A few words in defence of Chris Williamson

October 14, 2019

by Martin Odoni

A couple of months ago, Chris Williamson, Labour’s embattled and suspended Derbyshire MP, was in Manchester to speak at an event marking the 200th Anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre. It is a sign of how absurdly controversial Chris has become that – I am speaking from attendant observation here – there were absolutely blazing rows among the event organisers over whether he should even have been allowed to speak at all. Not because the organisers had no sympathy for him, but due to worries that the event could become “all about him” rather than about the event being commemorated.

Chris Williamson & his Musketeers

Chris W was assigned a ‘bodyguard’ of three, including myself, to stave off any potential Zionist troublemakers during the Peterloo Massacre commemorations in Manchester. A fearsome foursome, we can all agree.

How exactly has Chris become such a figure of contention?

The original suspension

Most people, I am sure, are aware of the decision to suspend Chris earlier this year over comments he made at a meeting of Momentum activists, in which he was discussing the wildly-exaggerated ‘Labour-Party-anti-Semitism’ furore of the last three years. The quotation that is routinely put in his mouth in the media is that he said Labour have been “too apologetic about anti-Semitism”.

While the quotation is not exactly ‘fake’, it is certainly imprecise, and indeed can hardly even be (half-)dignified with the nomenclature ‘quote-mine’, as it is not just out-of-context. It is actually distorted. Here are the words Chris really said; –

“The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. …[O]ur party has been partly responsible for that because… we have backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic. … We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any other political party.”

In summary, it is not anti-Semitism that Chris was saying the Labour Party is too apologetic about. He was saying it is accusations of anti-Semitism that the party is too apologetic about i.e. when accusations are made, the party is too quick to plead guilty, and too hesitant to check first whether the accusations are being made on any justifiable grounds. Nor is the party sufficiently forthright in combating the overall narrative, clearly contrived by wide stretches of the media and Labour’s own right wing, of anti-Semitism supposedly being ‘rife’ or ‘rampant’ across the ranks. The figures speak for themselves; the real rate of anti-Semitic-incidents-per-head in the Labour Party is approximately 0.06% – far, far lower than across UK society as a whole, and a tiny, tiny fraction of the rates assumed by large cross-sections of the public.

Suspension reversed, then the reversal reversed

Sure enough, in June, an independent panel investigating Chris’ words on behalf of the party concluded that he had done nothing wrong and restored his membership. However, an almighty and heavily-theatrical furore was kicked up by the Labour Right against the decision, led in large part by the utterly vile pathological liar Tom Watson, claiming the decision was politically-motivated, even though the judgement had been made by an independent panel. The party once again seemed to get the willies, and re-suspended Chris on the same charge.

There were no grounds whatever for doing this. There was no new information or evidence against Chris, and no indication whatever of the panel’s investigation process being flawed, corrupted or improper. It was not only contrary to the rules of the party to reimpose a suspension over charges on which the accused had already been exonerated, but also, given party membership is a paid subscription, it was potentially illegal as a case of ‘double-jeopardy’. Hence the legal action taken to get the re-suspension lifted.

Reversal of reversed suspension reversed, and a new suspension

Last week, in spite of the characteristically-cynical spin of most of the mainstream media – and that most definitely includes the BBC – Chris did successfully get his re-suspension overturned in the courts. But an implausibly-contrived secondary suspension imposed by the party a few days earlier, essentially on the grounds that he had publicly criticised the first, was still in effect, so technically he is still suspended. This has allowed the media to put up misleading headlines declaring that his court bid for reinstatement has ‘failed’.

(On the subject of his secondary suspension, if the Labour Party deems public condemnation of a disciplinary procedure or charge to be unacceptable behaviour in itself, why has Margaret Hodge never been suspended for last year publicly comparing her own disciplinary process to the conduct of Nazi Germany? The party’s response to that was to drop the charges against her altogether. Maybe Chris should have invoked the spectre of the SS when condemning the witch-hunt against him, and then the party would have dropped the matter? Somehow, I doubt it.)

What is truly exasperating about all this is not just the fact that there is such a blatant and two-faced witch-hunt going on. We already knew that. It is that the Labour Party seems to be completely devoid of the willpower needed to resist it, which, by bitter irony, was precisely the point Chris was suspended for making. What he said was not offensive or hurtful to Jews, it was not offensive or hurtful to anybody, and above all, every word of what he said was true. The Labour Party is an anti-racist party, more so than just about any other in British history, and yet it is so weak-willed on this subject that it has actually suspended him for describing it as such!

The real reason Chris Williamson was suspended – again we all know this – was because he was, and is, a strong and prominent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn as leader; the party’s right wing, along with their allies in the media, are desperate to have Corbyn isolated to the point that he ceases to be leader in anything other than name. It is therefore doubly-infuriating that Corbyn himself has repeatedly side-stepped the pressing need to fight this issue, and seems unwilling to reciprocate Chris’ loyalty. Those who have tried to speak to Corbyn about Chris’ case always find him very reluctant to say anything at all, and often witness him talking around the subject. In that regard, Corbyn is relapsing depressingly into the stereotype of an evasive career politician, when his appeal to this point has always been that he is nothing like that.

Corbyn’s mishandling of the witch-hunt

There are a bewildering number of areas in which Corbyn gets a lot of undue condemnation, more perhaps than any other party leader in British history. I have usually been quick to defend him when attacks on him begin; just consider my rebuttal of the ridiculous ‘Brick Lane Mural’ hullaballoo from last year, if you doubt me on that.

But on this subject, I must add my voice to the chorus of disapproval. Corbyn has to be a lot, lot stronger on the subject of supposed ‘left-wing anti-Semitism’, and he has to start pushing back very hard against the false narrative. He has handled the matter very poorly indeed so far, allowing himself to look weak and hapless, reinforcing the impression the right wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party have always tried to give of him to justify their hostility to his leadership. He needs to recognise that none of his serial accusers, be it Hodge, Wes Streeting, the Board of Deputies, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Ian Austin, or Watson, is ever going to thank him for conceding to them. They are simply going to attack him anew for not conceding even more.

Corbyn’s reluctance to say, “Look, this just is not happening nearly as much as everybody is making out,” probably stems from a worry that he would be acting as if he does not take anti-Semitism seriously. His wish not to upset Jewish Britons is to his credit, but he has to realise that conceding to the narrative and allowing it to go unchallenged is simply not working in any direction one cares to look, including in the direction of that same wish. His Chamberlain-like concessions yield no positive effects, and two unwanted side-effects. The first of these is that, like the Danegeld of ancient times,  it only encourages his opponents to attack even more, and he is still frequently accused of not taking anti-Semitism seriously anyway. But the second side-effect of appeasing his attackers is that it reinforces the impression that there really is a major problem with Labour anti-Semitism when there is not. That approach only heightens the paranoia many Jews in the UK are feeling about the Labour Party being instigators of the ‘Next Pogrom’, started by Zionist propaganda from hard-right smear-rags like the Jewish Chronicle.

Going along with the narrative only feeds the paranoia

Quite simply, going along with the narrative because arguing with it feels too daunting is not making Jews in Britain feel better. Instead, it is telling them that they are right to feel afraid. And if the price of co-operating with the witch-hunt is the loss of Corbyn’s most effective allies and supporters, well, what possible good does he expect will come of it? Just on a matter of basic principle, Corbyn should be speaking up for Chris, because a good man has been relentlessly smeared and unjustly treated, and all for backing Corbyn in the first place.

I still wish to see Corbyn, or at least someone from the real left of the Labour Party, become Prime Minister. The neoliberal consensus of the last forty years had clearly run its course by the time the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2007-9, and it has only continued on Government-funded life-support ever since. It requires someone away from the right half of the economic spectrum to face the need for fundamental change. With his impressive resilience against relentless attacks by both media and many in his own party, and by coming up with many fine and original policies for a reform program for British industry, Corbyn has shown that he has the capacity to overcome such a challenge.

But if Corbyn continues to show unwillingness to combat this smear campaign, it raises serious doubts as to whether he will have the strength-of-will to reform an entire economy, given the unrestrained opposition he will face from the Establishment against that.

Sooner or later, Corbyn is going to have to realise who his supporters are, and who are the opponents who will do anything, no matter how immoral, both to stop him and to maintain the status quo.

Sooner would be better.

6 Responses to “A few words in defence of Chris Williamson”

  1. hilary772013 Says:

    Reblogged this on hilary77blog and commented:
    Martin has hit the nail on the head with his insightful take on the Chris Williamson debacle.

  2. hilary772013 Says:

    Thank You! Martin your piece is very insightful & I must add spot on analysis. I am a fervent JC Supporter but with what is happening within Labour regarding the latest coup from certain MP’s on the front bench, I am seriously considering ripping up my membership card & stopping my monthly donation. Jeremy needs to take back control otherwise Labour will not be electable in the upcoming GE or any other in the near future, the country is depending on him and pandering to the RW will not cut it.

    • signpostnotwindchimes Says:

      Thank you Hilary for your supportive comments. Please keep your membership. We must not fold. It is just what the creatures dream of. Deny them the satisfaction.

      It is exasperating, i know. I see the addiction to never-ending appeasement in my own CLP, even amongst our Corbyn supporting groups. I suspect three amongst us. They present the lamest excuses to justify their lame response to the dynamic RW. But we are fighting and i am trying my best to encourage, to recognise weak areas in our operation, analyse and implement solutions. Reduce the friction to change. Encourage new members, perspectives and styles. Cure the meeting itis, meetings about meetings. That’s just for starters. What is clear though in my CLP, even amongst the repellant RW, there is much ability and expertise and energy. TONS of it.

      The people in our Corbyn supporting groups have all the above plus more. They are really passionate to improve our country, help the vulnerable, are extremely erudite and very loveable… charming, interesting. It is mutually beneficial to be around people like that!

      So, don’t give up. NEVER give up. Tis worth keeping on keeping on. We reap the fruits of those who kept on in the past!!!
      ♏️♦️♦️♦️

  3. Jimbob Says:

    I fully agree with the analysis laid out here. The suspension should be lifted ASAP.

  4. signpostnotwindchimes Says:

    I agree with every paragraph!!! Further, 1️⃣ It is incomprehensible folly to try to appease the unappeasable like Twatsonscambellenders. 2️⃣ The determined saboteurs, saboteur openly on the MSM and prove that consistent appeasement has failed and continues to fail. 3️⃣ It is quite odd to reserve kindness & gentleness for declared wicked status quo merchants at the expense of hardworking brilliant supporters like Chris Williamson.

    Yes, a lack of prudence is unhelpful, but that can be changed. What needs a mega miracle to cure are confirmed nasty spirits, dedicated nasty intentions, proven determination to put their nasties’ negative destructive base wishes above the success of our party. Our party, with at long last, a true Labour leader in harmony with its members, the largest in Europe!!! THAT is what they seek to wreck. Did any of the nasties attract and build over 500,000+ members? Did their oleaginous charlatan Blair achieve that??? Membership fell throughout the occupation by that self-obsessed venal parasitic creature.

    We must energise. Scrub out the value-free few. They will not relinquish OUR power by chance. It is WE who gift them the power. With neither gratitude nor shame, they use our gift, to undermine and slander us.

    They will not cease their wonton strife. We must stop enabling with appeasement, and funding them to spit, spit and spit their vile bile again and again.

    We must stop being supine. Stop cowering to them and their chums, the hostile MSM including the guardian and mirror

    Jeremy won the leadership and survived the coups by increased margins and gained the largest vote share since the 1940s for Labour, despite the massed organised forces of nasties combined with the hostile MSM. So SURELY, Jeremy and we must Must MUST see, we do NOT need their approval. We are not their subjects. We are not of their kind. They will be hostile anyway.

    After we recognise that we need get our sequence right. We cannot transform the world with grand schemes, while failing to even subdue destructive nematodes at home, right here in our party.

    We must rid ourselves of the creatures and focus on transforming our country first and the world afterwards.
    ♏️♦️♦️♦️


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