Tag Archives: Pete Willsman

Pete Willsman’s suspension: all part of the coup against Corbyn

Pete Willsman is the victim of a well-timed sting – yet his own CLPD comrades will not stand in solidarity with him. Carla Roberts reports

On May 31, Labour Party general secretary Jennie Formby informed other members of the national executive committee that she had put Pete Willsman under “administrative suspension” after having “received a number of complaints, including from NEC members”, about his latest comments”.

Comrade Willsman, who has been serving on the NEC since 1981 (1994 was the only year he was not re-elected), was caught by the Israeli-American author, Tuvia Tenenbom, making a number of unguarded comments on the so-called ‘anti-Semitism crisis’ in the party. Unaware of being recorded, Willsman apparently boasted that he is “Peter. Red Pete. They call me Corbyn’s enforcer”. But that cannot actually be heard in the heavily edited clip that runs for 102 seconds on LBC radio’s website and forms – so far – the only evidence. Here is a full transcript of the clip:

The rich control the papers, the rich control everything else and the rich know he’s going to make them pay taxes [edited gap].

One of these things about anti-Semitism is they’re using that to whip people up – they use anything, any lies. It’s all total lies and they whip it up. [Tenenbom makes positive grunting noises.] I’ll tell you what and this is off the record: it is almost certain who is behind all of this anti-Semitism against Jeremy. Almost certainly it was the Israeli embassy. [Tenenbom encouragingly says, “Really?”] Yes, they caught somebody in the Labour Party it turns out was an agent in the embassy [edited gap].

The people in the Labour Party doing it, they are people who are linked – one of them works indirectly for the Israeli embassy. I wouldn’t want to be bothered to find out, but my guess would be that they’re the ones whipping it up all the time [edited gap].

In The Guardian not long ago we had 69 rabbis, obviously organised by the Israeli embassy, saying anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is widespread and severe. Is 70 out of 600,000 [members] really widespread and severe? Is it widespread and severe? [Tenenbom can be heard murmuring, “No”.] From here [Oxford] to London it is 70 kilometres and 600,000 kilometres is 14 times around the whole world. They’re saying from here to London is widespread and severe compared to 14 times around the whole world. That is the rubbish they’re coming out with.

And that is it. Clearly, nothing Willsman said here is either anti-Semitic or warrants suspension. Unaware that he was being recorded, he might otherwise have been a little more vague when it comes to a number of details. The 69 rabbis, for example, might well have been organised by the Board of Deputies (though there is little doubt that they also have close links to the embassy). Also, we are not quite sure who it is he means who worked “indirectly for the Israeli embassy”. He was probably referring to Ella Rose, who used to work there – pretty directly – as a public affairs officer, before becoming director of the Jewish Labour Movement, which is affiliated to the Labour Party.

Throughout the short clip, Willsman must obviously have referred to the fascinating documentary, The lobby, which has been wilfully ignored by the mainstream media. The documentary revealed the systematic efforts by the Israeli embassy to involve itself in the internal battles in the Labour Party. It also revealed the campaign by the Israeli ministry of strategic affairs to label opponents of Israel as anti-Semites. Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement have quite clearly been acting as the embassy’s ‘political arm in the Labour Party’. Ella Rose is shown in The lobby boasting about JLM’s relationship with Shai Masot: “We work with Shai, we know him very well.” Masot was the Israeli embassy spy forced out of his job (and the UK) after Al Jazeera exposed him plotting to “take down” various politicians.

Naturally, political interference via secret services, embassies, media outlets and many other avenues is widespread and commonplace (the reason we pay our taxes!). But the Israeli government’s campaign to topple Jeremy Corbyn has been particularly blatant and obvious. It is this campaign of interference that should be the subject of an overdue investigation rather than Pete Willsman. And this is what Jeremy Corbyn actually publicly demanded when The lobby was first aired in 2017.

But it is fair to say that the party has gone a bit quiet on the issue. We know why, of course: Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Corbyn and his advisors still seem to believe that they can appease the right, many of whom have close relationships with LFI and the JLM. How else do you explain the proposed appointment of Tony Blair’s buddy, Lord Charlie Falconer, to head up yet another party investigation into anti-Semitism? Luckily for Corbyn, Falconer declined. A few days ago he explained to BBC Radio 4 about how Willsman had “attacked the Jewish embassy”. Is he really suggesting that this is the embassy for all Jews? What a suicidal appointment that would have been!

Michael Moore of the Zionist right

The carefully timed and choreographed ‘expose’ of Willsman should prove to Corbyn once and for all how futile is his ongoing campaign to try and appease the right. Willsman was recorded in January, but Tenenbom (and LBC radio) waited almost six months to publish the audio recording – no doubt so that it could coincide nicely with the pressure building up over a second Brexit referendum, the bad EU election results, the investigation into ‘Labour anti-Semitism’ by the Equality Commission (see below) and the attacks on Labour’s Peterborough by-election candidate, Lisa Forbes. The aim is clear: the Labour right – in cahoots with much of the establishment and the media – want to weaken and isolate Jeremy Corbyn in order to get rid of him. Willsman is – like so many others – nothing but collateral damage.

Contrary to the picture painted in the mainstream media of Tuvia Tenenbom as some kind of respectable and neutral ‘journalist’ who just happened to run into Willsman in a hotel bar (and whose sound engineer just happened to leave a microphone switched on and set to ‘record’), this has more than the whiff of a sting operation about it. Tenenbom, clearly a convinced Zionist, has published a number of books in which he uses exactly this kind of method: he takes on a different persona and secretly films and records people, leading them on and guiding them into making exactly the kind of unguarded comments he was looking for – all in order to prove how anti-Semitism is rife in Germany, Palestine, the USA, etc. He is like a Michael Moore of the Zionist right – but on a much lower level.

Tenenbom told LBC radio: “He [Pete Willsman] is a nice guy, he has a great sense of humour, he’s knowledgeable. But like Jeremy Corbyn – I met Jeremy and he’s also a nice guy, very fatherly – but they suffer from a disease of really hating the Jews.” Tenenbom has also given lectures, in which he explains why “the suffering of Palestinian people is bullshit” (since you ask, he knows that because he got hold of a nicely produced business card by a Palestinian businessman and visited Palestinian shopping malls that sell some luxury goods).

Clearly, this is a man on a mission. Pete Willsman would have done well to at least quickly Google the guy before he sat down with him for a cup of coffee, talking about one of the most sensitive issues in today’s political discourse. Especially as he was once before the victim: in July 2018, an unnamed fellow member of the NEC secretly recorded Willsman when he angrily criticised all those who were responsible for so many false allegations of anti-Semitism in the party – and then outrageously passed the audio to the press. Clearly, that member should have been investigated for bringing the party into disrepute, not Willsman for stating the plain truth.


That episode last year also exposed how far Jon Lansman, founder of Momentum, has moved to the right. Rather than defend his comrade of over 30 years, he dropped him from the slate of recommended candidates for election to the NEC. The fact that comrade Willsman was re-elected nevertheless shows both his popularity and the increasing disillusionment with Momentum among party members. It has been worse than useless in fighting the witch-hunt in the Labour Party – in fact it has been complicit.

Just this week, Lansman was yet again busy conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, when he celebrated the dismissal of George Galloway by Talkradio: “Talkradio is right to sack George Galloway for what he said. Anti-Semitism must be rooted out and rejected by all socialists, alongside all other forms of racism and hate speech.”

We are no fans of Galloway, especially since his idiotic support for the xenophobe and chauvinist, Nigel Farage, and his rightwing Brexit Party. But was his tweet really anti-Semitic? While celebrating Liverpool’s win over Tottenham Hotspurs in the Champions League final, he wrote that there would be “no Israel flags on the cup”. Galloway was referencing the fact that some Spurs fans – who famously identify themselves as the “Yid army” – do indeed carry flags with the blue and white Israeli national emblem on them. Galloway’s tweet exaggerated the scale of the pro-Israel sentiment among Spurs fans – but, in any case, he was referring to Israel, not Jews. With such tweets, Lansman is helping to feed the anti-Corbyn witch-hunt.

As an aside, “Momentum’s most engaged and active members” have just received Lansman’s proposals to “democratise the organisation” (funnily enough, this includes at least one person who has been suspended from Momentum for the last six months, as well as people who assure us that they have not paid their membership fees for the last two years). So exciting times: will we finally see a democratic conference, where members can vote to get rid of Lansman as the owner, leader and all-round puppet-master of the group? Or perhaps we might be given a fair chance to democratically decide a constitution and get rid of the one that Lansman imposed after his coup of January 10 2017? Or, you know, maybe members might be given some say on the kind of campaigns and political priorities we want Momentum to advance? Which surely would be way to the left of what Lansman is doing.

Of course not. Lansman is suggesting three things: (1) to increase the number of regions from three to five; (2) increase the number of directly ‘elected’ people on the leading body from 12 to 20; and (3), our favourite proposal, get rid of the annual ‘elections’ and instead only bother with them every two years. Because, you see, “a relatively high level of resources are diverted into running elections rather than other activities.” That is a classic: increase democracy by decreasing elections. Brilliant.

This last proposal actually seems to be the main reason for the ‘consultation’ (which lasts a staggering seven days, giving the few remaining Momentum groups no time to discuss them). Proposal 1 and 2 are obviously bullshit and will do nothing to democratise anything, but it seems that the annual charade of online elections (where isolated members are asked to choose between candidates of which they know very little) seems to be too burdensome for our Jon. So this is not a proposal to democratise Momentum, but, on the contrary, to make it even less accountable.


A Zionist himself, Lansman has been partly to blame for the scale of the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ smear campaign in the Labour Party. It is an outrage that Labour members are being suspended, investigated and expelled for stating the truth: that the so-called anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour Party has been cynically manufactured and carefully directed. Meanwhile, anti-Corbyn MPs, such as Margaret Hodge, Louise Ellman and Tom Watson, insult, disrupt, make bogus accusations and work hand in glove with the capitalist media – with no repercussions. “Those making false charges ought to face disciplinary action and should be held accountable for their actions” – as Labour Against the Witchhunt’s recent statement and model motion on Willsman correctly declares (see page 11).”

However, the opposite is happening. The expulsion of the Blairite plotter, Alistair Campbell, is now being “reviewed” – we fear that his reinstatement is imminent. And that despite the fact that he has openly boasted about voting for the Liberal Democrats, no doubt in order to provoke an action by the party and, of course, the subsequent counter-reaction by Tom Watson et al, who claim to be outraged by this application of Labour’s rules. No such leniency is applied when it comes to the auto-expulsion of (leftwing) members who have merely wished candidates in other parties “good luck”. The double standards applied here are staggering and underline which way the scales in the civil war are still tilting.

Similarly, the Labour Party should call out the investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for what it is: part of the latest move against Corbyn. The complaints were lodged by the Jewish Labour Movement and the so-called Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. Clearly these two organisations have no interest in fighting racism at all: their only purpose is to get rid of a certain Jeremy Corbyn and they have actively plotted against him from day one. The JLM was refounded in 2015 specifically to campaign against Corbyn and Tony Greenstein has described how the CAA has campaigned almost exclusively against Corbyn rather than anti-Semitism or racism.

The EHRC will now investigate “whether the party has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish”. But, if there has been any unlawful discrimination by Labour against Jewish people, surely it has been against Jewish anti-Zionists. Many of them, as well as black members, are involved in the struggle for Palestinian rights, which explains the disproportionate number of expulsions and suspensions of black and Jewish comrades.

In this context, we are somewhat puzzled by the strategy proposed by a number of black activists, who think that Labour Party members should now swamp the EHRC with examples of anti-black racism. Clearly, that would only give the witch-hunters even more ammunition and lead to the predictable result that the party – and specifically Corbyn – will not just be found guilty of anti-Semitism, but of other forms of racism too. That is not exactly a winning strategy, comrades.

Trigger ballots

At the heart of the latest move is the news that the overdue trigger ballots – by which sitting Labour MPs are subjected to a possible reselection ballot of members – might finally be implemented after all. We have to say, we remain a little sceptical. Of course, as a reform agreed at last year’s Labour Party conference, it should be implemented. After all, it was only ever a compromise cobbled together with the unions to hold off the far more democratic proposal to re-establish the mandatory reselection of all parliamentary candidates (aka open selection), which would otherwise have gone through.

Still, even this slight reform represents a serious danger to many careerist MPs, who quite rightly fear that the local membership might give them the axe, given half a chance. In particular it is the separation of the trigger ballot into two separate votes that could see sitting MPs being democratically challenged for the first time since 1990. Then, Neil Kinnock abolished mandatory reselection and instead introduced the trigger ballot system, where a total of 33% of all Labour Party branches and affiliated organisations (each branch and affiliate having one vote) had to oppose the sitting MP in order to spark a full selection process between different candidates. Democrat that he is, Tony Blair increased the threshold to 50%.

It is now back at 33%, but, crucially, a full selection process starts when either 33% of a Constituency Labour Party’s branches or 33% of its affiliates say ‘no’ to the sitting MP. This is hugely important, as trade unions and other affiliated organisations have in the past often played a negative role, using their votes to side with the right in holding off more leftwing challengers supported by the CLP’s branches.

But, unless the NEC publishes a timetable and guidelines on how to launch such trigger ballots, nothing can happen. In January, Jennie Formby was commissioned by the NEC to urgently produce such documents – but then Chukka Umunna and his friends split from the party and the leadership got cold feet. “In an attempt to stop further defections, Labour could delay the start of re-election battles,” reported The Guardian in February. It added: “Labour is set to put back the start of the formal MP selection process … which could have led to vast numbers of MPs facing deselection.”

Perhaps it was the hilarious news that Change UK was about to split itself into oblivion that led to the latest reports about the overdue implementation of the trigger ballots being imminent. As we said, while we would obviously welcome such a move, we remain sceptical. After all, it would require Jeremy Corbyn and his allies to finally come out fighting and stop their campaign of appeasing those rightwingers who would probably get the chop by the local membership. And we have yet to see any evidence of that.

CLPD silence

Unfortunately, the same goes for Peter Willsman’s own organisation, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. The CLPD is characterised by its uncritical support for (or, more precisely, total submission to the thinking of) Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, the first sentence of the lead motion to its recent AGM (written, we believe, by Willsman) read, rather creepily: “Full support to the party leader at all times”. That also just about sums up its current attitude to the witch-hunt against its secretary, Pete Willsman: Because Jeremy Corbyn remains tight-lipped and does not come out in support of Willsman, neither does the CLPD.

In fact, the organisation and its leader have been very quiet over the whole witch-hunt. Had it not been for the two secret recordings of Willsman, we would not actually have known where exactly he stands on the issue of the smear campaign. Shortly after Chris Williamson’s suspension, the CLPD published a short, mealy-mouthed defence of the MP – but also distributed the so-called instruction that allegedly bans branches and CLPs from discussing any motions on ongoing disciplinary cases. As Labour Against the Witchhunt has usefully pointed out, there is in fact “no ban” on such motions. “True, they are categorised as “not competent business” (which means they will not be discussed by the NEC), but it is always up to the members of any meeting to decide what they want to discuss.

And every single statement, every public resolution will add to the pressure to get our comrades reinstated whether the NEC discusses them or not.

However, the CLPD pretends nothing has happened. We are assured that “of course” CLPD members stand in solidarity with Pete. But no public statement has gone out, explaining how their comrade was the victim of a sting, no information has been sent to members – nothing. Unsurprisingly though, behind the scenes all hell has broken loose. We hear that Willsman was urged by other officers to resign as CLPD secretary, though that does not actually seem necessary, as the ridiculous rules of the organisation only allow full Labour members to be members. With his suspension from the party, he was automatically suspended by the CLPD. The chickens have come home to roost …

He was swiftly replaced by Barry Gray and Jake Rubin, with the latter being particularly keen to distance the organisation from Willsman. We have been forwarded an email of Rubin’s, where he argues: “Pete should apologise for his comments and I won’t be advising that CLPD defend them. ‎It is not true that the problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is solely the product of Israel.”

Pete Willsman did not actually say that. Remember, on the tape we can only hear a version of his comments that was heavily and purposefully edited. For example, at one point Willsman quite clearly states he is talking about “all of this anti-Semitism against Jeremy”, for which he quite correctly blames “the Israeli embassy” (ie, the Israeli government).

So we are down to this: “One of these things about anti-Semitism is they’re using that to whip people up – they use anything, any lies. It’s all total lies and they whip it up.” You could try and take that apart, bit by bit, to try and work out what exactly he means by “it’s all total lies”. But remember, this is not somebody giving a well-prepared speech for an audience, but somebody speaking out over a cup of coffee with a person pretending to be sympathetic.

But his own comrades are not giving him the benefit of the doubt. With even his leading figures in the CLPD twisting his words and throwing him to the wolves, what chance does Willsman have of a fair trial in front of the party’s skewed disciplinary body?

This is particularly shameful, as comrade Willsman has been a leading figure in the CLPD for close to 50 years and his position on the NEC has kept the group going for much of this time. The CLPD is, shall we say, a little on the inert side – and has, funnily enough, become increasingly so since the election of a certain Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Before that it occasionally posed left, but, as soon as Corbyn was elected, it dropped its key demand for mandatory reselection and has been shadowing his campaign of appeasement.

Apart from proposing a few left-leaning motions to annual conference and publishing the useful (though rather tame) daily voting guide, ‘Yellow pages’, at conference itself, the organisation does very, very little. Its role in the Grassroots Centre Left Alliance (GCLA), which for the last 30 or so years has been recommending soft-left candidates for various internal elections, is diminishing by the day. This latest failure of the CLPD to stand in public solidarity with its leading member will only increase the speed with which the organisation heads towards implosion. That would be a loss.


Labour Against the Witchhunt model motion

Reinstate Pete Willsman!

This branch/CLP notes:

  • On May 31, Labour Party NEC member Peter Willsman was put under “administrative suspension” after he was secretly recorded by the Israeli-American author, Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • The audio was recorded in January 2019, but leaked to the press over five months later, no doubt to coincide with a new hotting up in the campaign to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn.

We further note:

  •  Tenenbom claims that he ‘happened’ to come across Pete Willsman in a hotel bar and that his sound engineer ‘happened’ to have left a hidden microphone switched on.
  • However, Tenenbom has published a number of books in which he uses exactly this kind of method. He secretly films and records people, often guiding them into making the kind of unguarded comments he was looking for, in order to prove how anti-Semitism is rife in Germany, Palestine, the USA, etc.
  • Tenenbom has given lectures, in which he explains why “the suffering of Palestinian people is bullshit” (https://bit.ly/2MAH1xo) and has told LBC radio: “He [Pete Willsman] is a nice guy, he has a great sense of humour, he’s knowledgeable. But like Jeremy Corbyn – I met Jeremy and he’s also a nice guy, very fatherly – but they suffer from a disease of really hating the Jews” (www.lbc.co.uk/news/labour-israeli-embassy-behind-antisemitism-smears).

We believe:

  • That anti-Semitism, like all forms of racism, must be vigorously combatted – ideally, through education and debate, not disciplinary measures and ‘zero tolerance’.
  • That the Labour Party is not institutionally anti-Semitic, as the figures published by Jennie Formby prove. On the contrary, many claims of anti-Semitism have been taken out of context, exaggerated and weaponised in order to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, an outspoken supporter of the rights of Palestinians. Anti-Zionism has been wilfully and wrongly equated with anti-Semitism.
  • That nothing Pete Willsman said was anti-Semitic. Pete did, however, point to some uncomfortable truths exposed by the Al Jazeera documentary The lobby, which has been ignored by the mainstream media. The documentary revealed a systematic effort by the Israeli embassy to involve itself in the internal battles in the Labour Party. Also revealed were the efforts by the Israeli ministry of strategic affairs to label opponents of Israel as anti-Semites.
  • That this proven interference should be the subject of an overdue investigation, as demanded by Jeremy Corbyn in a letter of January 2017.

We further believe:

  • A stalwart of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Pete Willsman has been serving on Labour’s NEC for many decades and is one of the few real allies of Jeremy Corbyn on that body. This is why he has been on the radar of those who will do anything to get rid of Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
  • That anti-Corbyn MPs such as Margaret Hodge, Louise Ellman and Tom Watson insult, disrupt, make bogus accusations and work hand in glove with the media – with no repercussions coming their way. Those making false charges ought to face disciplinary action and should be held accountable for their actions.

We therefore express our full solidarity with Pete Willsman, Chris Williamson MP and all the other Labour Party members who have been suspended, expelled or disciplined on bogus charges of anti-Semitism or because of their support for leftwing groups. We want to see them immediately reinstated.

Important information

There is no ban in the Labour Party on moving motions in support of comrades in ongoing disciplinary cases. As in the case of Chris Williamson MP, the ‘advice’ sent out by Labour Party HQ merely declares such motions to be “not competent business” for the NEC to discuss. That merely means the NEC will not look at them – but the rest of the workers’ movement will certainly do so. Any motion, any statement, any act of public solidarity will add pressure to get our comrades reinstated, gives courage to other Labour Party members and branches and shows the victims of the witch-hunt that they do not stand alone.

More information on this issue and detailed guidelines on how to move a motion are here: www.labouragainstthewitchhunt.org/campaigns/there-is-no-ban-on-moving-motions-in-support-of-chris-williamson-mp.


CLPD AGM: Follow my leader

Whatever happened to the democratic exchange of ideas? William Sarsfield reports on the CLPD’s March 9 AGM

There were good things to take from this year’s annual general meeting of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy in Birmingham’s Council House. The 200 or so attendance was excellent. The fighting mood was encouraging. There is confidence about the next round of elections in the party.

The problem is the impoverished political perspective of the CLPD’s leading lights – sadly something shared with most left organisations, inside Labour and out. A problem encapsulated by the twin track policy they seek to impose.

First, that support for Jeremy Corbyn (and, by implication, other core left leaders around him, including John McDonnell) must be uncritical, if it is to have any operative content. This position was put with useful bluntness in the opening lines of the executive’s motion 1 (which we never got the chance to discuss – see below). It called on comrades to give “Full support to the party leader at all times”.

Farcically, I did hear some comrades trying to pass this off as a call for the membership to constitute itself as a sort of political comfort blanket for Corbyn – a collective cuddle from the rank and file. Certainly, there is no argument that he has taken some very unpleasant personal kickings from the capitalist media and the treacherous majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party. This ‘explanation’ is desperate, however. Clearly, we were being counselled to provide uncritical and unconditional support to Corbyn and the political concessions he makes – the measures he judges necessary to pursue the chimera of a pacified PLP right.

A couple of amendments to this terrible formulation were submitted, one emphasising that support for Corbyn should be predicated on his working within the remit of conference decisions and the other, politically much better amendment, which made support for Corbyn conditional on him fighting for “the thorough democratisation of the Labour Party and society” and emphasising the basic right for members to “criticise him when and where necessary – for example, over his silence when it comes to the witch-hunt against his supporters in the Labour Party”. A debate on this would have been very useful and, no doubt, would have revealed some serious differences. Precisely for this reason, the organisers ensured that there was no time to have this key issue aired at all.

Second, the mantra came from the top table, as well as the floor, that the only priority that mattered was the achievement of a “Labour Party government led by Jeremy Corbyn” – no caveats about the political content of that government’s programme, the compromises it might offer to pacify the right wing, its room to provide meaningful gains for the working class, etc. In the absence of a debate on these themes, the conference’s discussions around this mantra of the ‘next Labour government’ became both apolitical and ahistorical. It was almost as if we have enforced on ourselves a sort of voluntary amnesia, where we forget the actual history of past Labour governments – their attacks on our class, authoritarian restrictions on democratic rights, support for brutal imperialist wars, etc.

The bulk of the day’s proceedings were taken up with reports from the CLPD’s various working groups. These were of widely varying degrees of political nous and quality, it must be said. For instance, the women’s group presented an interesting feedback on its impressive record of work, even though I felt that its orientation was very ‘bureaucracy-centric’. There was too much emphasis on structural/legalistic initiatives as avenues towards women’s liberation rather than the question of struggle and the role of the working class. The comrades spoke of increasing “diversity” and the problems of “low-income” women. I was put in mind of the Women Against Pit Closures movement in 1984-85: their energy, anger and brilliantly innovative methods of struggle and solidarity. Surely that should be a model for us as socialists, rather than the route to women’s freedom being through ‘breaking glass ceilings’ and shimmying up the corporate ladder?

Councillor Yasmine Dar was billed to speak “on national executive committee goings-on”. Instead, the comrade delivered a very high-tempo, slightly garbled contribution, the bulk of which consisted of telling us that she and other left comrades on the governing body were there not to “put forward our views – we put forward your views”. In fact “Our responses are your responses,” she told us at one point. Quite how she or any other leftwinger on the NEC could aggregate the views of the couple of hundred in Birmingham – let alone the hundreds of thousands in the party at large – remains a mystery to me.

Best speech

By far the best speech of the day was the last, made by Stephen Marks, a Jewish Voice for Labour comrade from Oxford, who was co-reporting from the national constitutional committee (which deals with all disciplinary matters that the NEC feels it cannot resolve).1)Stephen Marks was (ostensibly) the bone of contention that caused the 2018 bust up between Momentum and the CLPD when – under their mutual flag of convenience, the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance – they fell out pretty spectacularly about the composition of the their slate for the NCC. Momentum’s owner, Jon Lansman, opined that “’the Jewish community’ with not tolerate a JVL representative” – ie, Stephen Marks.While the comrade explained that he was constrained by some legal considerations, he certainly was not constrained by politeness. He spoke with real passion and anger about the witch-hunt in the party. He ripped into the existing procedures as not fit for purpose; called for a “no leaks” stricture to be rigorously imposed on the right wing of the PLP – weasels who go scuttling to the press with privileged information (my words, not his); he was nearly drowned out by cheers when he stated that Tom Watson should be told to “shut up”; and – most important of all, in my view – called for comrades to formulate an “independent position to Corbyn and McDonnell” on key issues like this.

Undoubtedly, it was a stirring way to end proceedings, but the point was that we had not even touched on the key business we needed to debate and decide on – the secretary’s report and the policy motions. Throughout, the various chairs bumped other things up the agenda, in front of these two key items. This toxic culture of regarding debates and public differences between comrades – even if the divisions are sharp and heated at times – is anti-democratic to its core. It is a crippling weakness that comrades suffer from.

At the start of the afternoon session we were advised by the chair that the executive committee (largely the same as the 2018 version, I believe) had met and produced a feeble motion of mealy-mouthed ‘support’ for Chris Williamson MP. This reads:

1. CLPD exposes all forms of anti-Semitism and racism.

2. CLPD notes the personal statement from Chris Williamson MP.

3. CLPD does not believe Chris Williamson MP should be expelled from the Labour Party.

4. CLPD will circulate the statement at


Err, that’s it …

I have no doubt that, if conference had been allowed the time and space to amend this pathetic ‘solidarity’ message, we would have ended up with a far angrier, harder position being adopted. By the same token, I am sure that if the comrades in Birmingham had also been able discuss the motion calling for critical distance from Corbyn – let alone the icon-smashing call for a new, Marxist influenced clause four – there would have been outrage, sharp exchanges and hard lines drawn between different positions.

In other words, the CLPD’s executive committee seemed determined to starve us of the meat and drink of politics l

It cannot be right to support someone regardless of whether they are right or wrong

Stephen Marks of JVL hammered the witchhunt and called for politics independent of both Corbyn and McDonnell


1 Stephen Marks was (ostensibly) the bone of contention that caused the 2018 bust up between Momentum and the CLPD when – under their mutual flag of convenience, the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance – they fell out pretty spectacularly about the composition of the their slate for the NCC. Momentum’s owner, Jon Lansman, opined that “’the Jewish community’ with not tolerate a JVL representative” – ie, Stephen Marks.

TIG: Getting trigger happy

What does the formation of the so-called Independent Group and the suspension of Chris Williamson tell us about the balance of forces? William Sarsfield gives his view

The Independent Group (TIG) has the potential to grow, despite its initial small numbers, its chaotic launch and the absence of policy. Over the coming weeks and months, we can expect money to flow its way, major news outlets to corral behind it and further defections from the venal majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party, who have attempted unsuccessfully to thwart and derail the leadership of Corbyn from day one.

TIG currently stands at around 8% in some opinion polls – not huge, but not statistically insignificant either. Moreover, we hear murmurs from Chuka Umunna that up to a third of Labour MPs have expressed some sympathy for the venture. Others may well be in political solidarity in the abstract, but are holding back for fear of the damage a split from Labour may do to their own parliamentary careers.

That said, it is worthwhile underlining just how poor this launch was. Despite the obvious fact that this small splinter from Labour (plus its even smaller Tory cohort) had been quite some time coming, there has been glaring lack of basic spadework. So, despite its relatively long gestation period, there are no books, pamphlets, recruitment videos that let us into the Weltanschauung of these intrepid mould-breakers. Indeed, journalists at the group’s launch reported it was a struggle to find coherent ideas strung together coming from the individual TIGers, let alone the group as a collective.

This underlines that this new organisation has little in the way of political gravitas. It is responsive, short-termist and very much of the political moment – specifically, Brexit; the ‘anti-Semitism contagion’ that apparently continues to rip through Labour’s ranks; and the intensely uncomfortable fact of who the current Labour leader is – his history, links, his ‘unpatriotic’ baggage, etc. For the three Tory TIGers – Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen – the key issue was obviously Brexit, of course.

The response from the Labour leadership has once again been extremely disappointing. Publicly, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have bent over backwards to conciliate – and not just by jumping onto the ‘second referendum’ bandwagon. There has been talk of not enough support offered to Luciana Berger MP – effectively putting two fingers up to the rank and file of her Constituency Labour Party, Wavertree, who were threatened with suspension by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson for having the temerity to discuss two motions of no-confidence in the woman.

It may seem a paradox, but objectively the TIG departure reflects the growing strength of the left in the party. The Labour right views the past three-plus years of Corbyn’s leadership as a disaster. Frustration levels have mounted, as every ploy to get rid of this turbulent priest have come to naught.

Early on, we had the plotting of the unctuous Hilary Benn to organise mass resignations from the shadow cabinet following the EU referendum, which came to nothing. Then the wretched Margaret Hodge and sidekick Ann Coffey (a founding member of TIG, of course) tabled a motion of no confidence in the Labour leader in June 2016 – again over his performance in the EU campaign. It was carried by the PLP by 172 votes to 40, but, when it came to the membership, Corbyn was re-elected with an increased majority.


For Camilla Cavendish – a former advisor to Cameron and now a Financial Times columnist – the establishment of TIG is to be warmly welcomed, primarily as it precipitates the disintegration of the rigid, class-based political architecture of the two-party system. This is regarded as an especially necessary corrective, given what she sees as the appalling rise of runaway ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘bullying’ in today’s Labour Party. Despite this all this, she huffs with an impressive degree of faux incomprehension that Corbyn still has the temerity to make “claims” to have the membership on his side.

Of course, there have also been (partially successful) attempts to tame Corbyn – a stratagem that sporadically ran alongside the ‘anti-Semitism’ provocation. All too frequently, both Corbyn and McDonnell have buckled under this pressure and made important – and totally unprincipled – concessions to the right. The latest example being, of course, the suspension of left Labour MP Chris Williamson. After putting up some token resistance Corbyn caved in to the demands of the Labour Parliamentary Committee (made up of 3 Labour peers, five senior Labour MPs, Tom Watson and John Cryer, chair of the PLP). Meeting on the Wednesday afternoon it unanimously demanded his scalp.

However, the right wing of the PLP will now calculate, correctly, that the real danger emanates not from the leader’s office, but from below, in the form of an overwhelmingly pro-Corbyn left in the CLPs, invested with new powers to hold their MPs to account and challenge their assumed right to a ‘job for life’. Specifically, delegates scored an important, if partial, democratic victory at last year’s Labour conference in Liverpool, which enhanced the ability of members to pursue successful trigger ballots to replace sitting MPs. Constituency parties now have far more leeway to call their recalcitrant rightwing MPs to order and get shot of them if needed. The simplified and more democratic provision of trigger ballots could well turn out to be the biggest recruiting tool for TIG, as more MPs jump before they are pushed.

The threat of deselection was clearly the deciding factor for some of the TIG founders … and it is a nightmare scenario that will be playing on the minds many rightwing MPs still parked on the Labour benches. The hoi-polloi – the chumps who should be content with knocking on doors and handing out the leaflets – now have the potential to put an end to the glittering careers of these professional politicians. The nerve of it!

Inevitably, there are qualifications to this good news. It would not be a shock if the central Labour apparatus – in keeping with the quite wretched conciliatory culture promoted by Corbyn and McDonnell – put pressure on local CLPs to drop trigger ballots aimed at replacing local rightist MPs. According to The Guardian, “Labour could delay the start of deselection battles that party sources fear may prompt further resignations.” After all, “We don’t want to further antagonise” (February 26).

For an indicator of the way the political wind blows on this, we must wait for the appearance of a document outlining how and when the newly reformed trigger ballot provisions can be fired up in local CLPs. General secretary Jennie Formby was commissioned at Labour’s January 22 national executive committee meeting to produce a ‘trigger ballot manual’, with the recommendation that it is produced in short order. NEC member Darren Williams confirmed that this was supposed to be published in February. The delay is worrying.

The overwhelming majority of active Labour Party members are now quite clearly to the left and – although there has been a worrying lack of detail from the central apparatus around Jennie Formby – these new provisions are at least somewhere in the pipeline. Across the country, groups of eager left CLP members are keen to get cracking. So, we anticipate more ‘centrists’ bailing out or being given the heave-ho by their members – either way, fingers crossed that their days are numbered …

The key problem for the Labour left is that this objective strength on the ground has yet to translate into a coherent form as a united, national organisation with an ambitious political programme – not simply to purge the existing pro-capitalist right, but for the root-and-branch remaking of the Labour Party, the abolition of the bans and proscriptions on working class organisations, and the radical refounding of Labour as a genuine party of the working class, influenced by the world view of Marxism.

This fight is still hampered not simply by the left’s lack of vision, but also by the fact that Momentum (for the moment) still ‘squats’ the space where a fighting organisation ought to operate. Undoubtedly, Momentum’s lustre faded pretty damn quick and recent scab comments from the organisation’s CEO – Jon Lansman – will no doubt further disillusion many members, if not the few who rely on the organisation for employment. Disillusionment is not a mobilising force, however. (As numerous comrades have commented, Momentum itself is essentially an online mobilising tool these days, as well as a flag of convenience for Lansman to run up when he wants to spout crap.)

Left organisation

The Labour left needs to build a national organisation which embodies a political independence from the current leadership of our party, not simply forms of organisational autonomy as the vast majority of the existing left organisations in Labour restrict themselves to. Perforce, such an organisation would be an open, multi-tendency alliance. Thus, transparency and democracy would be vital components (as it should be in all working class formations) and this culture would demand an explicit statement of our aims and clear perspectives on how to fight the battle. This would find expression in our attitude to Corbyn, McDonnell and their team – we offer them support to the extent that they fight for the interests of our class as a whole; we would criticise and censure them when they renege on that duty.

As an aside, Labour Party Marxists supporters are putting forward exactly such an amendment to the AGM of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. Motion 1 – the “work programme” put forward by CLPD secretary Pete Willsman – states: “Full support to the party leader at all times.” This is a crass and misguided approach that smacks of religion. Instead, we think this should be changed to: “We will defend Jeremy Corbyn from any further coups and acts of sabotage. We will support him where he fights for the thorough democratisation of the Labour Party and wider society. But we will also criticise him when and where necessary – for example, over his silence when it comes to the witch-hunt against his supporters in the Labour Party.”

Meanwhile, and paradoxically, Emily Thornberry has launched the most vociferous attack on TIG, telling a Labour rally that she would “rather die” than leave the party, that the quitters are “cuddling up to the Tories” and if they ever found the courage to stand in a by-election, Labour would “crush” them. This might be little more than an exercise in positioning – a chance for Thornberry, the Zionist, to buff up her left street-fighting credentials, perhaps. We can make educated guesses, but we really do not know ….

Stand up to your enemies

The more Corbyn retreats, writes David Shearer, the more the Labour right grows in confidence

No doubt Jeremy Corbyn was relieved that for a couple of days the media was focussing on former foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s remarks about the burka and temporarily relegating the latest fake news about Labour ‘anti-Semitism’ from the main headlines.

But, unfortunately, it will not last long. Johnson may have compared women wearing the burka to “bank robbers” and “letter boxes”, but no-one should expect the media to start digging up previous Islamophobic remarks he may have made, let alone start a campaign to expose the “severe and widespread” Islamophobia affecting the entire Tory Party (although, of course, there is no doubt that this would be much more productive in terms of finding genuine examples than the ‘anti-Semitism’ nonsense has been).

I am afraid to say, Jeremy, that the attacks on you are not going to stop any time soon. They are, after all, predicated on two interconnected aims: ensuring that support for Israel – imperialism’s key ally in the Middle East – is not undermined; and helping to win back control of the Labour Party for the right wing, so that the ruling class will have a ‘responsible’ alternative to the Conservative Party, should it become temporarily unelectable. That is why no end of apologies or unprincipled retreats will stop the onslaught. In reality, the more Corbyn does that, the more the onslaught will intensify. Everyone can see that it is paying off.

Take last week’s article by Corbyn in The Guardian, entitled ‘I will root anti-Semites out of Labour – they do not speak for me’. In this piece Labour leader went along with the absurd notion that anti-Semitism is a major problem within the party and that people like Pete Willsman, who strongly denied this at the July 17 meeting of Labour’s national executive committee, are effectively aiding and abetting the anti-Semites: “… no-one can, or should, try to dismiss or belittle the concerns expressed by so many Jewish people and organisations about what has been happening in the party I am proud to lead.”

In the video on Labour’s website, sent out by email to all members shortly after the Guardian article was published, Corbyn went further: “Anyone who denies that this has surfaced within our party is clearly actually wrong and contributing to the problem.” And in the article he states:

Denying the continuing problem doesn’t help. Labour staff have seen examples of holocaust denial, crude stereotypes of Jewish bankers, conspiracy theories blaming 9/11 on Israel, and even one individual who appeared to believe that Hitler had been misunderstood.

This is worse than pathetic. There is no doubt that among the more than half a million members that the Labour Party now has a minority that have all kinds of weird views – and some of them will find their way on to social media. But, as Corbyn himself admits, they account for only a tiny percentage of the membership, most of whom will be inactive. There is no evidence of such people exerting any influence whatsoever.

Of course, much has been made of a small number of high-profile cases – Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Tony Greenstein, Moshé Machover … But in none of them has anti-Semitism been established. For the most part the original allegations were withdrawn for charges such as the catch-all “bringing the party into disrepute”. In the case of comrade Machover, all the preposterous claims made against him were withdrawn after a rank-and-file campaign, while comrade Walker’s case has yet to be heard almost two years after she was suspended.


It is true that Corbyn states: “there are also many non- or anti-Zionist Jews who should not be branded as anti-Semites simply because they are not part of the Zionist tradition” – that applies to comrades Walker, Machover and Greenstein. But then he adds: “Both traditions have always had honourable proponents in our movement” (my emphasis). So the tradition of Zionism is “honourable”, is it?

I am sorry, Jeremy, but Zionism is a reactionary ideology (as you once knew) – based on the notion that Jews everywhere will always be oppressed unless they establish their own state. True, it emerged as a reaction to widespread anti-Semitism and pogroms in many countries, but it was opposed by the majority of Jews, who regarded themselves first and foremost as German, Russian, British, French … Indeed Jews have always played a prominent role in the internationalist working class movement, which calls for a united struggle against oppression, as opposed to Zionist separatism.

But now the Labour leader seems to accept that the Zionists are a bona fide representative of the “Jewish community”. He still has not met with representatives of the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Labour, despite JVL’s constant requests. (By the way, JVL organised a 100-strong protest on August 7 outside the BBC against its biased coverage of this whole business, but, true to form, the corporation did not report it – and neither did any other media outlet apart from the Daily Mail.) On the other hand, he begs Zionist groups like the Jewish Labour Movement to have another meeting with him to help ‘smooth out’ the difficulties – which, of course, JLM is declining to do.

In his article Corbyn does take issue with the absurd claim that “a Labour government would represent any kind of threat, let alone an ‘existential threat’, to Jewish life in Britain”, as three Jewish newspapers recently claimed. But he excuses the blatant dishonesty involved, declaring: “That is the kind of overheated rhetoric that can surface during emotional political debates.”

Does anyone seriously believe that a Corbyn government would open the way for Nazi-type death camps? If not, in what way do the Zionists believe that the very existence of Jews would come under threat? But, of course, he goes out of his way to pander to the Zionist agenda: “I accept that, if any part of our national community feels threatened, anxious or vulnerable, not only must that be taken at face value [sic], but we must all ensure those fears are put to rest.” After all, “The holocaust was the greatest crime of the 20th century. Jewish people who are feeling concerned must be listened to.”

IHRA definition

A central feature of the ongoing campaign is, of course, the demand that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, plus all the attached ‘examples’, are adopted by Labour in full. As everyone knows, the overall aim of the definition, combined with the examples, is to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. Two of the example in particular stand out:

  • “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination: eg, by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour”; and
  • “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

The first of these is blatantly pro-Zionist – implying that Jews in each and every country share a common nationality and as such have the right to “self-determination”. What is more, the Zionist colonisation of Palestine of necessity involved racist laws and practices against the Palestinians. It is absurd to claim that pointing out these straightforward facts is a form of prejudice or hatred against Jews.

The same applies to the second example quoted. In fact, it is common in Israel itself for such comparisons with Nazi Germany to be made – the most recent case being over the knesset’s adoption of Binyamin Netanyahu’s Nation-State law, which enshrined a ‘blood and soil’ version of nationalism; it has been compared in Israel not just to apartheid legislation, but to German fascism.

As for the IHRA definition itself, it reads in its entirety:

Anti-Semitismis a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitismare directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

This clearly cannot be the basis of any reliable definition. The fact that it states that anti-Semitism “may be expressed as hatred toward Jews” indicates that it is incomplete. You do not have to ‘hate’ Jews to be an anti-Semite. For example, throughout the first half of the 20th century, it was easy enough to encounter the expression of all manner of low level forms of prejudice directed against Jews. As for the second sentence, it is obviously accurate, but it in no way helps define what anti-Semitism is.

 Pete Willsman

Let me turn now to the slurs directed against Pete Willsman – the latest in a long list of false accusations, which in this case conveniently targets an NEC member. His intervention at the July 17 NEC meeting was secretly recorded and given to the Jewish Chronicle. In this he noted the letter signed by 68 rabbis, which was published in that morning’s Guardian, who stated: “… anti-Semitism within sections of the Labour Party has become so severe and widespread that we must speak”.

In his online report of the meeting posted two days later, he stated: “In 50 years I have never seen any anti-Semitism in the Labour Party” – a sentiment that the majority of Labour activists would no doubt echo. On the recording he can be heard saying: “Ask the rabbis, where is your evidence of severe and widespread anti-Semitism in this party?” He also claimed that some of the people posting “duff information” were “Trump fanatics”.

Interestingly, his report did not give the impression that anyone on the NEC was outraged by these statements. He wrote:

This NEC meeting was dominated by a very lengthy, very informed and very thoughtful discussion regarding the anti-Semitism code of conduct. In my 37 years on and off national committees, I can hardly remember a more sensitive and thoughtful debate. Almost every NEC member provided contributions. There was no attempt at point-scoring and every participant spoke frankly and sincerely.

However, a couple of weeks later, the recording was made available, and comrade Willsman was the target of the most malicious smears. Because he had criticised some Jews, he just had to be an anti-Semite. Some called for him to be immediately expelled, while Labour deputy leader Tom Watson stated: “For the avoidance of doubt, Peter Willsman is and always has been a loud-mouthed bully. He disgusts me.” It is, of course, quite acceptable for members of the Labour right to use such language.

It was clear that comrade Willsman was leaned on to apologise and he told the BBC:

Not all of what I said has been accurately reported. But I accept that what I did say, and the way I said it, fell short of the requirement, which I accept, for discussions of contentious issues to be conducted in a fully civil and respectful way. I deeply apologise for any offence caused to those present and those to whom my remarks were reported.

In other words, he may have been a bit rude. But this obviously fell far short of what the Labour right was demanding and what, appallingly, Momentum insisted he should say. So, within hours, he was reduced to grovelling:

I recognise the offensive nature of my comments and that, in diminishing the experiences of those who face anti-Semitism in our party and society, I showed a lack of the sensitivity required for discussions around racism. I will be referring myself to receive equalities training, so I can better understand how to approach discussions of such issues in a respectful way.

Comrade Willsman was, of course, dropped from the Momentum slate of recommended candidates for the NEC, but hopefully the majority of Labour members will ignore this disgraceful decision and vote for him, together with the other eight Corbynite candidates.

It is clear too that Corbyn’s comment about the denial of “severe and widespread” anti-Semitism “contributing to the problem” was in part directed against comrade Willsman. The implication is that anyone who now repeats this will themselves risk disciplinary action. Pretend that you agree with the smears or face the consequences.

The lesson of the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign is clear: the more Corbyn retreats, backtracks and apologises, the more the Labour right grows in confidence. Backed up by virtually the entire media, their attacks will only intensify. It is time for the Labour leader to stand up to his enemies instead of conceding more and more ground.

In defence of Pete Willsman!

Even after everything that has gone before, the attacks on Pete Willsman for his comments at last month’s meeting of Labour’s national executive committee are truly incredible.

Comrade Willsman can be heard in a secretly recorded intervention questioning the allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ among Labour members. He said: “I think we should ask the … rabbis [who had been amongst those making such absurd accusations – PM]: where is your evidence of severe and widespread anti-Semitismin this party?” Some people, he said – including those whom he described as “Trump fanatics” – were “making up duff information without any evidence at all”.

And that is it. Yet, absurdly, comrade Willsman himself has been attacked throughout the media for anti-Semitism! The press has rushed to give space to the ludicrous responses of anti-Corbyn Zionists. For example, Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, described the above words as a “disgusting rant against the Jewish community and rabbis”, for which he should be “summarily expelled”! As for Luciana Berger MP, the parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, she absurdly declared: “Anyone listening to this recording will be appalled to hear the venom and fury directed by Mr Willsman at the British Jewish community”!

Er, he was not attacking the “Jewish community” at all. He was angrily criticising all those – Jewish or not – who were responsible for so many false allegations. Quite right too. And just about everyone in the room knew that what he said was true, but no other NEC member dared say so, it seemed.

And now Momentum has responded by dropping comrade Willsman from its list of recommended candidates for election (in his case re-election) to the NEC. The statement from the “elected officers of the national coordinating group” noted: “While it is welcome that he has made a full apology and will attend equalities training, his comments were deeply insensitive and inappropriate for a Momentum- backed NEC candidate.”

It is difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at such nonsense. But it is very much a pity that comrade Willsman felt any need to apologise – let alone accept the need for “equalities training”! While it was hardly a “full apology”, his expression of regret for failing to discuss “contentious issues” in a “fully civil and respectful way”, itself gave too much ground to his accusers. He was right to be angry at the campaign of slander directed against good comrades and he should not have retreated on this.

Hopefully those Labour members who have not yet voted will show Jon Lansman and co what they think of this by voting for all nine candidates, including comrade Willsman,on Momentum’s original recommended list.

Please join Labour Against the Witchhunt, which will be organising a number of interventions and events at this year’s Labour Party conference – including a counter-mobilisation to the demo planned by the right.