Audio: Willsman recording and the mismatch between what was said and what’s claimed

Peter Willsman

Below is a subtitled version of the audio file released this evening by the Jewish Chronicle in an article that quotes Labour MP Luciana Berger making outraged comments about veteran NEC (National Executive Committee) member’s illicitly-recorded remarks at a meeting of the NEC that took place earlier this month, before calling for his suspension.

Her claims and call have been picked up and amplified by the rest of the mainstream media – and Willsman has been subjected to a torrent of abuse, including by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, whose shameful tweet raised questions from social media users about why, when he is on the NEC by virtue of his position, he is not heard on the recording objecting at the time Willsman was speaking:


The SKWAWKBOX has been unable to find an NEC member who agrees with Watson’s description.

But do those claims about Willsman’s wordsvstand up to scrutiny? Here is the audio, with subtitles added for those who need them:

Ms Berger told the Jewish Chronicle (emphases added by this blog):

Anyone listening to this recording will be appalled to hear the venom and fury directed by Mr Willsman at the British Jewish community.

That he accuses the Jewish community of falsifying social media and being “Trump fanatics” in order to deny the serious concerns of 68 rabbis beggars belief.

Mr Willsman only has to take a look at his NEC papers or the many recent press reports to see evidence of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

In the past week alone two Labour councillors have been suspended and the Party have confirmed that 252 people are being investigated for the comments they’ve made online directed at Dame Margaret Hodge MP.

Ms Berger’s paraphrase misses the mark on a number of counts. Here are the inaccurate claims next to what Willsman actually says:

Claim: “he accuses the Jewish community of falsifying social media and being “Trump fanatics””

Willsman: “And some of these people in the Jewish community support Trump. They’re Trump fanatics.

Is Ms Berger seriously saying that there is not a single Trump supporter among the UK’s Jewish citizens? If Willsman had said ‘the Jewish community are all Trump fanatics’, he would be guilty – but saying some people among a community do something is not racist, regardless whether or not it’s accurate.

And there are reasonable grounds for Willsman’s comment that some Jewish people support Trump. When Trump was elected president, then-Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush welcomed his election, saying:

I would like to congratulate Donald Trump on his victory.

After a divisive campaign, I hope that Mr Trump will move to build bridges and ensure that America’s standing as a beacon of progress, tolerance and free-thinking remains strong.

That statement prompted hundreds of Jewish people to write to the Board in protest. But when the US president decided to move the US embassy to Jerusalem – a hugely controversial move and against international agreements – Arkush’s welcome was more emphatic:

Why is it apparently so controversial that the United States is taking the decision to recognise what we already know, that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel?

Again, his comments provoked a significant backlash from angry members of the community and even of the Board – but it was also warmly praised by other Board delegates. One, for example, responded:

We believe in my constituency – and I have consulted my constituency – that you are 100 per cent right.

Clearly there are reasonable grounds for Willsman’s opinion – which, it must again be emphasised, was that some Jewish people are Trump fans.

Claim: “That he accuses the Jewish community of falsifying social media”.

Willsman: “They can falsify social media very easily.”

The crucial thing here is that the recording does not specify who ‘they’ are. The Jewish Chronicle (JC) released only fifty-one seconds of a recording that appears to have been considerably longer. Willsman is already in full flow when it starts – yet the Chronicle’s article states only:

The leaked audio begins with Mr Willsman ending a sentence saying: ”They can falsify social media very easily.”  It appears to be a suggestion that some of the antisemitism Labour members have posted online has been faked.

If there was any evidence that Willsman had been talking in any blanket sense about Jewish people when he said it, it’s absolutely certain that this would have been highlighted by the JC. Yet the JC says only that the suggestion appears to have been about ‘some’ claims by ‘Labour members’ might have been faked.

Note that Willsman does not say it has been, only that it might have been because it’s very easy to do – and who, if speaking objectively, can argue that it is not easy to do, given the technology available and the widely-acknowledged existence of paid political agents operating on social media for, for example, the Conservative party.

And there is precedent for the use of fake profiles to attempt to discredit the Labour leader. The Times of Israel reported, as did this blog, on the apology issued by the Israeli government for criticism of Jeremy Corbyn when his supposed adviser Wesley Brown made antisemitic comments.

But Wesley Brown did not exist. The account was entirely fake:

toi duped.png

The Israeli Foreign Ministry was not the only one fooled by the ruse. Former Labour leadership hopeful Yvette Cooper also attacked supposed left-wing antisemitism because of the tweets – eighteen months after the apology issued by Israel when the fake was discovered.

Willsman’s ‘they’ might, of course, not have been at any identifiable people. It could have been a generic ‘they’, as in ‘they don’t make them like that any more’.

But if the JC is correct that he was aiming it at Labour members, many of the Labour members (or in some cases, claimed members) involved in some of the most virulent attacks on the left over alleged antisemitism are not Jewish.

Willsman made a statement of fact – and neither the Jewish Chronicle nor Luciana Berger have demonstrated that he applied it to Jewish people at all, let alone in a way that merits suspension or suspicion.

Claim: “in order to deny the serious concerns of 68 rabbis”

Willsman: “So I think we should ask the 70 rabbis: “Where is your evidence of severe and widespread antisemitism in this party?”

Nobody is denying that antisemitism exists among some Labour members. In a party of almost 600,000 members it would be miraculous if there is none.

But Willsman is not talking about isolated examples – nor is he ‘denying the concerns‘ of anyone, rabbis or not. Instead he suggests asking for evidence that there is a ‘severe and widespread’ problem.

In the current febrile and politically-charged atmosphere, it has become normal to talk of asking evidence for something as if it is some kind of disrespect or victim-blaming. But claims are not true simply because they have been made.

Willsman wanted to see evidence to substantiate a claim, not of something small and elusive but of something allegedly endemic – and suggested asking for that evidence.

No reasonable person can see that as an insult, let alone antisemitic. The existence of an accusation cannot be treated as evidence of guilt in a civilised society.

Claim: that the fact that “two Labour councillors have been suspended and the Party have confirmed that 252 people are being investigated for the comments they’ve made online directed at Dame Margaret Hodge MP” equates to evidence of a ‘severe and widespread’ issue.

Labour has some 550,000 members and thousands of councillors. Two Labour councillors have been suspended – but just in last May’s council elections Labour won 2,350 seats. In total Labour has almost 6,500 councillors – so the two suspended councillors represent 0.03%.

Ms Berger says ‘in the last week alone’ about the numbers suspended for comments to Margaret Hodge, the MP who swore at Jeremy Corbyn and called him an antisemite and racist. But the length of time is irrelevant to the issue, as those reactions were to a specific event.

252 people represent around 0.04% of Labour’s membership – not evidence of a ‘severe and widespread’ issue, even if all of them were found guilty by the investigations – which, of course, is not a given in any fair and due process.

For Ms Berger to treat those numbers as if they make it ridiculous and unreasonable for Willsman to ask for evidence of a serious and large-scale issue is disingenuous to a degree that ought to be remarkable.


The fact that it isn’t speaks volumes for the distorted and fevered atmosphere that has been created in recent months. In the current climate, even to deny the truth of an accusation – even to ask for or present evidence – can be attacked as racist or victim-blaming.

Those calling for Willsman’s suspension do not, in fact, have reasonable grounds for doing so based on the actual evidence presented by the recording. In fact, it’s entirely justifiable to say that the only breach the recording represents is a breach of faith, party rules and confidentiality by the person who made the recording – and that that person is the one who should be suspended.

Of course it would have been better if Willsman had kept his cool. But if a Labour member doesn’t want people running Labour who are angry when it is accused of being a racist party, there’s something wrong.

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  1. ‘One, two. I’m amazed’ Only two! How many people were present in the room?

    1. Any further evidence necessary that the smearing of Labour has reached peak absurdity !!

  2. It is worth bearing in mind that not 2 but 18 Tory candidates were suspended in the month leading up to the local elections.

  3. Is it any wonder that the NEC felt the need to modify some of the examples attached to IHRA to ensure that free speech wasn’t stifled,

  4. This illustrates why it is so important that Labour does NOT adopt the examples in the IHRA def. They will be used by Berger and others to allege A/S just to keep that nasty pot boiling.

    It’s enough for them that it gets into the media, especially the BBC. who will pull out all the stops to invite any of the many eager and willing critics of Jeremy Corbyn, waiting in the wings for a chance to continue their character assassination at the slightest excuse.

    Labour has made a rod for its own back by even having anything to do with a definition which was cobbled together to protect Israel. It should have said we are using the Oxford English Dictionary definition, tough if you don’t like it!

    1. The main problem is, Jeremy knows about the devious agenda driving the fake anti-Semitism but he has to give it credibility – insisting Labour will do everything to stop it – because the Zionist lobby is firmly embedded in the Labour Party, as it is in all the other main UK political parties, media, etc.

      1. It’s fairly straight forward what’s going on here when you consider the actions over the last 3 yrs of the MPs who are , to all intents , acting as agents for the State Of Israel .An old but very relevant video clip here illustrates the point very well , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceCOhdgRBoc

        I suspect and hope that by now the general public will be seeing through this continuous barrage of false AS accusations for what it is and dismiss it accordingly.
        It is only within Labour that this issue assumes larger than life relevance, outside the public I suspect and being one of them , are more concerned with day to day living , jobs , security , Brexit , NHS , education etc etc and quite rightly so.
        They need and want a new Govt and a Labour one at that lead by JC .
        I’d think that if the hard nosed choice came down to supporting Israel but not having a JC Labour Govt. in order to do so ( i.e. continuation of the Tories ) ,or to have a Socialist Govt. that will make their lives so much better , then you just know which way the vote will go .
        This is not AS but simply a fact of human nature to look after oneself and loved ones first , just as the State Of Israel is doing , in crushing any objections to it’s activities in Palestine.
        There is a small but very vocal element who are particularity effective in punching above their weight , and that small vocal element who would suppress criticism of the State Of Israel should not be allowed to distort or corrupt our democracy for the ends of a now apartheid state being run in Israel by Netanyahu.
        This is NOT a reflection on Jews or being one but a criticism of that Govt. and it’s agents /supporters who by using false AS accusations seek to crush opposition and freedom of speech to the detriment of any real genuine AS that maybe occurring .
        This is why it is vital that we in Labour do not give in to these MPs demands or allow them to run the Labour party .
        Ruth Smeeth ( ex Israeli Govt official before joining Labour ), very effectively removed a life long Labour activist Marc Wadsworth over a false AS accusation which conveniently morphed into a Labour into disrepute charge, and one doesn’t even have to mention Ken Livingstone and his witch hunt.
        However , the same modus operandi must not and cannot be allowed to be used again in removing Pete Wilsman who asked for facts and evidence, this is not a crime !
        He is innocent of AS and if one cannot establish facts to prove anything then any natural justice is finished in Labour .
        It is absolutely necessary ,more than ever , that we have the terms defining what AS is as per the NEC agreed definition and not the full IHRA ,to protect us from the Govt of Israels interference in our internal democracy/freedom of speech and justice within Labour and ultimately in the country as a whole.

  5. Can we now expect an investigation into who recorded / leaked this tape by the ‘ Compliance Unit ‘ ? Does Luciana Berger have any evidence to give to the party on this matter ? Or does she just want the NEC suspended pending an enquiry ?

    1. Wasn’t it the JLM that covertly taped Jackie Walker when they were running supposedly ‘safe space’ anti-Semitism training sessions on behalf of the Labour Party

    2. Without going into detail as to why, I am legally advised that, in addition to the breach of Party rules this represents, several legal channels exist to pursue such a case which are not mutually exclusive:

      – Police for breach of personal data rights under DPA at a meeting of a (in law) private organisation.

      – Civil action – which can be triggered any time up to six years.

      – Complaint to the ICO.

  6. With friends like the Jewish Labour Movement, who needs enemies.

    JLM ‘could sue Labour over IHRA antisemitism definition’
    A meeting of the JLM’s national executive committee on Monday night involved lengthy discussion on the impact and cost, both financially and politically, of issuing legal proceedings against Jeremy Corbyn’s party over its decision not to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism into the party’s code of conduct.


  7. Individuals, groups and states use social media in covert ways like this, it’s a fact. Naive to think otherwise. Russia social media accounts influencing US election. It was even said by Sunday Times there were Russian accounts posing as Labour voters. It’s very easy to do, I could pose as an opponent party member right now and do it. Yes there is antisemitism but don’t take everything at face value, wait until it’s proven they’re a member. I remember Euan and Labour Against Antisemitism tweeting some screenshots from fake accounts. And they were obvious fakes.

  8. Easy.

    Offer berger free prosecco & canapes. Then ‘stick to the script’ berger will soon forget what the script is.

  9. Those engaging in racist and anti-semitic abuse should not only be expelled from the party, but also reported to the police.

    If Labour is really filled with anti-semitism as claimed, then where are the arrests?

    My worry is that the more this becomes a silly political football, the more real anti-semitic attacks on Jewish people and their communities will be lumped in with the usual nonsense claims of anti-semitism for such things as criticism of investment bankers or Netanyahu.

  10. Thanks for as usual unpicking MSM smears. BBC Breakfast simply quoted Tom Watson strongly slagging off Willsman – with neither detail nor context – thus endorsing the MSM frame.

  11. Willsman should get a medal. It’s high time these people were called out. The apparent belief in the party hierarchy that if we grovel enough they will go away is unbelievably naïve.

    1. So Pete Willsman calls ‘these people’ out, and then what happens: What he said is twisted and distorted along with the faux outrage and hysteria that goes with it, so it was hardly productive. And then, like just about everyone who has been falsely accused of A/S, he is forced to apologise because he knows that the false accusers will just double down if he doesn’t, and with all the necessary assistance from the fascist-controlled media. And once he has apologised, he is in effect admitting his guilt, for something that he didn’t do. It’s a no-win situation, and the fascists who are behind the op and those who are a party to it know this of course, and I have no doubt that it is all an endless source of amusement to them (amongst themselves).

      Anyway, if you can help out, please donate something to Mike Sivier’s cause if you can, however little that may be. Thanks:


  12. When anyone ridicules the idea that anyone has been concocting make antisemitism smears, just direct them to this investigation that shows, amongst other things, right wing Labour MP Joan Ryan caught on camera literally plotting a fake antisemitism smear – https://youtu.be/L3dn-VV3czc

  13. Accepting IHRA definition of anti-semitism is accepting that only victims of anti- semitism (racism) can define it, is like saying that only the military can define war. Identity Politics on steroids! OK, they’re right? So accept that the Palestinian people are entitled to define anti-semitism & can comment on apartheid.

    1. The NEC of the Party have a duty and responsibility to adopt rules and codes of conduct which do not breach laws or legal process of the legal system of the UK.

      If they adopted a set of rules or code of conduct which explicitly or implicitly involved the individual personal or group opinion, definition or perception as the only valid criteria for proceeding with a charge of AS (or homophobia/racism/transphosphorylation at al) without the need for further evidence, including intent, they would be putting the Party in breach of existing legal process in the legal system.

      A perusal of the CPS process on hate speech shows that a flag is rightly put on a prosecution when a victim of a crime believes that it is motivated by hatred of a specific nature. However, proceeding to a prosecution on such grounds requires substantiating evidence. The accusation based only on the victims perception and definition is necessary but not sufficient in law to prosecute on these grounds.

      There is no provision within the legal system for a prosecution on accusations based exclusively on self definition without evidence. There is good reason for this. Anything else would lead to mob rule, witch hunts and lynchings.

      An individual or group could make any accusation it wanted to on such a basis. They could start a campaign accusing anyone they wanted of being a fascist and demand the LP adopt a code of conduct and definition which allowed anyone to accuse someone of being a fascist based entirely on the own self definition. Or, instead of fascism it could be homophobia, or peodophilia, or dislike of ginger headed people.

      What needs to happen is that someone accused in this way of AS without evidence and based solely on a self definition makes a counter accusation of say general hate speech based on the same principle of self definition. Without substantiating evidence the CPS would either not proceed or if it did the case would likely fail due to absence of evidence. This would demonstrate that accusations based on self perception without evidence are baseless and cannot proceed.

      Leaving open the option that those seeking to impose such a basis for prosecution to take the UK legal system to court for AS on the basis that the UK legal system requires evidence rather than relying solely on self perception as the only valid basis for prosecuting a case.

      1. Agree 100% Dave H , especially the para beginning
        ” What needs to happen is that someone accused in this way of AS without evidence and based solely on a self definition makes a counter accusation of say general hate speech based on the same principle of self definition.” and then take the accusers to court , only needs one or two cases to make an example of the false accusers.

  14. The best word I learnt at University was “homogenous” and no communities are “all the same” but Trump with his Muslim ban and perhaps some Right Wing Labour MPs fall for this.
    I would still vote for Pete and all the JC9.
    But perhaps some Labour members need to remain calm and rational and not let Right Wing Labour, Right Wing Jewish Tories etc. get to them; they clearly won’t give up but perhaps the best the Left can do is carry on confronting the REAL THREAT – the rise of the Far Right on the streets here and in other countries in Europe etc.
    As we lead in putting our left wing democratic socialism into practice to support diverse working people it IS mildly irritating to be constantly heckled from the back by non-socialists but keep calm and carry on, on behalf of the many in the UK and every country!

  15. Tom Watson has said Mr Willsman is a “loud mouth bully ” but remains strangely silent regarding the antics of Ian Austin,who I see has issued an apology to the state of Israel for the behaviour of the Labour Party.

    1. Watson may now be slimmer but he is still a Blairite and totally unfit to be Deputy Leader , Willsman would make a far far more honest and trustworthy Deputy . VOte of no confidence in Watson should start the ball rolling .

  16. Seems like the Right have suceeded in splitting the Left as they always do. Sad to see LW commentators going with the optics and not sticking with the truth.

  17. Why is calling somebody Jewish a Trump fanatic anti semitic? It’s a slur admittedly but anti semitic?

  18. You probably all found this before me but here it is anyway.
    RT broadcast so fake news by definition as far as ‘centrists’ are concerned.

  19. I have listened 3 times to this now and I still cannot hear any AS in what was said,but I am no expert on this subject,we are all learning . I can only assume Peter was there to hear the chants of Oseh Shalom Bimromav, Hu Yaa’se Shalom Aleinu V’Al Col Yisrael, V’Imru Amen.” And thought it was in praise of Trump?It was in praise of someone for sure . Maybe he read well over 60% of Israelis support Trump and thought some in the UK would have similar view ? Or Perhaps he read Daniel Sugarman’s piece in the Jewish Chronicle [no longer available] that”The dislike of Trump is not uniform across the Jewish community however, there are people who feel because he is pro-Israel he should be supported . I note he replaced the word Jew with people” .How very odd considering this is a piece about Jews.

    “He who brings peace in the heights, may He bring peace on us and on all Israel, and let us say Amen.”https://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-jewish-chronicle/20180720/281651075889337

  20. inetersting point I did not know and well worth knowing of

    The IHRA defintion has been condemned by Hugh Tomlinson QC as grossly faulty, and indeed, open to action under art. 10 of the ECHR against the adopting institution
    : http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/TomlinsonGuidanceIHRA.pdf

    It is also worth noting also that Hugh Tomlison QC points out clearly that the IHRA definition is NOT LAW.
    Perhaps Watson Hodge Berger and LFI would care to comment on this FACT or is that now in itself AS ?

  21. Claims of anti-semitism in the Labour party are NOT smears.

    But they are mired in spin in sensationalism, which I am sick to the back teeth. Spin and sensationalism is the hallmark of the centrist so it’s not surprising but it is irritating to have to sit here and unquestioningly accept everything that centrists say.

    1. So falsely accusing someone of A/S ISN’T a smear? How interesting! So a smear isn’t a smear. Give over Mark!!

      And why do you sit there and ‘unquestioningly accept’ everything they say. Forgive me for saying so, but you’re not making sense Mark.

  22. Just heard cooper on the lunchtime bbc saying that he should stand down from the NEC. These mps just don’t get it do they. If you use the media against another labour person then you are working with the enemy and you are doomed. I’m afraid that cooper is a lost cause now. Dead in the water.

  23. ‘I’m afraid that cooper is a lost cause now. ‘

    It’s been hitched to that colossal weirdo ed balls for 20 or so years, couldn’t best ma when shadowing her as home sec, only managed 17% in the leadership election; and it’s taken you until now to realise it’s a lost cause?

    See cooper get monumentally owned here


    1. Cooper has always been a committed neoliberal corporatist and British/western imperialist. She is only raising her head now the latest coup against Corbyn is gaining traction.

      I see Jones has reverted to type as well campaigning for people not to vote for Willsman in NEC elections. Who needs enemies…

      1. She was getting ready for her leadership bid and then had to cancel it because of the general election result.

      2. jones was NEVER a friend of the left. A ‘lite bliarite’ is all it’s ever been

        Odious sycophantic little shite. Can’t stomach him.

  24. “In fact, it’s entirely justifiable to say that the only breach the recording represents is a breach of faith, party rules and confidentiality by the person who made the recording”

    Yes, isn’t this action also illegal being a breach of Willsman’s rights under the Data Protection Act?

  25. Interesting that the Times of Israel regards JC as a “far-left Labour leader!” (Waits for claims of “anti-semitism” to be shouted out!)

    1. It’s not antisemitism they are going to create in people who think.
      It’s antisemitic and moronic to hate people for being Jewish.
      Hating individuals of any creed or none for being lying, conniving tw*ts is perfectly fine though – fill yer boots 🙂

  26. I think the most contemptible thing about this whole black propaganda op against JC and the left, is using the very thing that led to the Holocaust as a weapon against your political opponents.

    And it says ALL you need to know about THEM!

  27. Look, the whole anti-semitism thing is being used by neo-libs to get at JC. People should be aware that, if you’re a left-winger, even mentioning the word “Jewish” will automatically be spun as anti-semitic. In the short term, be very careful what you say, a short term loss maybe, for a long term gain.

    Think of the long term, the wider picture. The victims of the Nazty party will not thank us for obsessing over such distractions. Call me old-fashioned, but don’t play to your enemy’s strengths.

  28. Momentum West Wales
    1 hr ·
    The committee of Momentum West Wales are concerned that Momentum National Officers have withdrawn their support for Pete Willsman for the NEC elections.

    As a grassroots organisation, we would urge our members to continue to support Pete as no substantive or proven allegations have been made against him.

    Furthermore, any examination of the transcript of the recorded conversation show no reason for objection.

    We are disappointed in this failure to stand up for and stand with a comrade of many years’ service- and we urge supporters not to divide the Left support in the middle of the election process.

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