Jewish Voice for Labour’s statement on Tom Watson, Chris Williamson and Ian Austin

Published in the Morning Star, 8th November 2019.

JEREMY CORBYN’S characteristically generous letter to Tom Watson marks the end of a turbulent relationship between the deputy leader and the Labour Party’s twice massively acclaimed popular leader, as well as a huge majority of the party.

It is fair to say that Watson steadily worked himself into an impossible position in the party: in September 2016 he proposed a draconian rule change for the election of the leader (to place selection entirely with the Parliamentary Labour Party) which would have ensured Corbyn’s deselection.

In an open letter to Watson in July this year general secretary Jennie Formbywrote: “You are complicit in creating a perception that anti-semitism is more prevalent in the Labour Party than wider society. This is deeply irresponsible for the deputy leader of a party which seeks to be in government.”

Whilst welcoming Watson’s statement that he will continue to support Labour during the campaign, for members who are committed to the party’s transformative programme, and who are now having to confront his denigration of the party leader on the doorstep, his exit has been long awaited.

Resigning from the party is Chris Williamson, a direct casualty of the attack on the left spearheaded, amongst others, by Watson. As a principled socialist and prominent Corbyn supporter, Williamson was targeted by the right within the party and Labour’s enemies outside, in alliance with those who define as anti-semitism support for the Palestinians’ fight against their oppression.

We knew that another onslaught by this coalition was coming; it was launched by Ian Austin’s acrimonious attack on Corbyn and his extraordinary exhortation to vote for Boris Johnson. Not unsurprising as Austin left Labour nine months ago to be appointed as a Prime Ministerial Trade Envoy to Israel.

Having been denied the opportunity to fight for re-election to his seat in Derby North, Chris Williamson faces an impossible choice: allow his parliamentary career to be cut short after decades of dedication to the Labour cause, or resign to campaign as an independent.

We wanted Chris to stay in the party so that we can continue to campaign for his reinstatement as a valued member, and we are disappointed that he has decided to stand as an independent.

Glyn Secker is Jewish Voice for Labour secretary.


Comments (11)

  • christina evans says:

    It is bullying and we can only hope that at some point the people responsible willbe held to account It is ironic that labour are the most principled party when it comes to rascism anti semitism etc. Whereas the conservative paty are openly offensive and they are not bothered. Its a shame that this is the case. I am sure as well ordinary jewish people are sick and tired of having this unwelcome attention. A lot of jewish people have spoken out to say not in my name. This isnt really about religion at all but about the big fish bullying anyone who doesnt believe in what Israeli government are doing.

  • Bob Marsden says:

    Lord Peter Mandelson may be running this campaign through Portland communications. He has channels of influence to the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph, Jewish newspapers, etc.

    Peter Mandelson Guardian 21 Feb 17
    “Why do you want to just walk away and pass the title deeds of this great party over to someone like Jeremy Corbyn? I don’t want to, I resent it, and I work every single day in some small way to bring forward the end of his tenure in office.
    “Something, however small it may be – an email, a phone call or a meeting I convene – every day I try to do something to save the Labour party from his leadership.”

    8 Nov 19 Ian Austin: “I must do everything can to stop Jeremy Corbyn from getting into power.” … “… keep Jeremy Corbyn away from Downing Street, … stop him getting his hands on the levers of national security and defence…”

    And on Friday [8 Nov], Dame Margaret Hodge – one of the most prominent Jewish figures in Labour – declined to endorse the opposition leader as prime minister.

    9 Nov 19 Writing in the Telegraph, [David] Blunkett said: “The behaviour of the hard left within the Labour party – the antisemitism, the thuggery, the irrational views on security and international issues, and the lack of realisation that you have to embrace a big tent of people in order to win – certainly makes me despair.

    Ian Austin and John Woodcock said they would be supporting the Conservatives as they did not believe Corbyn was fit to be in No 10.

    “Around 160 Labour MPs and peers attended the Future Britain Group’s first meeting in March [2019]. Lord Mandelson told the meeting it was time for “Blairites and Brownites to work together to save the party”.”

    One of Mandelson’s next moves will be to replace Tom Watson as Deputy Leader with Connor McGlynn, his messenger who co-ordinated the waves of resignations from the Shadow Cabinet in the “chicken coup”.

  • Stephen Mitchell says:

    I find Blunketts antics particularly offensive and hypocritical. I remember attending a rally on Sheffield in support of the miners. Blunkett was then leader of a council in what was known as the Peoples Republic of South Yorkshire. A left wing firebrand. When Labour came to power and he became a minster he moved so far to the right his position was indistinguishable from the Conservatives. He was an absolute disgrace as Education minister His remarks about bullying in today’s Labour Party really show what a hypocrite he is. He became the archetypal bully in a party renowned for it stance against any member who criticized it. We on the Left were ostracized which is why so many of us left returning when Jeremy became leader. Blunkett comes from along line of MPs who have stabbed the Labor Party in the back. ; Desmond Donnelly,Woodrow Wyatt, Richard Marsh and George Brown ,to name but a few. They all made a good living from our party and the members who supported them . Their betrayal is appalling when our country is in such crisis. When this is all over there must be a reckoning. There can be no reconciliation between left and some on the right. As long as the members elect the leader the right will not get to take over. Never again will Labour be allowed to consolidate neo liberalism or take us to war as it did between 1997 and 2010.

  • TM says:

    I feel that Jeremy will desperately need MPs like Chris Williamson in the next Parliament if he is to survive. I am sorry that the LP has forced on the Constituents of Derby North the choice between another parachuted Blairite or someone they have grown to trust for his Socialist policies over the years. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

  • Michel Trainer says:

    Devastated that Chris Williamson has been driven out of the Labour Party. An excellent MP and a great speaker and obviousy no anti semite. The right wing will be triumphant at their success and be looking for their next victim.

  • Gerry Glyde says:

    I have today written to Blunkett in the Lords reminding him of his radical past, and the commitment to justice and due process based on evidence, on which our party is based. I asked him if he understood the Macpherson principle of dealing with alleged discrimnation issues.

    I have asked him to supply evidence of the number of arrests for thuggery, cautions and other convictions.For those not on social media flood the post box to (It is supposed to be addressed to the Right Hon Lord Blunkett PC or some silliness like that)
    I just used ‘David Blunkett’ as his address name.

    David Blunkett, House of Lords, London, SW1A OPW
    Keep it polite too the point and put him on the spot. Avoid him being able in a week or so to issue another statement about more abuse. For those wjonuse thenother sites then post up your letter to counter allegations he might make.

  • George Wilmers says:

    If the above statement is a formal position of JVL, what exactly is the meaning of the last sentence:

    “We wanted Chris to stay in the party so that we can continue to campaign for his reinstatement as a valued member, and we are disappointed that he has decided to stand as an independent.”

    Does this mean that JVL expected Chris Williamson to make the alternative choice which, to use Glyn’s own words above, was “to allow his parliamentary career to be cut short after decades of dedication to the Labour cause” ? Personally I cannot associate myself with such a view, and I suspect that there are many others in JVL who share my opinion. I believe that Chris Williamson’s decision was entirely justified, and that, as the Labour Representation Committee has noted, the fault lies entirely with the political cowardice of the NEC.

  • jim cohen says:

    Thanks for this is so appropriately worded , especially re Watson who ” worked himself into an impossible position” and the Jennie Formby quote about him which needs to be requoted and requoted. Ian Austin is a hiccup for the LParty , and thanks for the significant information about his appointment as Johnson’s Trade Envoy, which may be unpaid now but will no doubt prove lucrative to Austin in the future. I certainly hope we haven’t seen the last of Chris.

  • My letter to the Guardian on this subject: “How odd that in Jonathan Freedland’s article (Many Jews oppose Brexit, but how can we vote for Corbyn? 9 November) he only mentions Zionists once and then in inverted commas. Why so coy? He knows that it is the Zionist lobby (not “Britain’s Jews”) aided by the media, that has sought to undermine Corbyn from the moment he was elected Labour Party leader. Why? Because he has been a campaigner for justice for Palestinians. Corbyn is not antisemitic – the examples Freedland gives have already been effectively rebutted – nor is the Labour Party rife with antisemitism, as he will know if he has read the analysis by 5 academics in the book ‘Bad News for Labour’. And nothing Chris Williamson has said is remotely antisemitic. But none of that matters to the Zionists who would rather inflict a Boris Johnson government on the nation than accept as Prime Minister a man who has spoken up against Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. If they succeed in their mission, they will never be forgiven.”

  • Mary Davies says:

    It is a huge loss that Chris Williamson has felt he had no alternative but to resign but I wish him huge success as an Independent true Socialist candidate in Derby North. I am heartbroken and angry that so many good, decent, anti-racist people with integrity have been forced out of the Labour Party.

  • Sandra says:

    I met Chris Williamson, and loved his passion. So hard for me as a fairly new and fairly centrist LP member to make sense of the divisions in the party. I have just found this site. Thank you so much for maintaining it. I grew up in North London with many left wing Jewish friends. It has really hurt me to have these accusations flying around. I could never countenance antisemitism.I am so pleased to find this information.

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