Labour deputy leader’s behaviour described as ‘vile’ by Labour colleagues – and in contravention of law
Tom Watson has been accused of a ‘vile’ – and potentially illegal – attack on Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby.
In spite of widespread derision of the BBC’s shambolic Panorama programme, which has been shown to have edited quoted emails, misrepresented discussions and omitted vital context from its ‘hatchet-job’ against Labour last night, Watson has persisted in treating it as credible – and as a platform for a concerted attack on Formby.
Watson wrote a letter to Formby demanding that she publish Labour’s response to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission – and the letter was promptly leaked to hostile media.
But it subsequently emerged that Formby had given the entire Shadow Cabinet an update on the response – and took time out from chemotherapy to do so – yet Watson asked no questions. Not only that, but she had also offered to meet him in person to provide him with the party’s response. Watson had not even asked questions during the Shadow Cabinet meeting:
A senior Labour MP told the SKWAWKBOX:
Watson’s behaviour toward Jennie has been awful and this latest episode is absolutely vile. For him to grandstand at her expense when she’s battling cancer is just unforgivable.
Ms Formby has been undergoing chemotherapy for cancer for some time and has provided some information on her condition and treatment, to encourage others facing cancer and to support the NHS.
Not a one-off
Watson’s behaviour toward the party’s general secretary is not a one-off. He has been rebuked by both female parliamentary colleagues and a woman councillor in his local area for his abusive conduct.
In February, Watson was severely chastised on the same day by Labour front-benchers Dawn Butler and Emily Thornberry for posturing and disrespect toward Formby and her team, after he tried to seize control of Labour’s disciplinary processes.
Formby herself was forced to issue a stern rebuke to Watson over the issue, which would have put the party at risk of unlimited fines for breaching GDPR data protection laws and threatened the outcome in antisemitism complaints.
The West Midlands MP was also publicly challenged by a senior local councillor in his home borough of Sandwell. Yvonne Davies, who said that Watson had also made her own life ‘a misery’, said:
[I] think his issue with Jennie Formby is that she’s a woman and she’s crossed him. How he can criticise anyone for their performance when he’s been such a terrible deputy leader is beyond me.
Watson’s repeated attacks on Formby have also formed the basis for a string of hit-pieces in the hostile media.
But Labour insiders say that his persistent targeting has put him at risk of legal sanction – for breaching equalities law.
The 2010 Equality Act defends people in a number of ‘protected’ categories from targeted abuse or harassment, including disabled people, who qualifies because:
You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.
And the Act is explicit that this categories includes all cancer sufferers from the moment their condition is diagnosed:
Tom Watson has been well aware of Ms Formby’s condition – yet has continued to specifically target her with ‘vile’ behaviour.
Labour sources have told the SKWAWKBOX that they believe Watson’s conduct toward Jennie Formby has contravened this legislation. One said:
Tom wants anyone accused of contravening the Equality Act in their behaviour toward Jewish people to be auto-excluded [automatically expelled] – and by his own definition, he deserves to be kicked out himself.
He constantly targets her for criticism and makes public demands of her that he knows she can’t meet without breaking data laws. It’s harassment and I think he’s targeting her because he thinks she’s vulnerable.
Senior Labour MPs and officials have publicly echoed this sentiment:
Sadly, while right-wing back-benchers rallied to pregnant MP Ellie Reeves last week and said they would not ‘allow’ her to be democratically deselected by members, there appears to have been no such solidarity on their part with Jennie Formby.
However, if a complaint about Watson was made under the Equality Act, professionals in employee protection say that, subject to legal advice, he might be found in breach – and could even be dismissed as a result. Employers under the legislation have a duty to protect cancer sufferers and other disabled people from harassment or discrimination as a result of their condition.
Tom Watson was contacted for comment but did not respond.
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