Labour partying

Records of a brief sojourn in the Labour Party

This article on my local news site, Whitstable Views, published 2 July 2020, is based on the letter below: https://whitstableviews.com/2020/07/02/labouring-under-an-illusion/

Subject: Re: It’s time to renew your membership

Date: 8 June 2020 at 15:38:24 BST To: theteam@labour.org.uk

Dear Team,

Thank you for your email reminding me that my membership subscription to the Labour Party is due. What a coincidence – I was just about to write to you regarding the same matter! You contend that my fee is now due, but I believe that I have cause to request a refund of the last one. 

My sojourn as a member has been very interesting. I believe I was misled by the description of it on my membership card as ‘democratic’ and ‘socialist.’ Although never a fan of party politics or the farce that passes for democracy in this country, I joined in good faith as I believed that with Jeremy Corbyn as Party Leader, and therefore the values, principles and policies he represents being actualised, there was a chance of the kind of change which is so desperately needed happening. Tory and New Labour successive governments had caused devastating damage, and only a radical change of direction could bring social and economic justice. I then watched as Mr Corbyn was traduced, undermined and vilified by his own party members and representatives, and thousands of people were falsely accused of racism as the influence of Israeli interests took precedence over justice and good people were subjected to McCarthyite purges. “My” own MP, who was put in place by dishonourable machinations, that removed the previous candidate, without a proper selection process, was proactive in this reprehensible smear campaign which we know was fabricated in order to a) deflect criticism from Israel for its racist apartheid actions and b) prevent politicians who actually know about international politics and have an understanding of the Middle East situation (and therefore threaten the USA/Israel/Britain neo-liberal axis) from having any power. She also supported the adoption of the risible IHRC definition of anti-semitism, while her supporters in LP south-east region, the CLP and elsewhere quashed attempts to hold democratic debate and moves to justifiably criticise or censure her. For publicly insinuating that the party itself is institutionally anti-semitic, smearing local members with this nefarious accusation, and failure to attend or be accountable to CLP meetings, she has shown herself to be unfit for positions of responsibility.

The recent leaked report confirmed what members perceived, revealing the appalling levels of corruption within the Party, and that “within the Senior Management Team of the Labour party itself there was a secret plot to prevent Corbyn becoming prime minister by ensuring that Labour lost the election. Half of ‘our’ team was actually batting for the other side! … they fuelled the anti-Corbyn propaganda machine, planting stories and misinformation … while their wages were being paid by the subscriptions of party members, the very people who’d elected him as leader.” as Brian Eno has said, [https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/leaked-labour-report-should-have-been-explosive-scandal/] Clearly these people have no intention of the Labour Party becoming either democratic or socialist and have made a mockery of the idea. I therefore believe very many members have been fraudulently deceived and our fees should be returned. 

As if this wasn’t enough, we now have Keir Starmer declaring that he  supports ” Zionism without qualification” [https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/keir-starmer-tilts-labour-sharply-towards-israel] and u-turning on the Party conference’s decision regarding Kashmir, another ” bloody legacy of the British empire.” [https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/05/starmer-corbyn-kashmir-stand-woos-british-indians-200506095940594.html]

Furthermore, in the context of the deadly pandemic wreaking havoc under the Tories, no-one can doubt that a Corbyn-led government would be enacting totally different policies, and would therefore not have caused the huge numbers of deaths we are suffering. I am sorry to say I believe that everyone in the Labour Party who worked so hard to prevent such a government from winning the election – treacherous  MPs, officers and activists who ensured that even a mildly socialist government could not be elected in this country  – must bear responsibility for the current terrible situation and avoidable tragic loss of life. 

And today, adding insult to injury, Starmer opines that the statue of slave trader Colston should not have been pulled down but removed by consent (while disingenuously trying to have it both ways by saying it shouldn’t be there!) Is he unaware that Bristolians have long petitioned for its removal but councillors voted repeatedly to keep it in place? For how much longer do people of colour have to ‘go slow’, as the Nina Simone songs says, and be expected by the so-called opposition to heed white supremacist politicians who assume the entitlement to tell them how to seek atonement for the reprehensible history of this country?! 

For these and other innumerable reasons I am not represented by the Labour Party or an MP and shall not be renewing my membership. Instead I hope to return to contributing in any way I can to grassroots campaigns fighting racism, patriarchy and capitalism, and will be donating my LP membership fee to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an organisation which continues to work tirelessly against colonialism and in support of the quest for justice and human rights.

Sincerely, yours in anger  Frankie 

*

From: Frankie 
Subject: poverty, food banks, refuges
Date: 26 July 2020 at 15:31:48 BST
To: rosie Duffield MP <enquiries@rosieduffieldmp.co.uk>
Dear Rosie Duffield MP,

I am pleased to read that you have tweeted that you are appalled, as are many people including myself, by the fact that ‘child poverty is at an all time high, food banks are overwhelmed and refuges are cash-strapped.’ 

I note also that you consider that donating to a cause I believe worth supporting to be ‘obscene,’ [Jeremy Corbyn’s legal fund] apparently assuming an entitlement as to how I should spend my own pension or savings.

By what authority do you arrogate that right? As an adult I assume I have a right to make my own financial decisions. I have not made a public remark on the issue of your own decisions as to how you spend your salary and other income, e.g. the claim you are reported as having made for £211,887.63 expenses in 2018/19, although as a constituent or taxpayer I might feel I have a right to question your wisdom regarding these matters.

Is it really necessary to point out to you that the fund set up in support of Jeremy Corbyn exists precisely because, as a politician of integrity and decency, he stands in opposition to the very child poverty, exponential growth in the need for food donations and defunding of public services like refuges which you purport to be concerned about? Is there not an irony at play here? And does not the fact that so many thousands of people are donating in solidarity with Jeremy as he faces the ongoing onslaught of rightwing attack give pause for thought – that maybe, just maybe, these people care passionately about social justice and anti-racism – or do you dismiss them all with the usual contemptuous stereotyping dealt out to anyone with the temerity to question you?

The Tory government has caused these dreadful conditions of poverty, hunger and deprivation. And, as you campaigned tirelessly against the possibility of a Corbyn-led Labour government that might have ameliorated this dire situation, thereby enabling the Tory election win, I can only invite you to consider whether you should take some responsibility for the negative role you have played in this country’s politics.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

*

Date: Mon, Jun 1, 2020 at 1:30 PM Subject: Fwd: An apology
To: <enquiries@rosieduffieldmp.co.uk>

Dear Rosie

Thank you for your email of 31 May, apologising for your actions in breaking ‘some lockdown rules’ during the current pandemic. For clarification I, as one of your constituents, would appreciate it if you could specify which of the rules you flouted and which you upheld. Please respond to this request for information within seven days. As this timeframe is deemed by the Labour Party’s Legal and Governance Unit’s Disputes Team to be adequate for requesting answers to letters far longer than this, I trust that will not be a problem. 

You are so right that ‘relationship breakdowns are always difficult’; perhaps therefore it might be best to avoid causing them, or to do so in ways that at least minimise the harm thereby caused. I imagine that in referring to ‘other people involved … private individuals who deserve their privacy’ you may be referring to the wife of your partner and their children? Local members would like to be assured that you have also extended an apology to them for any problems incurred by your ‘personal circumstances’? As a single mother yourself you will be acquainted with the difficulties this status can bring, and I believe you consider yourself a feminist, so I do trust you will be taking steps to ensure that your partner’s wife and children do not suffer financially as a result of his desertion? Although I do not believe anything printed in the Mail, we are under the impression that your partner is now residing in your Westminster flat, which is paid for by tax-payers, and trust that any rent revenues from your partner’s residing there will be returned to the public purse? If you are concerned about those affected by your ‘personal life,’ the Disputes Team readily supplies information regarding contacting the CAB, Samaritans, the NSPCC or 999, as it does to members while carrying out its McCarthyite surveillance and draconian purges of the party.

Apologies are always welcome of course, and it is also reassuring that you ‘look forward to being able to work with the CLP.’ Local members would be interested to know whether this implies you will now actually be attending CLP meetings? We would be grateful if you would see fit to issue further apologies for actions that may have concerned local members. As these are myriad, this list is not comprehensive. 

For aligning yourself with the right-wing organisations and individuals that continually sought to undermine Jeremy Corbyn as party leader, upholding the vested interests of the pro-Israel lobby such as the ‘Jewish Labour Movement’ which hailed you at their party conference meeting as their ‘rising star,’ for taking no stand against the appalling treatment of activists who have been lifelong anti-racists – some since before you were born – and for being pro-active in the witch hunt against these unjustly accused people who have consequently suffered enormous harm. An apology would be welcome. 

For being proactive in this reprehensible smear campaign fabricated in order to a) deflect criticism from Israel for its racist apartheid actions and b) prevent politicians who actually know about international politics and have an understanding of the Middle East situation (and therefore threaten the USA/Israel/Britain neo-liberal axis) from having any power (including the hounding of people such as lifelong anti-fascist Chris Williamson MP). For colluding with the denial of due process to people suffering these cynically-manipulated allegations of anti-semitism. For supporting the adoption of the risible IHRC definition of anti-semitism. While we’re at it, perhaps an apology from your supporters in LP south-east region, Canterbury and Whitstable CLP and elsewhere for quashing any attempts to criticise or censure you during democratic debate. 

For the contemptuous insulting of a dedicated party member who had the temerity to try to hold you to account at a meeting by telling her that she was ‘in the wrong party.’ For bringing Margaret Hodge, who has been unforgivably appalling in her behaviour, to our city to support your re-election. For taking part in the pink-washing activities of attending LGBT Pride with the pro-Israeli JLM, in particular a member who is on record as threatening Israeli military-style violence against a Black Jewish woman in our adjacent constituency. For complaining about and attempting to suppress local discussion about, and solidarity with, people who are treated unjustly by the right-wing party machinery. For re-tweeting a despicable tweet showing the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein with the caption ‘It’s over’, at the end of Jeremy’s term. For misleading claiming to support the leadership, and yet taking part in the traducing of him, I believe you owe Jeremy himself an apology. And for publicly insinuating that the party itself is institutionally anti-semitic, and smearing local CLP members with this accusation.

Perhaps we can return to the beginning of the time in which you have been parliamentary candidate and MP; you might apologise for allowing personal ambition to lead you to accept the flattery of those who placed you in post, deploying the dishonourable machinations that removed the previous candidate, without a proper selection process, who led you to believe that without any appropriate experience, knowledge, skills or qualifications you were entitled to undertake a job of such enormous and serious political responsibility. 

However, arising from these events and most importantly, I suggest there is another way in which the issue of apologising is pertinent to the issue of the Covid-19 chaos devastating our country, which goes far beyond the issue of your breaching of lockdown rules, dangerous as that was in terms of contagion. That is the bigger picture, that of the nefarious mis-governance of the country by the Conservative Party as it wreaks utter havoc. Had Labour won the election, although we would still be suffering the onslaught of the virus, we can be sure that other principles and policies would be operating, that we would not see the continued underfunding and privatisation of our NHS, the failure to provide proper equipment and wages to medical and care staff, the callous treatment of Care Home residents, the ramped-up outsourcing of vital services to private profiteers, the dangerously confusing advice, or the likes of Cummings and other cronies deliberately using this crisis opportunistically to advantage themselves. And so on. I am fairly sure we would see a decent and caring response that prioritised people’s health and safety, tried to competently roll back the Tory and New Labour destruction of public services, and did not further jeopardise our welfare. Therefore, very many fewer people would have died. 

And therefore, I am sorry to say, I believe that everyone who worked so hard to prevent a Corbyn-led government from winning the election – the Tories themselves, the right-wing media propagandists, the Israel/US lobbies, plus (and here is my relevant point in this context) the treacherous Labour MPs, officers and activists – who together ensured that even a mildly socialist government could not be elected in this country should search their consciences, and must bear and share responsibility for the current terrible situation and avoidable tragic loss of life. 

For that culpability, many people would welcome an apology. As it stands, I am unable to accept the one you have offered. 

I look forward to hearing from you with regard to these matters. 

Kind regards

Frankie

*

Subject: Please investigate
Date: 11 February 2020 at 19:24:59 GMT
To: jennie_formby@labour.org.uk
Cc: disputes@labour.org.uk

Dear Jennie Formby, and whom it may concern in the Disputes Team at the Governance and Legal Unit,

Although of course I understand that you are currently very busy, and am reluctant to add to your workload of complaints, I hope you will be able to find the time to deal with my query.

I have been at a loss as to why I have not yet been contacted by yourselves to inform me that I am under investigation, suspended or expelled from the Labour Party, as so many other members have been. I feel it is unfair that I appear to have been singled out in this way. After all, if an injury to one is an injury to all, as our tradition has it, I am uncomfortable with being unable to be shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with comrades who have been dealt with thus.

I am aware, as you will be, that the way they have been treated has caused distress to many people who have been loyal party members. As many of these people are known by me to be outstanding, life-long activists dedicated to their work for social justice and equality in anti-racist, feminist and socialist movements, I wondered if I had been left out because I am not deemed worthy of joining their ranks.

However, I realise now that the situation is my fault entirely, for being so remiss as not to have a social media account. This failure on my part means of course that I have not provided data on Facebook or Twitter pages to be trawled through by the surveillance mechanisms of bots/algorithms/hasbara operatives searching for evidence of members’ political activities or beliefs in order to discredit them.

To remedy this oversight, I therefore wish to refer myself to the relevant departments and would like to make the case for my inclusion in the McCarthyite witch hunt against socialists, Corbyn-supporters and upholders of Palestinian human rights. I am sure I must qualify under the criteria which appear to be being applied.

E.g., I have been a supporter of, and organiser in, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign for twenty years, prior to which I had little knowledge of the true situation suffered by the Palestinian people despite having been opposed to colonialism and apartheid since the 1960s. This ignorance I came to understand as shared by many in the West, due to the hegemony of the official Zionist narrative misinforming us regarding the history of the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe) leading to the supplanting of historical Palestine by the state of Israel. It was information transmitted from Palestine that woke me up: the ongoing historical injustice and daily, never-ending incidents of cruel, gratuitous, sadistic brutality, attacks, demolitions, torture, arrests, imprisonments, land grabs, humiliations and abuses which are not reported here, and which turned me into one of the many who joined the ranks of campaigners, fuelled by outrage and moved by the courage of Palestinian resistance.

Clearly, the state of Israel and its allies were disinclined to allow such educational information to continue to inform public opinion, as it led to growing global solidarity and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. Israeli efforts to silence critics have culminated in the ludicrous attempt to make criticism of Israel synonymous with anti-semitism and a campaign of smear tactics and false accusations which has grown to absurd proportions. As a result we see trumped-up complaints about Labour Party members leading to the suspensions or expulsions I have referred to. I am aware, as you will be, that this has caused distress to many people who have been loyal party members. I joined the party because like many others who have been involved in various socialist, anti-racist and Women’s Liberation politics I hoped to contribute to it because of the chance of it becoming, in accord with Jeremy Corbyn’s principles, what it says on the tin, or on our membership cards: a ‘democratic socialist party.’ However, what we have witnessed has been authoritarian, undemocratic attempts to expel socialists!

Great disillusionment was felt in my own constituency when there was no democratic selection of a parliamentary candidate and one was installed in dubious circumstances who, once elected, immediately revealed her allegiances to be with the worst rightwing, anti-Corbyn, Blairite pro-Israeli forces. Proactive in the disgraceful smear campaign against members and other MPs who are life-long anti-racists, she counts as her friends those determined to undermine Corbyn and supports summarily purging from the party anyone accused of anti-semitism. Of course, any negative feedback towards her is because she is a woman, not because of any dishonourable stance, unaccountability, incompetence or inability – a defence which provides a perfect example of the misuse of feminism and the usefulness of identity politics (i.e., all identity, no politics.)

I have watched as the interests represented by such MPs continue to press for the draconian purging of the party to continue and for due process to be withheld from those unfairly accused. I am bringing myself to your attention now to rectify the oversight that has left me out of this process and therefore wish to inform you that I wholeheartedly support the Palestinians’ right to their ancestral homeland, the upholding of international law and UN resolutions which affirm their human rights including the Right of Return and call for an end to Israeli occupation, an end to Britain’s military cooperation with and sale of weapons of mass destruction to the racist state of Israel and the call for a boycott of Israel as a non-violent means of pressuring it to cease its lawlessness. Additionally, I reject the IHRA definition of anti-semitism and the risible ten commandments of the Board of Deputies and reject the interference in British politics of such self-appointed hubristic religious bodies, the Israeli embassy and the ‘Jewish Labour Movement’, all of which are unscrupulous and callous in their defence of Israeli vested interests. I support the call for restoration of membership and issuing of apologies to those unjustly accused and wrongly treated, including Jackie Walker, Chris Williamson, Marc Wadsworth, Jo Bird and myriad others.

I trust these facts will allow you to view my application favourably and I await your reply. I hate to quibble but it seems unfair that my partner, who has been involved in anti-racist activism and women’s and LGBT rights for over 50 years, been a Trade Union leader and was a founder of the PSC, received a Notice of Investigation from you in October. This alleged a breach of Labour Party rules (though not specifying any actual charges), via two letters totalling 42 pages, comprising 89 questions pertaining to 25 pieces of ‘evidence’ (social media posts), with the demand for a response within 7 days. These letters included the helpful information that support – presumably needed in response to this notice – could be accessed by contacting the Samaritans.

Although not tempted by this possibility myself, I’m sure you will understand my feelings of exclusion as the days went by and I received no post from you. I trust the situation has now been rectified and I have provided sufficient information to warrant my inclusion among those demonised for holding similar beliefs. Of course, some may feel that time dignifying such Kafaesque absurdities with a response could be better spent, while others doubt the worth of staying in a political party which engages in such appalling procedures, or trying to resist those who would move it rightward. I can only assure you that, whether or not I remain a Labour Party member, I shall, like those who have been unfairly accused, continue to oppose all forms of racism and all other injustice, to the very best of my ability.

*

2nd March, 2020

Dear Jennie Formby,

 Thank you for your auto response to my letter of 11/2/20 and the helpful link therein, kindly providing access to the procedure for making an official complaint. 

 I am reassured to read that ‘the party provides a place where members feel comfortable to engage in political activity and debate in a welcoming environment. Fairness is at the heart of everything we do in the Labour Party …’

 Using the menu of categories provided for ‘kind of complaint’ I chose ‘uncomradely behaviour’ to send you my first letter, and am doing so again, though others provided would have also served. ‘Bullying, intimidation or harassment’, or ‘data protection breach’ or ‘defamation/libel’ perhaps. So many types, so little time. (‘Campaigning against the Labour Party’ also caught my eye, given the way my MP has cast aspersions upon the party, its leader and her constituency members, but that’s another story, perhaps.) 

 The online complaint form itself interests me. Impressively, the party seems to have perfected a quick and easy procedure enabling people, whether members or not, to weaponise cyber-surveillance of other people requiring minimal technological skills, which provides a most welcome change from the elaborate and time-consuming digital manoeuvres required by many other websites. What a relief to find that one can simply make complaints in a straightforward manner, and ‘regarding a post on social media,’ attach images or ‘provide URL to the post in question.’ And the genius of it is, it can be done anonymously should the complainant wish! The surveillance thereby facilitated can be done by anyone, and any malicious motivations, sinister acquisition of data via doxing or vexatious intentions are completely concealed. No hint that this might be considered questionable is given, thus no doubt need arise about the normalising of this behaviour. 

 This then is the process which is an integral cog in the machine that has led to many party members receiving letters alleging misconduct and breach of rules, making accusations of racism, and informing them of suspension or expulsion. Such correspondence is couched in the callous, mechanical and impersonal style we have come to associate with institutions such as the Home Office, or the DWP and its PIP assessors, and other causes of stress-related mental and physical illness, and even death. This of course comes as no surprise to those who have long regarded the Party as one of the institutions of the state which it would be naïve to imagine being any different (full disclosure: I have been among them, disdaining the party as a part of the system and preferring more radical areas of activism. A position to which I shall return, after experiencing both the hope and disillusionment of the last few years.)

 As Shoshana Zuboff has elucidated, ‘surveillance capitalism is an assault on human autonomy.’ Although it may surprise some to find a ‘democratic socialist party’ carrying out this form of capitalist extractivism – and some cognitive dissonance may be experienced, given that the harvesting of personal data is now a major feature of capitalist exploitation – others have already found that autonomy does not seem to be a requisite quality for members, who are readily dispatched as campaign fodder to carry out leafleting, running stalls, etc, but are penalised for independent critical thinking or taking initiative in their political work e.g. expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people suffering ruthless Israeli atrocities.  

 I expect you will be aware of the recent tragic loss of Pauline Hammerton, a party member from Manchester, who died shortly after receiving a letter informing her of her suspension. Other people have also died, become seriously ill and depressed. I wonder if this has given Party operatives pause, as they continue rummaging through people’s social media accounts?

 I expect they will not stop at this form of internal exile – for it must be experienced as such by those who have dedicated themselves to the party and for whom it is their political home – and they are perhaps considering other methods of removing dissidents even more effectively. For example, charter flights can be booked easily to effect deportations; this may obviate the nuisance of dealing with appeals and remove those deemed troublemakers. If you are considering this modest proposal, may I say that I myself await the effects of my own political viewpoints falling foul of official inquisitors, and might welcome the opportunity to live elsewhere than under Tory rule with an rightwing, pusillaminous Labour Party in opposition which, e.g., bows to the risible demands of the BoD to endorse pledges (is not Party policy made democratically by members and conference, not by arbitrary, hubristic, self-appointed external bodies?) and deploys Orwellian methods of dubious legality to unscrupulously target and intimidate its own members.

 But I digress. I am still awaiting a response to my self-referral to your Governance and Legal Unit. This is disappointing as another member of my household has now received a Formal Warning, again in mind-numbing quasi-legalese, a language combining the coldness of the DWP and the authoritarian reprimanding tone of an old-school headteacher ordering a pupil to stand in the corner. I therefore continue to wonder at my exclusion from your disciplinary process and look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. 

Yours for a free Palestine and against Zionist colonialism! In socialist, feminist solidarity with the oppressed women, children and men of Palestine cruelly dispossessed of their ancestral homeland, and for justice, human rights and peace for all.

*

October 19 2019

I am sick to my stomach after reading Rosie Duffield’s interview in the Times. (Someone showed it to me; I wouldn’t buy a Murdoch paper.) Here is what has made me most sickened and choking with rage: the colour illustration of Ms Duffield with Ella Rose of the ‘Jewish Labour Movement’ at London Pride. 

I helped organise the first Pride march in London, first in the UK I believe, as a member of the Gay Liberation Front in 1972. It was a protest against oppression. GLF was in solidarity with those resisting South African apartheid e.g., and we were one of the grassroots organisations springing up in the context of worldwide mass movements for radical change, decolonisation and liberation: the Women’s Liberation Movement, civil rights, Black power, etc.

I have written before about the betrayal and co-option of gay rights/lgbt+ campaigns by liberal, assimiliationist and equality-orientated people who have taken it far from its radical, anti-racist roots. The attempts by brutal, racist and rightwing regimes to use pinkwashing to hijack our struggles to camouflage their crimes against humanity. Israel being the worst offender. https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/06/15/comment-letting-ukip-march-at-pride-would-be-an-affront-to-our-history/

Never did I imagine that I would see a photo such as this over nearly 50 years later or, even worse, that I could have voted for an MP who would appear in it. 

it has been dismaying for many people to witness that, from the outset, Rosie Duffield aligned herself with people and groups supportive of Israel and Israeli vested interests, showing little if any understanding of the political situation and history of the Middle East. She has been useful to them from the start; she may have already adhered to their ideology when elected or became influenced subsequently, having been identified as a malleable person susceptible to flattery and greeted welcomingly by Joan Ryan, Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, on entering parliament. It is not possible to make sense of the anti-semitism furore without an understanding the background causes:  the politics of Israel and its actions, Israeli influence on British politics including within the LP and the desperate attempts to neutralise the burgeoning international solidarity movement and BDS campaign.

Rosie Duffield has been proactive in the smear campaign manufactured in order to deflect criticism from Israel and prevent politicians who actually know about international politics and have an understanding of the Palestinian situation (and therefore threaten the USA/Israel/Britain neo-liberal axis) from having any power (Jeremy Corbyn, Hugh Lanning, etc) or deligitimising or removing them from positions. She has taken part in the hounding of people such as lifelong anti-fascist Chris Williamson MP, in the fabricated nonsensical furore about anti-semitism in the LP whereby people have been denied proper due process to defend themselves against allegations. Despite purporting to support Corbyn, she has worked with those attempting to undermine him, e.g. the JLM (https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/jewish-labour-movement-was-refounded-fight-corbyn) attending rallies to whip up the crisis, describing Ella Rose and Luciana Berger as her friends. Ella Rose is of course the JLM woman who worked for the Israeli embassy and was filmed on the al-Jazeera documentary The Lobby about Israeli influence on British politics boasting she could ‘take’ Jackie Walker using an Israeli military combat technique, telling people to unfriend her if they were supporters of Chris Williamson, supporting the adoption of the risible IHRC definition of anti-semitism, being hailed at the party conference JLM meeting as their ‘rising star,’ agreeing that the LP is probably institutionally, and accusing local activists of being, anti-Semitic … ‘liking’ Louise Ellman’s resignation letter this week. Ms Duffield garnered support for her recent speech in the Commons about experiencing coercive control, ostensibly an action in support of feminism.

I’m sorry, but you cannot be a feminist and a zionist. If feminism is to mean anything it must be committed to anti-racism, standing against colonial dispossession, ethnic ‘cleansing’ and racial supremacy. A feminist acts in solidarity with the oppressed; she cannot support an apartheid regime: that would be ludicrous – unless feminism is understood as being about just benefitting the status of an elite few, which is a travesty. 

Still, after all this, some people have still felt they could hold their nose and vote for her in a forthcoming election. Such is their commitment to achieving a socialist government which will attempt to end or even ameliorate the suffering caused by neo-liberal austerity, the homelessness, poverty, insecurity, racism and xenophobia, privatisation of the NHS and defunding of our public services. I respect them, but if she is the candidate in this constituency I will not be among them.

We deserve to be represented by an MP we can trust to uphold principles of justice, in a two-way relationship of respect, who will represent us and not the interests of the Israeli lobby and others working against Jeremy Corbyn. 

*

24 November 2017 – letter to MP

Dear Rosie Duffield,

Thank you very much for your response to my email about Palestine. I greatly appreciate your reiteration of your belief in the importance of upholding human rights and your recognition of the terrible suffering of the Palestinians.

I completely understand that you are very busy and MPs’ time is pressured, but was sorry to hear that you felt unable to meet constituents last week to discuss these issues. Despite it being budget day, over 60 MPs, including Jeremy, met with hundreds of their constituents on the day of the lobby and attended the packed meeting to discuss Israel’s imprisonment and merciless ill-treatment of Palestinian children. I am really glad that you are concerned about the issue of these child prisoners and I hope you will therefore show your support by adding your signature to EDM 563 and supporting calls for a parliamentary debate on this abuse.

I would like to thank you also for David Muller’s reply on your behalf to my previous email regarding the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, in which he set out your views on the situation. 

I am sorry to have to say that these beliefs, if they are indeed held by you, are rather worrying. It is disappointing and somewhat baffling to find that our MP has been inadequately briefed and badly-informed. This is surprising given quite a high level of awareness in this constituency as to the truth of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and active campaigning by local people, e.g. successfully working against Canterbury City Council’s awarding of contracts to a firm profiting from Israel’s brutal military colonization [Veolia], and there are of course Palestinians amongst the university students supportive of Labour during the recent general election. 

To state that ‘it is right to commemorate this historic anniversary and to recognize the relationship that we have with the state of Israel’ seems odd, given that the declaration is a source of shame to many people, who know it as one of British imperialism’s most egregious acts, which paved the way for the catastrophic dispossession and ethnic ‘cleansing’ of the indigenous people of Palestine, and the ongoing cruel persecution they suffer daily. To have facilitated the supplanting of historic Palestine by the creation of state of Israel is not something that can be given a gloss in any positive way whatsoever. The British state should apologise for Balfour – not legitimise it. Britain bears responsibility for the suffering of millions of people, and its relationship with Israel continues as one of complicity, cynical self-interest and the trade in lethal weaponry and militarised population control, technology it exchanges globally with other oppressive regimes. The recent undercover documentary ‘The Lobby’ http://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/thelobby/  exposed the pernicious and far-reaching influence in Britain’s politics of Israel and its lobbyists, many of whom work cynically within political parties here, which should also be a source of outrage.  

I suggest a fundamental question must be addressed when considering Balfour: on what authority did Britain arrogate to itself the entitlement to make such a declaration? It was a manifestation of the same racist imperial hubris shown in its continued support for Israel’s subjugation of an entire people. 

Clearly, as David said, ‘The legacy of Balfour reminds us that the words and actions of politicians can make a difference.’ In this case, words have resulted in appalling consequences, with Israel inflicting an endless stream of atrocities upon the Palestinians. To help right these wrongs, it is incumbent on political representatives and citizens to have knowledge, both historical and current, of these issues. Only a few minutes of watching easily-available video footage is sufficient to make one aware of the actions of Israel today and every day: soldiers seizing, beating and imprisoning children; invasions of land by armed settlers with military protection brutally attacking civilians, the burning and razing of olive groves as part of the systematic destruction of the Palestinian agriculture and economy; the demolition of homes; the forced evictions of people from their homes to be taken over by settlers; the spraying of communities and pollution of land with sewage, etc. 

Israel evades prosecution for war crimes with impunity. In this context it is nonsensical to perpetuate the false notion of equivalence between ‘two sides’ who are responsible for blocking peace, and, while calling for ‘an end to the blockade, occupation and settlement construction,’ resurrect the spectre o‘terror attacks’. Israel is a state founded on terrorism, from catastrophic events such as the Irgun’s 1946 lethal bombing of British HQ at the King David hotel to today’s ongoing colonisation and apartheid, the callous use of Gaza’s trapped civilians for target practice and the shooting at fishermen in their boats, etc. In terms of terrorism, the villages of the West Bank are routinely invaded and traumatised day and night by Israeli soldiers. Palestinians’ steadfast commitment to non-violent protest is met with lethal military force and rarely mentioned in the West, which prefers to perpetuate the notion of them as terrorists – the list is endless and quickly reveals the arbitrary use of gratuitous violence which Israel gets away, terrorising the Palestinian people as a matter of course. Britain’s collusion is a disgrace. Strong international pressure, including sanctions, needs to be brought to bear on Israel to cease its lawless behaviour and observe international law.

The concern you have shown for refugees is greatly appreciated by many people. The plight of the Rohingya people has rightly invoked international outrage. Yet Palestinians have similarly been subjected to inhuman, racist treatment for seventy years. The Palestinians comprise one of the world’s largest refugee populations, as a consequence of their forced expulsion from their ancestral homeland. Millions of refugees entitled to return should be accorded their rights under international law and UN resolutions, which Israel ignores.

I know many people sincerely believe in a two-state solution, albeit that a cursory look at the map reveals that ‘a viable state of Palestine’ has been rendered impossible by Israel’s land theft, particularly as Israel has refused to define its borders and clearly has no intention of ever allowing a Palestinian state to exist, stealing for itself more and more territory. I hope you will feel able to consider such issues and support all attempts by politicians, parliament and civil society to bring justice for the people of Palestine.

Thank you again for your time.

*

January 2019
Dear Labour South East,
It has come to my attention that a motion that was to be submitted to Canterbury and Whitstable CLP, following its acceptance by a large majority at the Whitstable branch meeting of 5 January, has been ruled out of order by Labour South East and deemed to be outside the remit of the CLP.
The motion expressed support for the South Thanet Parliamentary Candidate, Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, who was democratically selected as their PPC, has subsequently been treated unfairly in being removed by the Labour Party NEC and then denied an appeal against the injustice of this. Is it not ironic that concern about this has incurred another act of patronising, undemocratic and authoritarian suppression?
The NEC failure to endorse Rebecca when she had worked tirelessly for months since selection is indicative of the sense of entitlement inherent in the vertical power structures which are holding back the party from realising its democratic potential and alienating, baffling and outraging many members. Other branches in the country have passed similar motions, members having been similarly appalled at unacceptable treatment of Rebecca by members of the NEC.
I do not know Rebecca but attended a meeting last year, which she addressed. She is clearly an outstanding candidate: knowledgeable, hard-working, experienced and dedicated.
I appreciate that the NEC and other officials in the party hierarchy are not always happy with decisions made by members, but the lack of transparency and accountability, and use of bureaucratic procedures – such as insisting that individual disciplinary cases are confidential matters for the NEC and not a fit subject for CLP business meetings – gives grave concern to many members who take seriously the statement on their membership cards that the Labour Party is ‘a democratic socialist party’.
To express solidarity with those on the receiving end of injustice, be it locally, in neighbouring constituencies, nationally or internationally is a cornerstone of socialism. I suggest that to attempt to pre-empt such a basic principle of human decency is what actually brings a party into disrepute.
As this is the latest in a series of incidents locally in which members have found their attempts to raise issues regarding the treatment of activists (who appear to have in common an understanding of the true nature of the racist oppression of the Palestinian people, a desire to right the wrongs perpetrated against them and an espousal of pro-Corbyn political principles) quashed, it is self-evident that there is a need for these to be investigated fairly and impartially, with a view to rules being changed if they are obstructive to justice.
Since joining the party I have observed that Canterbury and Whitstable LP members have been expected to tolerate a number of unacceptable events or decisions. These include the insult of being told highhandedly whom we may or may not hear speak at, or invite to, meetings (perhaps invitees must be banned, as we cannot be trusted to form our own opinions? Or perhaps we are children deemed in need of protection?); an apparent preference for collusion with cynically-manipulated allegations of anti-semitism deployed to protect the vested interests of the Israel lobby and its allies over fulfilling a remit to educate people about the dispossession of the Palestinian people; absurdities such as a Canterbury meeting at which an invited speaker from Jewish Voice for Labour gave an excoriating analysis of that manufactured controversy only to be undermined by a quashing of members’ attempt to censure R Duffield for supporting the lobby responsible for this dishonourable practice; the insinuation that those of us who prefer the right of due process to witch-hunts for those who have been expelled or suspended are ourselves anti-semitic; the replacement of a politically experienced, eminently capable PPC by our current MP; a subsequent refusal to countenance concerns about her actions or deal properly with attempts to censure her for actions which throw into question her political understanding or allegiances – to name some of the problems that have arisen.
A reasonable inference is that the right-wing would prefer to exert control over compliant members who will fall in line with orders and carry out the more menial tasks required by the boss class – (oh, wait, that sounds familiar …)
Perhaps all involved would do well to adopt the CLPD Executive statement, adopted unanimously at May 2018 EC meeting, with some 35 EC members in attendance: ‘All party rules, codes of conduct, enforcement and disciplinary bodies acting against individuals and local parties must be accountable, and consistent with legal due process: natural justice, proportionality, presumption of innocence, fact-based verified evidence, transparency, reasonable time-scales and right of appeal, modelled on common law, Human Rights Law, and proposals of the Chakrabarti report. All individuals, whatever their standing in the party, must receive equal treatment. We call for guidelines and standards along these lines to be adopted by our Party.‘
The impression given by some MPs and party officials is that they would actually prefer not to see electoral success for the party were it to be achieved by real socialists in a Corbyn-led government. Given the important local elections in May, and the Tory disarray, I’m sure there will be plenty else to prioritise and discuss amongst yourselves if you are to defeat the neoliberal capitalist system and the cruelty of austerity that is laying waste our country. To which end I suggest you support the party leadership to achieve a Labour government, and stop colluding with the smear tactics deployed against activists with integrity such as Rebecca who are working to transform our society for the better.
Could you please inform your colleagues at SE Region of the unacceptability of its current stance, and write to those who contacted you, and those who submitted the motion to Canterbury Branch, withdrawing and apologising for your comments.

*

July 2018

Dear Canterbury and Whitstable Labour Party committee members and activists,

I was surprised to find an event I attended at Whitstable Labour Club on Monday has been perceived as controversial by some in the local Labour Party, and even treated as being so problematic that it should not have happened. This seems to me so absurd it would be funny were the issues involved not so serious. Having seen Jackie Walker’s one-woman show twice and found it moving, interesting and important, as did others in the audience, I consider it a great shame that these critics didn’t take the opportunity to come along to engage in open discussion and find out the truth.

Clearly Jackie Walker has been the target of a sustained vicious smear campaign, threats and false accusations by an alliance of right-wing media, the Labour Party right and the pro-Israel lobby. This must have been as harrowing as it is insulting. Yet she continues to deal with it with dignity and honesty, answering all accusations flung at her, as her show makes clear.

Anyone who has not yet seen ‘The Lobby’, Al-Jazeera’s three-part investigation into the extent of Israel’s pernicious influence on and interference in British politics, and the lack of compunction with which organisations such as the Israeli embassy, the Labour Friends of Israel and the JLM deploy undemocratic methods against human rights defenders, should do so in order to understand the context in which this is happening. Despite this report’s vindication of Jackie, the campaign against her continues unabated. http://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/thelobby/

With no qualms whatsoever about trying to discredit and silence supporters of Palestine, in their attempts to defend the indefensible Israel’s apologists can only come up with accusations of anti-semitism. As Norman Finkelstein describes in his book ‘Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History’, Israel’s supporters are experts in contrived controversy – whenever Israel is under pressure to stop its persecution of Palestinians, another alleged outbreak of anti-semitism requires the mounting of an egregious campaign. This diverts attention away from Israel’s ongoing atrocities. The success of this malicious red herring tactic is all too obvious. Jackie and others who support the Palestinian quest for justice have felt the brunt of this; their words are cynically distorted and misrepresented. 

I am not in a position to know whether people in the local LP who object to the performance of Jackie’s play at the Labour Club are unwitting participants in this process or amongst those deliberately perpetuating such contrived controversy and untruths. One can only hope the former is the case.

It is a shame that it is necessary to continue to affirm that activists do not oppose the oppression of Palestinians because it is perpetrated in the name of Jewish people; we oppose it because it is oppression. As a Palestinian woman who attended Jackie’s show said during the Q & A session, the Palestinians greatly need support from progressive people outside Palestine in their struggle for human rights, the end to illegal occupation and apartheid and the torment they face daily. As international solidarity has grown, the truth of Palestinian dispossession known more widely, and the non-violent tactics of Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions take effect, so the backlash from the state of Israel has been ramped up. Malicious smear campaigns, and the attempt to conflate anti-zionism with anti-semitism, are part of this. Rather than the actual injustices of the past 100 years since the infamous Balfour Declaration and the 70 years since the Nakba or catastrophe being addressed, this disgraceful situation continues.

For some people who joined the Labour Party recently it has been disappointing to witness the response of the local branch to this smear campaign. Rather than taking a strong stand and seeking to understand the truth of the situation, the prevailing attitude appears as a pusillaminous failure to take any action (to the best of my knowledge) other than a letter to the NEC about the suspension of pro-Corbyn members such as Jackie. Attempts by concerned members to hold open debate on the issues or discuss the possibility of passing motions of solidarity were quashed by officers, and instead a ineffectual informal meeting was held, which couldn’t even agree to send an informal message of support to Jackie.

Thanet is our neighbouring constituency, in which lifelong anti-racist activists such as Jackie have fought tirelessly against UKIP and Farage. The lack of solidarity with her is shocking. E.g., networking with women and women’s groups in adjacent areas is part of the Women’s Officer’s remit, yet has not been in evidence. Rather than acting on the principle that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all,’ a basic tenet of the Labour Movement, with the honourable exception of some individuals it felt like the branch has turned its back on Jackie, leaving her defence to comrades nationally and international figures such as Noam Chomsky! It would be encouraging if Labour Party representatives shared the sense of shame and outrage many members feel over this. 

Instead, people appear anxious to disassociate themselves and unwilling to allow open debate. Although, ironically, people who have caused a stir over this have themselves brought it to public attention, there have even been fears expressed that Jackie’s show at the Labour Club may somehow harm the new MP. Apart from the issues of suppression of debate and censorship of political theatre this raises, this shows a strange naivete. If the right wing media and/or the Israel lobby wants to smear anyone, it will. It doesn’t matter how nice you are, how inoffensive or amenable you appear, how carefully you play the game, you will be lied about and falsely accused if it suits their purposes. As Chomsky made clear in the classic ‘Manufacturing Dissent’, the purpose of the media in a capitalist system is to obscure the workings of capitalism. Anyone on the left knows this. Anyone who remembers or knows about the McCarthy era should be extremely sceptical about witch-hunts, not be cowed or worried about guilt by association. Elected Labour representatives need to be able to withstand the way this nonsense is deployed. It would be a source of pride to many constituents if attempts to gag activists were challenged rather than colluded with, and an understanding of the need to uphold the basic socialist principle of solidarity was demonstrated. It is to be hoped that this will happen; it would be so much more positive if ways were found to support one another to resist campaigns of untruth which seek to divide us, rather than granting them credibility. 

It would be good to feel confident in the hope that this could all be discussed in an informed, democratic and open way. 

Yours sincerely, in the spirit of freedom of debate

Frankie

*

15 December 2016proposed informal message of solidarity, not accepted:

Members of Canterbury and Whitstable Labour Party present at a special meeting at Whitstable Labour Club on 15 December, 2016, to discuss recent suspensions and expulsions from the party, affirm our solidarity with South Thanet Labour Party Executive Committee Vice Chair Jacqueline Walker, and call for her suspension from the Party to be lifted immediately and for her reinstatement.  We send a message of sympathy to all members who have been affected by being likewise summarily suspended or expelled, and affirm their right to a fair hearing and due process, and deplore the failure to defend Ms Walker in the face of a sustained campaign of harassment.

We note that many prominent Black activists have been subjected to this purge. Such action defeats the Party’s stated aim of encouraging under-represented groups to be active in the Party. Black and Ethnic Minority people cannot be expected to feel welcome in the Party when they see such unjust treatment meted out and the attempt to silence legitimate criticism of Israeli racism – which should never be misleadingly conflated with anti-semitism, which is as abhorrent and unacceptable as any other form of racism. We stand in agreement with Noam Chomsky’s statement “I wholeheartedly support anyone’s right to criticise Israeli policies without being branded anti-Semitic. That holds in particular for Jacqueline Walker.”

We support implementation of recommendations made in the Chakrabarti Inquiry Report regarding the importance of improving the Labour Party’s disciplinary process and providing clear and transparent procedures for dealing with allegations of wrong-doing and the use of procedural rules to govern the determination of disciplinary matters. 

We furthermore deplore the use of smear tactics and unfounded allegations used by those attempting to undermine the Party leadership and its supporters, and express our hope that LP branches will uphold the principle of solidarity fundamental to Labour values.