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Labour’s SE regional board stands firmly with Jennie Formby, demands Watson apology for ‘abhorrent’ ‘untruths’

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
Jennie Formby with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

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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  1. I am so proud our SE Regional Board has issued such strong condemnation of Tom Watson’s appalling attack on Jennie Formby and have expressed their total support for her. I urge other Regional Boards to do likewise.

  2. Every corner of our party hides a traitor,From mps ,lords and Hq it seems!We have allowed a corrosive culture too infect the Labour party and unfortunately I believe it will cost us the next election,short of a miracle happening..The conference is coming soon and we need to demonstrate to the anti Labour mps ,lords NEC and any other traitors left skulking around at HQ that we are no longer content to stand by and watch our party flushed down the toilet by the anti socialist wing of the few against the many.Demonstrate outside the Labour party conference and let the people know that the Labour party will not totolerate blitzes aided by treacherous supporters of extremism inside Labour and will not tolerate Watson’s destructive attacks bought and paid for by forces and networks outside of the UK.

  3. The statement is a good one.

    But pinning Watson by the ears is not the central issue. Much more important is a well-crafted and consistent rebuttal strategy that demolishes the planks on which he stands.

    At the moment, I don’t see that consistency – more often “I’m really sorry … but …’

    1. RH.. We were both councillors ,so very much involved in watching the bliar rebuttal team demolish any opposition either outside or inside the party.I use watson merely as an example.. Not the core plotter or source of funding….We can learn from our enemy’s ,and on a fully funded rebuttal team we sing from the same hymsheet.If only HQ would realise,or the very least tell us how we defeat the propoganda war?

      1. Let’s face it, Joseph – the media stranglehold is worse than anything I remember in the days of Blair. At least the opposition to the Iraq war, for instance, got a reasonable airing in the press, even though it was frustrating to be on the march and see nothing change.

        Ironically, we could do with the combatative persistence of a Campbell in this situation. I think we share, not a blind belief that this would provide an intant solution, but that it might at least be an altrnative to the meek apologies that currently pass as a strategy.

      2. HQ wouldn’t have a clue how to put such a plan into action. Each day brings with it more millstones. What does Momentum think we should do? Regards

    2. Given that the MSM aren’t remotely interested in what the left of the party have to say; but in just about EVERYTHING watson & co have to say, I’d offer that the rebuttal strategy that has been utilized is akin to having pissed into the hurricane.

      This letter’s a rebuttal. Yet watson’s going nowhere (for now), and the MSM don’t appear overly enthusiastic to let the populace to know about it.

      It’s gone well past that. Deselection is the only solution.

      1. Toffee – this isn’t just about ‘the Left’ – however defined. There are a lot of decent people around who, once made aware of the nature of the antisemitism scam, are on side. Remember that, in the past, even the Tories have been subjected to the Lobby dirty tricks.

        ‘Pissing into the hurricane’ isn’t a bad metaphor – but the Party currently has prostate trouble. It can’t even get started.

  4. On a more personal note….Could jenny formby have ever realised the type of Shi55t show she was walking into,and the stress of an HQ full of vile directed against her and the Labour party ?? The stress involved could have been the trigger for the cancer and their is no way we will ever know?We have all been effected by cancer in our family or friends.All I can do is say a prayer for Jenny and hope that she makes a speedy recovery.I am reluctant to ask a brave woman to go back into the firing line ……such a brave woman!….Note all mps and councillors!

  5. Three cheers to Labour’s South East Regional Board, I am given hope that we can start the long overdue fight back against those who really are doing socialism an injustice, the worst culprits our supposed own. Can’t wait until we’ve cleaned up sufficiently to proclaim we once again have a truly democratic socialist party that is most definitely the voice of the people and not the voice of rich lobbyists.

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