‘Staffer’ complaint v Williamson betrays huge ignorance of Labour rules – and an agenda

The Huffington Post’s Paul Waugh has tweeted a copy of a complaint sent by – as Waugh describes it – a ‘former Labour staffer’ to Labour’s new General Secretary Jennie Formby:

waugh cw

The complaint is very revealing – but not in the way its sender presumably intended. Here it is in full:


The ignorance

The first noteworthy aspect of the complaint is that it displays a remarkable level of ignorance about Labour’s rules and procedures. Chris Williamson is a Labour MP, not merely a party member. As a Labour insider confirmed to the SKWAWKBOX:

For anything less serious than a clear breach of rules or an offence such as sexual harassment, a complaint against an MP goes nowhere near the General Secretary or even the NEC. It’s dealt with by the Whips.

Whatever anyone thinks of Chris Williamson’s comments about Marc Wadsworth, there’s no suggestion that they’re either a rules breach or criminal. This complaint is addressed to completely the wrong person.

The defamation

The complaint contains a serious libel against both Chris Williamson and Marc Wadsworth – by linking them to antisemitism.

Because – in spite of the readiness of some media and political commenters to commit a similar libel – Marc Wadsworth has not been expelled for antisemitism, but for a non-specific charge of bringing the party into disrepute.

The NCC – presumably because the incident is widely available on video and anyone who wishes can see that Wadsworth did not say what he was initially accused of saying – steered clear of an antisemitism dismissal, although the application of the IHRA definition was discussed, including the idea that the mere fact someone might perceive it as antisemitic – a problematic aspect of the rule adopted at last year’s conference (although that requires ‘reasonably be seen’, not merely ‘might be’) was discussed.

That in itself was a legal error, because Wadsworth’s supposed offence took place in 2016, when the rule was not in force – and retrospective application of a new rule is not valid.

Any claim that Wadsworth was expelled for antisemitism is defamatory – and therefore, so would be the claim that, by making comments supportive of Wadsworth, Williamson is ‘seriously undermin[ing] the work that you and the leadership are doing to take the issue of antisemitism seriously‘.

The hypocrisy

The so far anonymous complainant tells Ms Formby that Mr Williamson’s ‘behaviour’ is ‘a direct attack on the NCC‘ (National Constitutional Committee) and ‘furthermore could be interpreted‘ as an invitation to ‘attack our sovereign body – the NEC‘.

The horror.

Quite apart from the severely problematic idea that saying something that could be interpreted by someone as something is an offence deserving suspension, this nonsensical complaint is excruciatingly hypocritical.

When former London mayor Ken Livingstone’s case was before the very same body – the NCC – for review, there was widespread outrage among many moderate MPs about the NCC’s decision to extend Livingstone’s suspension rather than expel him.

Those MPs were anything but shy about expressing that outrage. For example, Ilford North MP Wes Streeting called it ‘betrayal’:

streeting ncc.png

Whatever your opinion of Livingstone’s suspension and the comments for which he received it, the complaints about the ‘behaviour’ of Streeting and others in attacking the NCC were conspicuous by their absence.

No matter what you think of the issues, if it’s ok for MPs to criticise the NCC in one set of circumstances where you think it has made a bad decision without them being kicked out of the party, it’s ok for someone else to do so when they think it’s made a bad decision.

Sadly, hypocrisy by the Labour right is never in short supply.

The agenda

It doesn’t take too much thought, examination or background knowledge to see the clear flaws in the ‘staffer’s complaint. So the question arises why someone would make it, when it’s pre-destined to be unsuccessful.

It’s possible, of course, that the ignorance on display in the complaint calls into question the authenticity of the sender – who is not named. But it’s more likely – since presumably Waugh would check bona fides – that the ignorance is intentional.

The decision to expel Marc Wadsworth today makes it hard for the Labour right to claim that ‘Corbyn’ – their usual shorthand for what in fact has nothing to do with Corbyn and everything to do with the party’s still right-dominated NCC, because that is the party body responsible for serious disciplinary cases – is not being tough enough in cases of alleged antisemitism.

The decision to expel Wadsworth is risible, given the easily available video of what he said and how he behaved – but nobody could reasonably claim it’s not severe enough.

But if you want, for factional purposes, to have a case that you can persuade the ignorant isn’t being taken seriously enough by the leadership, then making a complaint about an issue where the party’s rules and procedures don’t allow the leadership to take the action you claim to expect sets that up nicely for such disingenuous claims.

Of course, it’s also possible that there’s a simpler reason for the complaint. The claimed reason is tenuous to the point of being nonsensical. But you don’t have to look too hard to find another reason why someone on the Labour right might want to ‘knobble’ Chris Williamson.

A thorn in the side

Williamson appeared on Thursday on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme – and gave bland centrist Chris Leslie, who has routinely undermined the party’s leadership – a thorough schooling in the importance of MPs respecting Labour’s membership.

And in the absolute fairness of the idea that those members should get to decide who represents them:

Williamson has been one of the bravest and most vocal critics of Labour’s so-called ‘centrist’ MPs who have consistently attempted to damage the party and disrespected their members who support the party’s new direction.

Such as Leslie, for example, who received a mass rebuke from his members for his behaviour after last year’s General Election.

He has, in short, been an enormous thorn in the side of the right-wingers – and one of the most up-front in saying that members should have the right to select a new candidate when they want to, instead of Labour’s current, byzantine ‘trigger ballot’ system that the right knows how to work to its advantage to protect right-wingers with little member support.

And that is far more credible and logical as the right’s motive for going after him now than some nonsense about the fact that he’s challenged a decision that many right-thinking observers consider – as Williamson termed it – perverse.

As for bring the party into disrepute, well – ask any Labour member which MPs have done that and the chances are very high indeed that there’ll be a list of candidates that spring to mind, but it’s unlikely to include Chris Williamson.

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  1. Ha, a colleague and I, after hearing the ridiculous verdict yesterday on Marc Wadsworth, both agreed that the next scalp the Zionists/right wing will be going for on their way to get Corbyn will be Chris Williamason!

    1. Correct and the reason why these right-wing Labour MPs have suddenly become so vocal has its roots in the local elections, they are trying to damage the Labour vote so they can mount one of their regular coups against Jeremy Corbyn.
      If this ‘staffer’ was so concerned about MPs bringing the party and the NCC into disrepute then why haven’t they complained about the usual suspects who have non – stop tried to damaged Labour.
      I have never called for deselections but the time is coming when CLPs must act and get rid of the cancer that is trying to destroy the party, as Chris Williamson has said if these MPs feel so strongly then the Labour party is not for them let them resign the Labour whip and let Labour hold byelections and let them stand as independents.

    2. To those who support Palestinian rights and oppose many of the actions of the Israeli government.

      Please PAY ATTENTION!

      We need to stop using terms like “Zionist” as a pejorative. There are many Jewish people who would be appalled at being thought of as racist against Palestinians, but who also think of themselves as “Zionist”.

      We also need to stop claiming that Jewish lobby groups have undue influence in the media or elsewhere. This is conspiracy-nut territory that strays into actual anti-Semitism.

      This kind of lazy generalisation is the foundation of the current furore over anti-Semitism within the party.

      Do you want your protests against the actions of this Israeli government to be more effective? Then stop handing those who want to undermine your arguments the ammunition they need.

      We must be precise when criticising the actions of the Israeli government. It is not simply “Zionists”, nor “Israelis”. It is the Israeli government, some political lobby groups and individual politicians who we should be clear on targeting.

      The neither the Labour party nor the Palestinian people, who are now suffering, will not be helped unless we are pragmatic and disciplined in our use of language and our behaviour.

      This is a lesson we must learn…

      1. OK I’m “PAYING ATTENTION “ can’t speak for others , so on what authority and experience do you speak , before I listen.
        What are you credentials . Perhaps if a recognisable voice from the JLV were to corroborate you then I might listen , until then I personally think the term Zionist as per the Oxford English dictionary accurately defines what the MP’s are and their actions prove this.
        Happy to be corrected but until I can see an authoritative and confirm-able link to what you demand then I am afraid I will not be making any changes.
        In respect of the influence that these MPs have with the MSM then I believe you are sadly deluded if you believe there is none.If one is unable to express these genuine beliefs because of some conflating of the criticism of the State O f Israel with anti-Semitism then that is a very dangerous step to crushing “ freedom of speech and democracy “ . Which is what those Zionist MPs who are nothing more than agents of the State Of Israel want

      2. Posted again without the full links which take so long to pass moderation.

        Mukkinese (@Mukkinese) “We need to stop using terms like “Zionist” as a pejorative.”

        What absolute nonsense. You really do need to learn about Zionist history. The most common definition of Zionism is: The right of the self determination of Jews in the land of Israel.”

        First of all, this is a ‘right’ that does not exist, it is a self given right by a bunch of European Zionists who decided in the late 1800s early 1900s that Palestine would be a great place to colonise and turned into a mono religious state. If some members of the Jewish community believe it to be sacrosanct then they should be informed it is not. If their feelings are hurt, let them do their own research and uncover the evils of Zionism.

        “Zionism as a mental illness that can be treated. Zionism is just a symptom of a deeper problem, the delusional belief that you have “rights” which do not exist.”— Avigail Abarbanel Jewish Israeli psychiatrist.

        Because a certain group of people believe in a myth we cannot draw back from criticising it, especially when that myth is responsible for the killing and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and continued unrest in the Middle East.


        Some of the strongest criticisms of Zionism come from Jews themselves who do not subscribe to it’s ethos, people such as Miko Peled.


        Finally, Zionism is totally incompatible with Socialism and should have NO PLACE in the Labour Party,

  2. Bravo. Its a shame about the information about reporting cases to the NEC though . Haven’t the BBoJ and individual members been flooding complaints into the NEC about Antisemitism and MP’s such as Mann put out a call for people to send in accounts and names? How can organisations outside of the party have a direct line of access to the NEC but ordinary members not? We do need guidance on this especially if RW CLP’s put blocks on complaints being heard .Why cant ordinary members write to the whip or another contact if they hear of an MP behaving badly and bring the party and members into disrepute ?

  3. I really do not know what the right of the party believe they will gain from what is widely seen by members as deliberate sabotage that helps the Tories?

    When they lost the leadership, they did not do the sensible thing and ask themselves where they went wrong, but took the most insane action any elected person could, they attacked those voters whose votes they need to gain power.

    Since then they have continued to dig themselves deeper and deeper into that hole.

    Do they really believe that if they keep Labour out of power then the majority of the membership will have a “road to Damascus” revelation and change their viewpoint? That the majority who feel attacked by these “moderates” will suddenly welcome back and forgive those who they see as helping the Tories cling on to power?

    1. I agree with your comments. Do they think they can expect the membership to carrying on supporting the party if a right wing MP becomes the leader of the party. It is possible that people will drift away and become very disillusioned.

      1. That’s exactly what they want… members to be disillusioned and drift away. Then they get their party back. They don’t need 600k LW members. They managed nicely when it was 250k and they were in control.

  4. You should stop using the description ‘moderate’ for Blairite and Zionist MPs. They are not moderates; they are racists, warmongers and union-bashers. Best to call them neoliberal MPs, not moderate MPs.

  5. If nothing else, all of this merely clarifies the underlying division.

    Let them have their ‘fun’, local elections will be over soon.

    Grit your teeth until they are, at which point the RW saboteurs won’t be able to hold the leadership – and membership – to electoral ransom.

    Mandatory reselection.

  6. First, they came for the new members whom they called entryists who were inspired to join the party by Corbyn, I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a new member;
    Then they came for the ordinary members who supported Corbyn by their thousands by accusing them of everything bad under the sun (intolerance, misogyny, trolling, etc,) and suspending/expelling them from the party, I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an ordinary member; Then they came for members of the party who are strong Corbyn supporters with impeccable record of service to the party, the nation and the world at large (peace campaigners, anti-apartheid activists, anti-racism activists, etc.), and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a member of the party;
    Then they came for the 313,209 members who voted for Corbyn, and…

    History, it always repeats itself. At the end of it all, the truth will come out and we shall overcome.

  7. Why do the right not just come out and say they want a party and a leader acceptable to the press and ‘Establishment’?
    Richard Dennis

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