Formby 2 Watson 0 as deputy’s response scores huge own goal


On Friday evening, Labour Party general secretary Jennie Formby gave the party’s deputy leader a schooling, in her response to his grandstanding demand to take over the party’s disciplinary processes.

It was the third time this week that Watson had been put in his place by strong Labour women.

Watson has commented on Formby’s response in a clear attempt to justify his behaviour – but succeeded in scoring a huge own goal instead. Watson said:

The constant concern… is that there is no transparency about the process. This opacity and the delay in processing complaints has led to a complete loss of trust…

It is my responsibility as deputy leader of the Labour Party to ensure people have confidence in our complaints system… I will continue to do everything I can to achieve that.

Jennie Formby had written carefully to Watson pointing out the clear legal problems with his attempted intervention, informing him of his own and the party’s legal responsibilities under GDPR and Data Protection laws. Attempting to insert himself into the complaints process would not only breach Labour’s rules, but the law.

There are two commonsense interpretations of Watson’s words. Either he’s accepting that he can’t do what he loudly proclaimed he was going to do and he’s trying to save face – or he’s insisting that he’s going ahead anyway.

The first is an admission of defeat and that his grandstanding was ill-advised. The second is a statement that amounts to ‘I’m above the law’.

The first is a confession that Formby’s warning was correct that he was ‘polluting‘ the disciplinary process in an entirely ‘inappropriate‘ way – and the second is an insistence that he’s not subject to data laws that apply to the rest of us.

Both make Watson look a miniature next to Formby’s serious professionalism.

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  1. The big problem here is Watson is a very vindictive man and Jenny has made a huge (well not so huge these days) enemy, she is right and sounds up to confronting him. This is a small win in a war of attrition that we are backs against the wall but hopefully Watson having his head pulled in may just stem the tide.

  2. The gallery to which Watson is playing have already been spun that he’s not backing down.

    1. You are right, I’m afraid.

      I picked up the news headlines (on Radio 3) this morning. It wasn’t top billing, but the spin was interesting. It was a presented as ‘a clash between two senior Labour figures’ – not as Watson being pulled up for a ludicrous suggestion. The tail end was not about what Formby had said (which, if you think about it was the *actual* news bit), but what Watson had said about the Party and complaints.

      Such is the creation of narrative.

      1. … and listening to the continued news output at intervals during the day, the same biased narrative is being spun. I haven’t heard a single report that Watson is suggesting a legally idiotic idea – let alone the p[ossibility that he is a noted egotist and self-seeker who is noted for jumping on any passing band waggon.

      2. We’ve had Blunket on the radio trying to explain that if complainants pass their complaints to Watson then that would bypass GDPR but as I understand it this isn’t what Watson was proposing.

    2. I read Blair has backed Watson. I wonder if it was in the interview Rayner speaks of here?

      There was no need for this tweet and I believe it was a major error of judgement. Blair is the number one most divisive member of the Labour party and he isn’t on my red spectrum, he’s purple if not blue. LP is still a far too broad church if it really wants to change, people like Blair only want change back to the old New Labour days of wars, privatisation bailing out irresponsible big banks and racist policies like prevent.

      1. I haven’t read it but I believe the gist is Rayner apparently has leadership plans. There is no chance of that even if she has hopes (which I doubt myself), she is far too inexperienced. This is just part of the isolating Corbyn campaign the media is running.

        The problem is there is no one to replace Corbyn that I see, no one. If there was they would get the same treatment.

      2. My last comment on Rayner who I think is generally a decent hardworking MP on domestic politics. I now believe she is flaky and weak on foreign affairs.

        “There was no need for this tweet and I believe it was a major error of judgement.”

        Further major error of judgement as she got involved in a public twitter spat with Galloway… neither come out of it looking good but Rayner is a sitting MP and should know better.

      3. Rayner is politically still green and her actions have undermined Corbyn at a critical time. Meanwhile, I am keen for a Deputy Leadership challenge to Watson.

      4. “Meanwhile, I am keen for a Deputy Leadership challenge to Watson”

        I expect many agree poetrymuseum. I do and I believe it would also force the hand of the ‘internal opposition group’ Watson is leading…

        I don’t think the policy of appeasing them is or will work, a major split in the far too broad church is going to happen and trying to keep the wreakers in will only continue to subvert future plans and policy direction. In the event of a Corbyn led government the ‘broad church’ wreaking would continue and could be even more damaging in the long term.

  3. This is revealed the Clouseau of contemporary Labour politics.
    He is just about lucky that the Tories have the overall champion of political cackhandedness, “Failing” Chris Grayling. Come to thinkabouth it, so are we.
    On a broader, more serious note, why is it that at some point, every plot against Jeremy Corbyn descends into farce?
    It certainly says a lot about the quality of his opponents.

    1. It should start “THUS is revealed….”
      A fie upon autospelling!! (I got that one right!)

  4. The idea that this is primarily about Jews, anti-Semitism, Israel, Palestine, Zionism, whatever.- is – to use one of Nye Bevan’s favourite terms – a decoy.

    It is overwhelmingly about CLASS POLITICS. The Labour right wing could never accept that the Party has a leader who might – just might – push Labour in a pro-working class direction. The mere danger of a genuinely egalitarian leader was to be avoided at all costs; there must be a leader who can be relied upon to exercise power in favour of the 1% like recent Labour PMs.

    This is why it is important to have as many votes of no confidence in favour of right wing Labour MPs as possible so they can be consigned to the TIG dustbin of history.

    And is there no way of replacing Watson, who seems determined to scupper a Corbyn government?

    1. Oh no Danny. The domestic politics is there, certainly. But don’t dismiss what the Israeli influence is about.

      The connection is power politics, not simply ‘class’.

    2. Danny, you are wrong, it most definitely IS about Israel and Zionism.

      However you or anyone else want to spin it, it is about Israel’s obsession with protecting their place as a Jewish State in Palestine – without Palestinians. Their ultimate ambition is to colonise the whole of Palestine, which is why they will never agree to a two state solution, even less, a one state solution where all live together in a true democracy.

      A Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn frustrates that ambition by calling it out for the racist endeavour it undoubtedly is and for that they are hell bent on trying to destroy him using their place men in the Party such as Watson and the rest.

    3. Sorry Danny, but anyone who believes this isn’t about Israel is not keeping up.

    1. Even the lineage of Benn being recruited to the cause!

      Note how the Tory spat over Islamaphobia has disappeared totally from the scene.

  5. Tom Watson, in this episode, represents everything that is wrong in the Labour Party, and in politics in general.

    He needs to do us a favour and go. Go and join the Tiggers.

    1. Henceforth to be known (in my mind anyway) as the upstart group, or the tuggers.
      Not worth the effort of capitalisation.

  6. Luciana Berger on the news saying that a threat was made to her unborn baby by a former Labour member. No details as of yet (and I can’t help but wonder if there will be). I mean if the person concerned has been apprehended, then you’d think that would be mentioned, but it wasn’t. And it didn’t say how the threat was made – ie whether it was an email, or on facebook, or a tweet, or whatever.

    But what puzzles me is how she knows the person concerned is a former LP member. Perhaps there’s an explanation, but I can’t think of one. And isn’t it SO strange how there’s all these JC supporters – supposedly – who are doing everything they can to sabotage Jeremy’s leadership AND his chances of winning a general election. Very strange, that!

    1. You are absolutely right.

      … and wouldn’t such a threat constitute a criminal offence if the perpetrator was known? After all, one Facebook sad nut-job was apprehended and prosecuted on her behalf …. but he was a self-proclaimed ‘nazi’ (that bit tends not to get mentioned).

      And, of course, all of us here would want a prosecution to take place if the instigator of such threats could be clearly identified – full name and pack-drill after the prosecution. No excuses. So why the fuzziness?

      Meanwhile – where are the reports about parallel disgusting comments and threats directed at the likes of Jackie Walker and other (real) anti-racists on the left from purported zionist sources?

      I think ‘complicity’ is the word for such silence. Or is wishing the gas chamber on a left wing black woman of Jewish heritage *not* a serious offence?

    2. If it was a FORMER Labour member then perhaps they were expelled for their threats and this would show that the complaints system is working? I would like to know more. No-one should have to live with nasty abusive threats of any kind.

      1. Yes, THAT possibility occured to me Dinag, but unless the person is known to her – and as far as I’m aware that ISN’T the case – then how could she know that. The only other way that I can think of how she could have come by such information, is if the (alleged) person in question TOLD her so when they made the (alleged) threat, which is hardly incontrovertable evidence/proof. The exact opposite, in fact!

        I’ve been chilling and watching the darts this afternoon, so I don’t know if any other details have been forthcoming, but there was certainly a dearth of them as of this morning – ie 1. What was the actual threat?; 2. When was it made?; 3. How was it made – ie an email, a phone-call, a tweet, or what?

        AND, importantly – in terms of credibility – she WASN’T saying that it had just happened the day before – which surely she WOULD have done if THAT were the case – which begs the question why she waited until this morning to make an announcement about it, the point being of course that surely you would be straight on to the media shortly after it happened, and ESPECIALLY when the threat – if true – was to your unborn child and must have been made by some complete nutter.

        And – if true – there is no reason on this Earth why someone on the left – a JC supporter – would feel such anger and hatred and animosity towards her and, as such, make such a threat, because WE – on the left – were ALL very pleased to see her – and her ‘moderate’ mates – exit the LP.


    3. Brings to mind the FBPE “I’ve always supported Labour but…” liars.
      It’s not like Labour vets people who join.
      BBC, predictably, is headlining Watson’s attempted rape of Justice as “Labour’s deepening antisemitism problem.”

  7. It is my responsibility as deputy leader of the Labour Party to ensure people have confidence in our complaints system…

    I look forward to Tom Watson fulfilling this obligation.

    1. Yes, that was a rather startling admission of three years of utter failure on his part. Not that that has been commented on generally…

  8. And who was Deputy when the previous some suggest ‘useless’ Gen Sec some further suggest was too slow in response under his watch?
    Watson (the new McCarthyite self-appointed Witchfinder General?) in my opinion “he ain’t no socialist” has always also in my opinion been a political lightweight.
    One of the saddest things I read recently in the current climate of fear was an excellent piece by Michael Cushman of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) generally in support of CW when he said he had been asked to write this by other members of JVL because they were too worried to say anything.
    Is this what they have done to us?
    I would happily back a resolution calling for Chris Wiliamson reinstatement; I think he would make a great Deputy Leader or Joint Deputy with one of Labour’s great pro-JC women stars.
    I still believe Labour members should democratically choose 350 pro-JC left wing democratic socialist potential Labour MPs.
    And remember McCarthy was a Barbarian and the poison he promoted against the right to think and speak was only short-lived and his dark star soon burnt out.
    In this context it is probably:
    We need to be courageous and perhaps the best response would be for JC to lead some mass canvasses so we all get out and engage with citizens directly re our IDEAS for a transformation of society!

  9. It is Corbyn’s staff who are now firmly in the firing line. Expect more on not just Jennie Formby but also Seumas Milne, Andrew Murray, Andrew Fisher etc

    1. I’m afraid – even allowing for the concerted propaganda assault – the Leader’s office has not shown itself particularly adept at countering this.

  10. does anyone know why Corbyn won’t sack Watson from the shadow cabinet post he handed him? he is surely not entitled to a shadow cabinet post by virtue of his office as deputy, and definitely not one that allowed him to trouser £500,000 from Max Mosley.

      1. What is Corbyn waiting for to sack him? Why allow him to remain in the shadow cabinet while he is leading a parallel group of back benchers openly and meeting advisers from TIG to discuss policy openly? This is not leadership.

      2. Cos I have no doubt that he knows exactly how the saboteurs and the MSM would react jed, and THEY know that he knows!

      3. Allan Howard 02/03/2019 at 7:49 pm

        Here are some interesting quotes from the Daily Telegraph Aug 2015

        “Meet Tom Watson – Labour’s gentle, but dangerous, geek
        The seemingly cuddly deputy Labour leadership frontrunner is fiercely ambitious – with many wondering what he’ll do with his power”

        “A lethally efficient political operator, Mr Watson works tirelessly behind the scenes to bring the Labour movement under his control.”

        “A mere junior minister in Tony Blair’s government, in 2006 he assembled and deployed the forces that drove Labour’s most electorally successful leader from office the following year. ”

        “Whoever ends up leading Labour would find Deputy Watson a major check on their authority, a force to be bargained with. If that leader is indeed Mr Corbyn, some despairing Labour MPs predict his demise well before the general election, with Mr Watson’s fingerprints carefully wiped off the ice pick. ”

        “In fact, he comes from the AEEU, the engineering union that was a cornerstone of the old Labour right wing and in the 1970s and 80s tried to hold the line against the militants and the acolytes of Tony Benn, the faction whose contemporary champion is, of course, Mr Corbyn. During his deputy leadership campaign, Mr Watson has talked about the need for Labour to win back working-class voters by hardening its position on immigration. He wants bigger Armed Forces and a tougher approach to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”


      4. all the more reason for Corbyn to clip his wings and leave him with only the deputy leader position he was elected to.

      5. by giving him the shadow culture role after the coup (i believe kelvin hopkins who stepped in during the coup was the only person that lost his post) Corbyn gave him the platform to collect the £500,000 from Mosley and build his own power base. in what planet is that good politics?

      6. Yes, it’s starting to look like the plan is to give him lots of air-time and column inches – presenting him of course as the hero of the story who, dispite the bullies and the anti-semites ranged against him, is determined to save the LP from the clutches of the dark forces who now control it.

        Give it another week or two (and who knows what they’ve got up their sleeves next!) and they’ll no doubt be heiling him as someone who would make a great Leader of the LP and, as such, repair all the damage done by Jeremy Corbyn and the left etc, etc, etc, and stamp out the putrid evil of anti-semitism, and the bullying, etc, etc, etc, and then they’ll no doubt commision a poll – yougov most likely! – in which they survey Labour voters to determine who of the two they think would make the best leader…….

        Funnily enough, it occured to me earlier today that the Tony Blair Party – otherwise known as TIG – have no intention whatsoever of forming an official party – and never DID – and it’s all part of an ongoing plan – something akin to the above – in which JC and his political allies are cast out and replaced by ‘moderates’, at which point the courageous MPs who were driven out of the LP will be welcomed back with open arms, and everyone lives happily ever-after.

      7. i take no pleasure in stating that blair support for watson’s ‘leadership’ and new ‘group’ on Marr underscores corbyn’s lack of leadership and cowardice. i still support him but, unlike before, i only do so because the alternative is worse, which is utterly depressing.

  11. Jennie Formby’s letter to Tom Watson and his subsequent reply appears to have been completely ignored by the Guardian

    1. Well – there’s a surprise!

      … and, of course, The Groan neglects to fill in the background of their reports on the implied conflict within CLPs over support for Williamson.

      They mention Sheffield Hallam as being one constituency that passed a resolution condemning his suspension by an overwhelming majority. What they didn’t mention is that Hallam also probably has a high percentage of Groan readers and Sun binners, with a literate population in various fields of public and academic employment – it’s not the image of a constituency liable to be captured by extreme racists.

      … which rather fucks the ‘extremist’ antisemitism trope.

  12. Time Jennie Formby launched an investigation into Labour Friends of Israel. Who finances them & which politicians & political organisations do they fund? What is their relationship to the new ‘Independence Group’? Is it just coincidence that most accusations of anti-semitism in the Labour Party originates from its members? I trust that the State of Israel is not ‘meddling’ in British politics.

  13. Surely there isn’t anyone (apart from Barry Gardiner) in the Labour Party who doesn’t realise that the pupose of the LFI is to destroy anyone who raises the slightest criticism of Israel?

    1. Indeed it is high time that the role, funding and function of LFI is questioned.

      Would a ‘Labour Friends of South Africa’ have been tolerated in the apartheid years? Or a ‘Labour Friends of Saudi Arabia’?? (Name your ethnically/religiously discriminatory regime).

      1. I like the aptness of your comment RH and I entirely support the point that it makes. Its “role function and funding” has of course been questioned by many, but how to neutralise/de-weaponise its influence and role? I’m not sure there’s an easy answer currently.

    2. Hmm, your comment raises interesting points about “strategy” and engagement with the MSM. I know that some of what SB posted on this came across as patronising for some. I also note that Barry Gardiner who evidentlyhasn’t cancelled his membership of the LFI and who expressed sympathy for Luciana Berger in the HOC ( Yes, I was disconcerted by this at the time) was also able to offer a powerful case in Labour’s defence on the Sophie Ridge show, shortly afterwards, without being interrupted by S.R. attacked by Tom W., or suspended from the party for, in his own way, not apologising for the LP and anti semitism. What are we going to do – conduct our own witch hunt against the likes of BG?

      My partner and myself continue to feel outrage about Chris Williamson’s suspension and we are tweeting on threads that are likely to be less well informed than those of us who post on the SB.

    1. However the Tories have a very effective policy for dealing with racism within their party, they simply ignore it.

      The Tory party has been accused of tolerating despicable anti-Muslim bigotry by several senior Tory politicians, including Sayeeda Warsi. For over a year the Tories have been refusing to apologise, refusing to investigate, and outright refusing to listen to calls by the Muslim Council of Britain for an inquiry into anti-Muslim bigotry in the Tory ranks.

      The Tories have simply stonewalled the subject, and a result the mainstream media have rewarded them with an absolutely minuscule fraction of the negative coverage they’ve heaped on the Labour anti-Semitism issue!

      As far as the mainstream press are concerned Labour talking about and debating anti-Semitism in order to deal with the issue is worthy of inordinately more coverage that the Tories staying silent about anti-Muslim bigotry, and outright refusing to do anything whatever to deal with the problem in their party!

      The ones who talk about the issue and take action are continually bombarded with criticism, while the ones who stay silent and refuse to take action are given a free pass.

      Given these circumstances, from a realpolitik perspective it’s obviously absolutely stupid for Labour to keep talking about anti-Semitism when the strategy of steadfastly refusing to engage has worked so well for the Tories when it comes to anti-Muslim hate in their ranks.

      1. I think that there is one crucial distinction that has to be made : the Tories are not constantly assaulted by (a) an antagonistic media and (b) devious and antagonistic internal fakery.

        Saida Warsi is a generally isolated voice

      2. You are probably right but the continual capitulation has undeniably created its own narrative. For instance the John MacDonnell interview on Sky is introduced by Sky as JM admitting that there is a problem with anti Semitism in the Labour Party whereas the reality is that he was giving a more balanced view and pointing out that Labour had a problem because any anti Semitism is too much and the problem in the Labour party involves only a very, very small percentage of the party’s membership which they are determined to root out.

      3. ‘Given these circumstances, from a realpolitik perspective it’s obviously absolutely stupid for Labour to keep talking about anti-Semitism when the strategy of steadfastly refusing to engage has worked so well for the Tories when it comes to anti-Muslim hate in their ranks.’

        Good article, which sums up the situation perfectly, UNTIL the last paragraph (above). I mean I don’t mean to cause offence, but surely what is stupid is to believe that if the LP stop talking about A/S, the MSM will as WELL. Of course they won’t! I mean the implication is that the reason the MSM more-or-less completely ignore – suppress – the anti-Muslim bigotry is because the Tory Party don’t talk about it, when the reality is they have an agenda to portray the LP as full of anti-semites and bullies etc, and the Tory Party as completely free of such people, which says it ALL really – ie they don’t give a damn about actual anti-semitism or racism in general.

  14. Yes and how many Tory Council candidates were suspended a few years ago for alleged racist comments – was it 20?
    We now have evidence re AS in Labour and sadly it seems it is 0.003% compared with tragically AS amongst the general public being 2.5%.
    It would be interesting to have a comparative figure for AS and racism in general in the Tory Party?
    And of course it would help if investigative journalists in the media would hold truth to power – who is shining a torch on the Tories?
    Meanwhile the real enemy – the Far Right is getting emboldened (see latest attacks Jewish graveyard in France).
    London trade unions and Labour have just set up ‘London United’ to combat the Far Right and perhaps every town and city should set up its own ‘United’
    and as well as continuing to fight for diverse
    working people it will be Labour and unions on the front-line confronting the Far Right.
    Words backed up by action.

  15. It is worthwhile reminding everyone that ordinary members of the Conservative Party who don’t act in any official capacity on behalf of the Tories are (unlike Labour members) not subject to any codes of conduct. For some reason nobody ever points this out when Tory politicians and mouthpieces are having a go at Labour.

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