Analysis Exclusive

Exclusive: union leader’s letter demanding Lowkey’s Tolpuddle de-platforming

GMB’s Gary Smith wrote to organisers to ‘stress seriousness with which GMB regards’ issue of excluding rapper and pro-Palestinian activist, in letter that also smears former MP Chris Williamson and Bristol professor David Miller

Lowkey (image: Tim Dennell, Creative Commons)

As the Alaraby/New Arab site reported earlier this week, GMB union leader Gary Smith wrote to the organisers of the famous Tolpuddle Martyrs’ festival demanding the de-platforming of rapper and pro-Palestinian activist Lowkey.

Smith’s letter made unevidenced allegations about Lowkey’s social media activity and views – and, as Skwawkbox can exclusively reveal, also smeared former Labour MP Chris Williamson and Bristol professor David Miller as ‘disgraced’.

The letter, which demands confirmation from the recipient that Lowkey will not appear at the festival, accuses the rapper of:

  • ‘promot[ing] conspiracy theories that allege an Israeli plot to promote conflict between Ukraine and Russia
  • spreading ‘9/11 conspiracy theories’ and
  • appearing alongside Williamson and Miller, whom Smith describes as ‘disgraced’ on the Iranian Press TV station

But it also ominously demands to know the full process by which the organisers decided to invite Lowkey in the first place – and how they evaluated the supposed offence to ‘Jewish trade union members’, along with details of ‘steps and safeguards’ are in place to prevent antisemitism at Tolpuddle.

Below is Smith’s full letter, redacted only to remove the details of the recipient at the TUC:

Other figures who have appeared on Press TV include

Williamson resigned from the Labour party after being wrongfully re-suspended, following his reinstatement by the party’s national executive, in response to the widespread misrepresentation of his comments about Labour’s response to antisemitism smears.

Prof Miller, a critic of Israel, was found by two separate lawyer-led Bristol University investigations to have said nothing antisemitic, after allegations by pro-Israel activists. Despite their own findings, the university terminated his contract, to widespread condemnation from fellow academics and free speech advocates. Neither he nor Williamson can reasonably be said to merit the term ‘disgraced’.

Williamson told Skwawkbox that the letter was “yet another outrageous calumny from a senior GMB bureaucrat” and pointed out that Smith’s predecessor Tim Roach, who originally led the calls for Williamson to be suspended from Labour, had presided over a culture of ‘bullying, misogyny, cronyism and sexual harassment’, according to a barrister’s report commissioned by the GMB itself. Williamson added that Smith’s intervention reflected the ‘pernicious influence’ of ‘racist’ pro-Israel lobbyists and compared Israeli apartheid to that of South Africa.

Professor Miller said of the letter:

The only ‘disgrace’ here is that British trades unions are taking their marching order [sic] from the State of Israel and its assets in the UK, which are seeking to neutralise all opposition to the genocidal, racist, imperialist Zionist ideology

Skwawkbox understands that Lowkey is preparing a comment that will be added to this article when available. The GMB press office had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and several Israeli human rights organisations – as well as Labour’s conference – have found that the state of Israel operates an apartheid system against Palestinians.

And the official position of the GMB itself, as voted into policy by its annual conference, is to:

take a lead in driving forward the boycott and divestment initiatives of companies who profit from illegal settlements, the occupation and the construction of the wall.

A year later, the union reconfirmed its commitment and at the same time reaffirmed that it was ‘unashamedly’ affiliated to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

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