Statement of support for Darren Williams

JVL Introduction

Darren Williams, consistent supporter of socialism, democracy and Palestinian rights on Labour’s NEC, is under attack for having issued a statement on behalf of the Welsh Labour Grassroots pro-Corbyn group defending suspended Labour MP Chris Williamson.

We stand behind him in resisting these attacks.

The JVL statement is followed by Darren Williams’s own description of who he is and his history as a Labour activist.

Jewish Voice for Labour Statement of support for Darren Williams

6th Mrch 2019

We are extremely disappointed to see the criticism of Darren Williams for his support for Chris Williamson. We now have a ruling from Jennie Formby to not pass motions in relation to individual disciplinary cases. We support our General Secretary in her commitment to implement fair procedures and proportionate sanctions where they are found to be necessary. However, it is manifestly unfair when the edict against commenting is only being enforced against those criticising suspensions, while grossly abusive comments assuming guilt are being widely reported, seemingly without sanction.

It is also important to note that Darren Williams was not commenting in his own name but was carrying out a democratic mandate from the group of which he is secretary and circulated a statement as he was instructed to.

Darren is being attacked for defending Chris Williamson and articles outlining this misquote Wiliamson’s words and perpetuate the myth that he said Labour should stop apologising for antisemitism.  He said no such thing and emphasised that antisemitism is appalling and must be stamped out.

Furthermore, Darren’s statement was made before Jennie Formby’s ruling. More importantly, these criticisms and attacks are much less about individual cases and much more part of a concerted attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s key supporters and, therefore, on Jeremy Corbyn and the wider Labour Party membership as a whole.

We are Jews who are entirely comfortable in the Labour Party. But we are far from comfortable seeing the terrible history of the Jewish people exploited by those intent upon scuppering the best hope in decades for ordinary and vulnerable members of our society.

CLPs are enthusiastic about standing in support of the Leadership and the progressive ideas that we have and want to defend those who defend the left-wing programme that Labour has already adopted and is working to develop further.

And these attacks from within seriously weaken our capacity to fight the Tories, their cruel austerity agenda and their pernicious hostile environment. The hypocrisy of people like Theresa May and Amber Rudd, responsible for the Windrush scandal and the wider hostile environment, calling our Party antisemitic beggars belief. But instead of focusing all our energies on attacking the Tories, we are harrassing people who are an asset to our movement.

Furthermore, this message that the Labour Party is antisemitic is cruelly leading to genuine fear for some Jewish people at the same time as trying to silence the best allies against oppression, discrimination and hatred.  Although Darren is not being accused of antisemitism, these criticisms come within a context where those who oppose the Corbyn project are once again ratcheting up the allegations of antisemitism. That is the context in which individuals who reject this assertion or defend others who do, are being picked off.  This false assertion has been shown to be false when General Secretary Jennie Formby provided clear information indicating extremely low levels of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Those who are determined to bring down Corbyn are relentlessly pursuing their agenda with the support of the mainstream media and the Establishment.  We stand against the abuse of media and establishment power. It is this we oppose, not the necessary steps the party is taking to deal fairly with the small amount of antisemitism that does exist among Labour members and supporters.

Who is Darren Williams?

My name is Darren Williams and I am one of nine Constituency Party representatives elected by party members to Labour’s National Executive Committee, alongside Yasmine Dar, Huda Elmi, Rachel Garnham, Ann Henderson, Jon Lansman, Nav Mishra, Claudia Webbe and Pete Willsman.

I have been an active Labour party member for thirty years, working in every election for the return of Labour candidates. For most of my time in the party, I have been a branch officer and a member of the GMC. I have been a constituency delegate to numerous conferences and represented Welsh CLPs on the National Policy Forum for five years. I have also recently been elected to the Welsh Executive Committee, having previously served on that body in 1997-98. I was elected for South Wales Central alongside Christine Newman, and we will produce joint reports where applicable. For three years, I worked at the National Assembly for Wales as a researcher and press officer for Carwyn Jones AM and John Griffiths AM and between December 2013 and May 2017, I was a Cardiff city and county councillor.

I have been an active trade unionist throughout my working life and, since 2005 I have worked full-time for the civil service union, PCS, which has been at the forefront of the battle with the coalition and Tory government over their attacks on public services, jobs and working conditions. In 2013-14, I was the union’s acting Wales Secretary and, in that capacity, sat on the Wales TUC General Council. I am a member of the GMB.

What I stand for

I have been a committed socialist all my adult life and joined Labour in order to work for the creation of a more equal, democratic and sustainable society. At a minimum, I want to see public services provided by the public sector, a more progressive taxation system and government intervention to create jobs and get the economy back on its feet. I want reform of the irresponsible financial sector and the reversal of attacks on our social security system. I believe that most Labour members, supporters and voters share similar aspirations. In the ‘New Labour’ period, however, the party leadership in Westminster departed drastically from authentic Labour values and beliefs, placing undue faith in markets and the private sector and neglecting our historic commitment to equality, while also embroiling us in two disastrous foreign wars. Our defeat at the last general election ushered in a government that has imposed the deepest cuts in living memory, attacked the foundations of our welfare state and set back any prospect of sustainable economic recovery.

It is vital that Labour now present a clear political alternative, which could win the confidence and support of all those who oppose Tory ‘austerity’. The party has recently adopted some positive policy commitments – such as a freeze on energy prices, abolition of the bedroom tax and reintroduction of the 50% top tax rate – but it could and should go a lot further. The frequent timidity of our policy pronouncements reflects the lack of democratic accountability within the party since the late 1990s, with conferences sidelined and policies drawn up by spin doctors and focus groups. Despite some welcome innovations like the Your Britain website, my experience on the NPF has confirmed my fears that ordinary party members continue to be denied any meaningful influence over policy-making. This has to be addressed.

I am the secretary of Welsh Labour Grassroots, the network of left and centre-left party members in Wales, and have the support of other like-minded groups in the wider party.

Learning from devolution

Since the current method of electing the NEC was introduced in the late 1990s, there has never been a CLP representative from Wales and Scotland has had only intermittent representation. Until I stood for the first time two years ago, there had never even been a Welsh candidate on the ballot-paper. Yet, after fifteen years of democratic devolution, there is much that the wider party could learn from the experience in Scotland and Wales.

In particular: Welsh Labour has remained in office in the National Assembly since 1999 by pursuing its own ‘clear red water’ agenda, rather than following the market-based policies implemented in England. It has maintained an integrated, publicly-run NHS and a cohesive, comprehensive education system and introduced free prescriptions, free school breakfasts and free bus travel for pensioners and the disabled. I will promote these policies as a model for the national party to follow.

A voice for ordinary members

As an advocate of greater openness and accountability in the party, I will practise what I preach by circulating written reports to all CLPs on NEC meetings and other relevant developments and addressing any GMC or similar body to which I may be invited, as I have already done in my time on the National Policy Forum. I will also take up issues that CLPs may want to raise with the NEC.

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