Statement issued condemns Tom Watson’s ‘abhorrent’ behaviour
Labour’s regional board for the south-east of England has condemned the party’s notional deputy leader Tom Watson’s behaviour toward general secretary Jennie Formby – and has demanded an apology from him.
In a strongly-worded statement, the board:
- accuses Watson of hampering the fight against antisemitism
- says members were ‘horrified’ by his ‘vitriolic and unfair’ attack on Formby that has no place in the party
- condemns Watson’s lack of dignity and respect and his ‘cruel and insensitive’ behaviour
- says his response lacked decency and that he spread ‘untruths’
- describes his conduct as ‘tantamount to harassment and victimisation‘ that are illegal under equality legislation and an abdication of his legal duties
- says that Watson owes Formby an apology for his behaviour and calls on the party to stop his attacks immediately
- commends Formby’s diligence and her care for staff in spite of her own battle with cancer
Statement from members of the South-East Regional Executive Committee 16.07.19
Like thousands of Labour Party members all over the country, we have followed the debate around antisemitism. We therefore wish to make It clear that we utterly condemn any form of antisemitism wherever It occurs. All of us must work tirelessly to oppose this in wider society while eradicating it completely from our Party.
Recent comments from the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, do not advance this shared aim. In particular, we were horrified by his attack on our General Secretary, Jennie Formby, which was vitriolic and unfair.
At the best of times, it would be irregular for Tom Watson to use the media to call directly on Jennie to provide information, which incidentally was already offered. It ls, however, utterly lacking in dignity and respect to make these demands at a time when Jennie is undergoing gruelling chemotherapy treatment. Piling pressure on her in this way at a time when she is least able to respond is cruel and insensitive.
Anyone who has ever had a member of their family or a friend undergo cancer treatment will understand that it brings feelings of numbness, fear, trepidation and huge anxiety for their loved one. The emotional strain on all concerned is immense. Any decent response would be one of sensitivity and care for that person, their family and friends. We are certain that members of the Labour Party would agree with these sentiments and send their best wishes for Jennie’s speedy recovery.
Unfortunately, this was not how Tom Watson responded. After watching the Panorama programme last week, he not only chose to seek a public stage for his comments; he also sought to spread untruths about Jennie’s actions and to undermine her character and integrity, and this again, at a time when she cannot be expected to dedicate energy to countering this attack. We believe that Tom Watson’s behaviour is abhorrent and has no place in the Labour Party.
Tom Watson should also be aware of The Labour Party’s duty of care towards Jennie under the 1974 Health & Safety at Work Act and the Equality Act 2010. He has disregarded the fact that under the Equality Act all cancer sufferers are recognised as possessing a protected characteristic. In effect, his behaviour towards Jennie could be construed as tantamount to harassment and victimisation. As Deputy Leader, he should be more than aware of his legal responsibilities towards Jennie.
A full apology is, therefore, owed to Jennie for the distress that Tom Watson’s actions have caused. We also call on the Labour Party to advise Tom Watson to cease immediately attacks of a personal nature that could be viewed as harassment of our General Secretary and that have caused her and her famlly serious distress. In particular, he should not be exposing and publicising his hostile views in the media. His approach should be one of ensuring that she gets the necessary support, care and solidarity from all in the Party.
Finally, we would like to commend Jennie. Despite the toll of cancer treatment as well as the unwarranted attacks, the welfare of Labour staff is still a priority for her, as demonstrated in her letter to Tom Watson. Jennie embodies the values of our party, leading by example with integrity, comradeship and solidarity.
Lisa Fricker, CLP Rep, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight
Cat Corkery, CLP Rep, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight
Gemma Bolton, CLP Rep, East and West Sussex
David Hide, CLP Rep, East and West Sussex
Michaela Collard, CLP Rep, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire
Karen Constantine, CLP Rep, Kent
Nada Al-Sanjari, CLP Rep, Berkshire and Surrey
Shelley Grainger, CLP Rep, Berkshire and Surrey
Sarah Cundy, Young Labour
Gordon Lean, Unite the Union
Sarah Hacker, Unite the Union
Elaine Bolton, Unite the Union
Earlier today, the Labour group on Watson’s Sandwell council – Watson’s home council – made a similar, public show of solidarity with Jennie Formby.
Tom Watson has been contacted for comment.
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