Why I just quit the Labour Party

Asa Winstanley

JVL Introduction

Asa Winstanley has had enough of Labour’s accusations and disciplinary processes and has resigned from the Labour Party.

We wish he hadn’t but had continued to fight the charges against him which we believe to be absurd and ill-founded, but we understand why he did not feel confident he could have a fair trial.

Here he presents his own account of events over the last year or so.

 

This article was originally published by Electronic Intifada on Fri 7 Feb 2020. Read the original here.

Why I just quit the Labour Party

Today I decided to quit the Labour Party.I did so to protest the party’s illegal mishandling of my private data, and because it is using its complaints system to conduct a political purge of members who support Palestinian rights.Almost a year after Labour’s faceless bureaucrats began investigating me, they sent me a letter this week threatening to expel me from the party.They demanded I reply within just five days of the letter’s receipt – unless the party decides I have a “clear and compelling reason” for an extension – to a 45-page packet of accusations regarding opinions I expressed and facts I reported in my Twitter postings.The absurdly short time given to respond makes a mockery of any fair process. I’ve concluded that going along with this sham any further would be to participate in a political show trial whose outcome is a foregone conclusion.

You can read the packet of accusations below. [This is a substantial dossier, running to 45 pages. See it at the foot of the original article in the Electronic Intifada here.– JVL ed]

The allegations amount to an attack on my reporting about Palestine, Zionism, the Israel lobby in the UK and the manufactured anti-Semitism crisis in Labour since 2015.

They are an effort to smear me personally as an anti-Semite in order to silence me and intimidate others into silence over Israel’s crimes against Palestinians.

This political inquisition also aims to stop people talking about and reporting on the role the Israel lobby plays in ensuring the ongoing silence and complicity of our political leaders in relation to Israel’s crimes.

What further confirms that there is no chance of fairness is that I already addressed most of the bogus allegations and political charges in detailed answers I sent the party last year. [Again, a long document, Asa Winstanley’s 12-page response is available at the foot of the original article in the Electronic Intifada here. – JVL ed]

But the nameless officials have ignored my responses and sent many of the same questions again.

Instead of wasting more time defending myself against baseless, politically motivated charges, I have written to Labour today with my resignation.

You can read my letter below.

All the tweets by me which I’ve embedded in this article are among the “evidence” the party is citing against me. But these tweets are legitimate commentary and reportage. Some don’t have anything to do with Labour, or with supposed anti-Semitism.

Illegal leak

After I learned last year – from a Jewish Chronicle reporter’s Tweet – that I had been suspended, I immediately lodged a complaint with the party.

It was clear from the timing of the Tweet, and from the subsequent story in the paper, that Labour had told the reporter about my suspension before it had even told me.

The legal advice I received was that this could amount to a criminal breach of data protection law by the party. I demanded that Labour investigate the source of the leak.

The party has never given me any serious indication that it would do so.

On 8 March, I exercised my right under UK law by submitting a Subject Access Request to the party, demanding it hand over the data it holds on me. I included a demand for all communications between the party and The Jewish Chronicle concerning me.

But almost a year later, Labour has still not replied to my Subject Access Request, other than to confirm it was received.

Since Labour failed to respond within the legal timeframe, in April I complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The office, the UK’s data and privacy regulator, ruled in May that Labour “infringed their data protection obligations.”

However, the government office said it would not take any action because the Labour Party had “a number of outstanding” data requests. The office said only that it is working with Labour “to ensure they action their outstanding requests.”

In August, the commissioner’s office wrote to me to confirm that it would be “considering” my request to investigate Labour’s mishandling of my data as a criminal offense.

In other words, the regulator recognized that Labour is in habitual violation of the law, but said that because there is such a backlog of violations the party would not face enforcement action.

Predictably, Labour’s new letter, which I received on 6 February, smears my reporting with the false allegation of anti-Semitism.

This is the same smear lobbed at so many on the left and in the Palestine solidarity movement over the last few years – including against outgoing leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The ream of allegations is similar to those the party questioned me about last March. You can read my 12-page response to that below, which I sent in April. This response was ignored.

The new flurry of allegations is, if anything, more extreme in its devotion to anti-Palestinian racism than the previous charges.

The Labour Party now claims it is potentially “anti-Semitic” to even use the phrase “Israel lobby” – as I do frequently, since it is my job to report on the Israel lobby.

It is exactly this sort of political witch hunt that my reporting for The Electronic Intifada has exposed since 2015. And that reporting has clearly made an impact.

Indeed the Community Security Trust, a pro-Israel lobby group, last year lamented that online, The Electronic Intifada achieved “narrative dominance” on the subject of Palestine, Israel and Labour anti-Semitism smears.

Suppressing reporting

This is why some in Labour are seeking to suppress my reporting, even punishing members who share it online.

Over the last few years, I have been told by several people targeted by the Labour purge that they have been suspended just for sharing one of my articles on social media.

A former member of Labour’s ruling national executive, Martin Mayer, was pilloried by The Sunday Times in 2016 for sharing one of my articles over email.

The paper was forced to correct one of the inaccuracies in its story after The Electronic Intifada complained.

In August last year, I was told that my press pass to attend the annual Labour conference in Brighton the following month had been revoked – initially without explanation, but later with an explanation that did not add up.

The National Union of Journalists objected, and more than 3,000 people signed a petition in protest.

While I was barred from the official conference, I went to Brighton to do my job as best I could, speaking at the packed Labour Against the Witchhunt meeting with former London mayor Ken Livingstone, party activist Jackie Walker and former lawmaker Chris Williamson – all longtime leftists expelled or hounded out of the party as a result of false anti-Semitism smears.

Political purge

Now that the left-wing grassroots movement to reclaim Labour, spearheaded by Jeremy Corbyn, has been smashed, the party’s neoliberal centrists are seeking to reassert their control.

The party bureaucracy conducting political purges under the guise of enforcing anti-discrimination rules is a key part of the right-wing effort to re-establish dominance.

All the contenders to succeed Corbyn as leader have agreed to the Israel lobby’s demands to purge the party.

The most right-wing candidate, Keir Starmer, is the frontrunner to replace Corbyn.

Starmer has close ties with the hard-right of the party. His leadership campaign staff includes Matt Pound, an operative for the anti-Corbyn group Labour First.

Pound apparently identifies as a “Zionist shitlord.”

The threat to expel me is a symptom of a wider purge of the party’s left-wing and supporters of justice for Palestinians that is only just getting started.

These are dark days for the left and the Palestine solidarity movement in the Labour Party and the UK.

But the hope for radical change and social justice that brought so many new members to the party under Corbyn’s leadership will not be easily extinguished.


Click on images below to sharpen them

 

Comments (8)

  • TM says:

    I am so sorry, Asa, that you have been hounded out of the Labour Party. Rest assured, the work you do will still be closely followed by Labour Party Members. We owe you a debt of thanks for all the work you’ve done so far to support Palestinian Rights and fighting for democracy and freedom of speech in our Party.

  • David Pavett says:

    Labour’s response to the avalanche of misleading, often false and even entirely fabricated charges of AS revealed from the outset its weak grasp of the nature of racism. To say the least it showed that the party was and is institutionally confused about the nature of racism in general and of AS in particuler.

    I think we were all let badly down by the lack of leadership on this issue. The enemies of Labour, especially when it espouses policies which challenge any aspect of power based on wealth, saw that they could prize open Labour’s defences and dictate how it should respond to the charges made against it. This culminated in the adoption of the deeply flawed IHRA document. In that moment Labour forfeited its integrity as a democratic socialist party. Having got their foot in the door Labour’s enemies have never looked back since. Their latest wheeze is the BofD’s outrageous pledges which ALL the leadership candidates rushed to sign without the smallest caveat.

    Where does that leave us? We see where it leaves Asa Winstanley. After four years of left leadership, admittedly in difficult circumstances, this should never have happened. It happened because the left leadership and those around it failed to break with Labour’s traditional opaque and manipulative approach to policy and organisation. Let’s face it the so-called Democracy Review (which never reviewed anything) was a (bad) joke. The Party failed to make use of the immense expertise freely available to it in the form of its members. This nowhere more true than regarding Labour’s “AS crisis”.

    Where do we go from here, especially since it looks as though the Party is about to lurch back to the so-called “centre”? What chance is there of changing Labour’s disastrous stance on AS? I would be very interested to hear what others think.

  • Margaret E Johnson says:

    This is so sad, I am becoming demoralised by the constant drip drip of these antisemitism accusations. We have lost so many good left leaning activists and representatives. Perhaps there should be a Legal Help Fund set up to make a stand against some of these accusations and take a case through the courts. I fear that without someone having the financial ability to sue in defence of their reputation that this will continue until all anti-racists on the left are expelled. I fear for the future of the Labour Party and all it was set up for.

  • Margaret E Johnson says:

    Reply to David Pavett. My heart sank when the Party accepted the unaltered IHRA Document. A sad capitulation to the pressure exerted. The Leadership Election candidates signing of a further document of even wider pledges which threaten the whole membership was a very dark manipulation of emotion. I am still a member and still support Palestinian rights still denounce the actions of Israel in their consistent ignoring of international law and appropriation and annexation of Palestinian Land. How much longer I will be a Labour Member is a matter of internal debate, I do not give in easily to pressure. I am however only an ordinary member and therefore not an explicit target for taking down, for how long I do not know.

  • Diamond Versi says:

    I am absolutely appalled by the continuing witch hunt of the legitimate objectors of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. I have decided not renew my Labour membership because I am opposed to their bully boy tactics.

  • John Hall says:

    Why are supporters of the Palestinian cause allowing them selves to be traduced by Zionist supporters? Is Melanie Philips still insisting that anti-Zionism is antisemitism, despite the fact that most Zionists are Christian – up to 70 million or more in the USA alone according to some estimates? It is well past time to take the fight to the Zionists. Why is any supporter of this (Palestinian-) human rights-abusing movement allowed to remain a member of any UK political party that purports to support universal human rights, enshrined in international law after the experiences of Jews and others before and during WWII? Will anyone challenge the right of (any) a Zionist to be a member of (say) Labour or the LibDems when they are clearly against the Parties’ stance on universal human rights?

  • Gerry Glyde says:

    There would seem to be grounds for a next stage appeal to the Info Comm office that I think lies with the high court. If Asa is mindful to do so I am sure that a crowd fund appeal could raise sufficient money. The abuse of process by the LP by sitting on documents for one year and then expecting a response in 5 days is more akin to an autoritarian regime than The LP. There must still be staff who are intent on undermining members in the relevant department. I am aware that the Panorama leakers are making ET claims but I am sure that there must be grounds for dismissal due to incompetence of current staff.

    Every time I post I wonder if another page of ‘evidence’ is being complied against me.

  • Allan Howard says:

    David, Do you recall what happened when Chris Williamson was reinstated? All hell broke loose. And if he hadn’t been suspended again – or re-suspended – all hell would have broken loose again. It is/was of course all contrived and fake (all the outrage), as such, but the millions of people it’s done to ‘effect’ have no idea that it is of course, and those contriving it all know that – ie that it is inconceivable to the vast majority of people that it’s all contrived and could be manufactured. And I don’t mean ‘inconceivable’ in the sense that they consider the possibility that it’s all contrived, and THEN dismiss that possibility as inconceivable, but SO inconceivable that that possibility doesn’t even cross their minds.

    Take the Ken Livingstone episode, for example. As I’m sure most people who follow THIS website, or Skwawkbox or The Canary or Electronic Intifada etc, know by now, Ken was alluding to The Haavara Agreement, an historical fact, when he said what he said in his radio interview about Hitler supporting Zionism, and we know that all the vilification and condemnation fired at him was fake and contrived, as such, and that John Mann being at party HQ (or wherever it was) with a film crew when Ken turned up there some three hours after the radio interview, was no coincidence, and was all planned in advance so that the conspirators had some video clips for TV news channels and newspaper websites, showing John Mann verbally attacking Ken and calling him a Nazi apologist etc. It was of course all orchestrated, but it would be inconceivable to the vast majority of people that it was (and John Mann has been duly rewarded for his ‘part’ in the movie since, and for playing the central roll in ‘transforming’ Ken – a high profile and close ally of Jeremy’s – into a Jew-hating anti-semite, so as to get the A/S movie rolling).

    The whole ‘transformation’ of Jeremy and his hundreds of thousands of member supporters into anti-semites (and in the case of the members, into bullies and thugs as well) started shortly after Jeremy was elected leader, and then, after the shock (to them) of the very close call in 2017, the conspirators redoubled their efforts, and their ‘efforts’ were rewarded on the 12th of December last year.

    When your enemies own and/or control the MSM – and the narrative, as such – they can manufacture ‘reality’ for their own ends, and the movie – Part 1, anyway – ended just as they planned. Just as they ‘Directed’.

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