingly destroying the Labour Party for obvious political and certainly monetary reasons. Thank You George

  • Peter Joyce says:

    That was an excellent takedown of the obviously flawed disciplinary process. I have been immensely encouraged by reading it.

    It has resulted in one case being “closed”. That same process is still being used to persecute other party members. Until it stops happening and the damage already done to so many is reversed then this is only a small victory. There remains candidates for NEC who have been removed from the ballot paper, all leadership candidates are still too frightened to deny the 10 pledges demanded by the Board of Deputies of British Jewry and untold numbers of ordinary members are suspended.

    Without legal or some other action (class action or crowd funded) to finally stop this process and replace it with suitable procedures those anonymous persecutors will continue.


  • Mollie Collins says:

    I really admire what you have done by exposing the quasi legal aspects of the actions of the Legal and Governance Unit. I myself as in total shock and despite my accusers the Gnasher Jew Group being given prior information I tried to respond as they asked. After a month I fully realised this was an Inquisition I could not change and resigned my membership.

  • Geoff says:

    Thank you George for exposing these appalling weaknesses in Party processes. I hope that our new leader will be able to sort this our once and for all.

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