Grassroots Black Left, a group for left-wing “African, Caribbean and Asian people and their allies who give critical support to the progressive Jeremy Corbyn Labour leadership” formed in autumn 2017, held its parliamentary launch event last week at Parliament, with support from MPs Clive Lewis, Naz Shah and Chris Williamson:
Representatives of Justice for Grenfell also spoke at the event.
BAME Labour, the official Labour Party affiliate group for black, Asian and ethnic minority members, has long been considered moribund. Last year BAME Labour elected its representative on Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee) out of only 731 members in total, in spite of Labour rules requiring it to have at least 2,500 members to qualify for a place on the committee.
Many black and Asian Labour members will therefore welcome the formation of a new group more aligned with their interests and politics.
Founder member Mike Wongsam said at the group’s inaugural meeting in 2017:
The time has come for Grassroots Black Left. At this exciting moment when we have an ally, Jeremy Corbyn, as Labour’s leader, a nationwide, grassroots, left-wing organisation of African, Caribbean and Asian party members, who support his progressive politics, is long overdue.
Ironically, however, one of the group’s founders has been suspended from the Labour Party for over eighteen months.
Marc Wadsworth was suspended in 2016 after controversy over his remarks to centrist Labour MP Ruth Smeeth at the launch of the Chakrabarti report.
Wadsworth had taken exception to Ms Smeeth being handed documents by a Daily Telegraph journalist. Ms Smeeth claimed he had used an ‘antisemitic trope’ – but attributed words to Wadsworth that he appeared not to have used. Her statement alleged that he had accused her of a “media conspiracy”, but there is no evidence of Wadsworth using those words or mentioning Ms Smeeth’s religion or ethnicity. Video footage later showed his words to have been:
I saw that the Telegraph handed a copy of a press release to Ruth Smeeth MP so you can see who is working hand in hand. If you look around this room, how many African, Caribbean and Asian people are there? We need to get our house in order.
Wadsworth insisted that he had only just found out who Smeeth was and had no idea that she was Jewish.
Wadsworth was initially summarily expelled from the Labour Party but reinstated and suspended when his lawyers wrote to Labour’s compliance unit pointing out that it had acted unlawfully and not in accordance with the party’s rules. Neither the expulsion letter nor the suspension notification mentioned allegations of antisemitism – that charge was added over six months later, in January 2017.
Since then, he has remained suspended – in spite of a public letter of support printed in the Guardian from twelve prominent supporters who included black and Jewish activists.
However, Wadsworth’s case – which was referred by the NEC to Labour’s National Constitutional Committee – has finally been scheduled. In view of the circumstances surrounding his suspension, he has arranged full legal representation and his appeal to cover the cost of lawyers on the CrowdJustice website has raised, at the time of publication, £3,815 of its £5,000 target.
The case is due to be heard on 25 April.