The end of February was quite an explosive time within the Parliamentary Labour ranks and over the coming weeks it’s going to get worse in the branch and constituency meetings.
Many people thought that the centrist dads would have given up the game and gone and joined the new Independent group, yet that has not proven true. The shabby press conference and vanilla attraction of the new centrist group didn’t exactly shake the foundations of the British political establishment as they had hoped it would. If anything, it gave members something different to talk about rather than the Brexit policy and why the BBC is so bias.
In the last week of February Tom Watson, Deputy Leader, decided to put himself at the forefront of the Labour Party. Initially he, later followed by many other MPs, called for Chris Williamson’s dismissal from the party. This was regarding comments that Williamson had made at a Momentum meeting saying that he believed Labour, as a party with a long history of anti-racism campaigning, had been “too apologetic” regarding anti-semitism, and that the right of the party is weaponising this issue to attack the left. Williamson has been vocal on this issue for a long time and has clearly stated that there is some antisemitism in the party, he has not denied this. Yet, he is one of the few left wing MPs to actually stand up for the Labour Party, and what it has done to combat this delicate issue.
It also came about that Williamson was planning to host a screening of a documentary called “Witch hunt” made regarding Jackie Walker’s disciplinary case which is currently being investigated by the party. It’s safe to say that the right took advantage of this issue and called for his suspension. The rumour went out on Twitter straight away that Jeremy Corbyn himself dealt with this, however this was later rebuked by the Labour press team saying that the Leader never got involved.
It’s no lie that this suspension is a huge blow to the left where Williamson is held in high regard. He is also disliked by many in the party for his controversial “Democratic Roadshow” prior to last year’s conference where he was promoting the Open selection rule change motion. Some have even questioned if the right is having one last jab at the party before the Trigger Ballot rule change comes into play.
Williamson’s suspension cut right through the heart of the left of the party as Momentum, Owen Jones, Jon Lansman and Novara media all supported Williamson’s suspension saying that the Party had to deal with accusations of antisemitism straightaway. Momentum have produced a video explaining Jewish tropes to Labour members. Many members on the other hand started the hashtag “I Stand with Chris Williamson” and some even left the Labour Party. No doubt Momentum will take a hit in the membership figures for their stance.
Following this, Tom Watson wrote to all MPs stating that all MPs should forward him complaints, stating that he would personally screen them and take charge of complaints. He was then put in his place by General Secretary Jenny Formby, who stated that this would be against Labour Party rules, and of course data, GDPR data protection laws. She then went on to explain, whilst copying in every single Labour MP and Lord, that they had appointed Lord Falconer to oversee and scrutinise the complaints procedure within the party
This is not the first time, in the same week, that Watson was put in his place by a strong woman. Sqwarkbox reported that Emily Thornbury and Dawn Butler also put him in his place when they reminded him of GDPR data protection laws. Maybe he needs a refresher course.
Watson has obviously taken up the mantle of the leader of the Centrist dads. Following Watson is groups of middle-aged centrists who think they know better than most members and claim to have common sense and be financially responsible. When it comes down to it, they really don’t like the fact that the party, that they once controlled, has now slipped out of their control. Leaving the party would be an admission of defeat and that’s why they are turning up the heat before they leave with the other centrists in the Independent group. It must be a strange feeling to not be relevant, or in charge, and not even realise it.
March and April will get hot before they leave but we need to hang in there. If the splintering off of the Independence group has anything to show, and Macron in France, it’s that centrist politics in no longer attractive in the zombie capitalist era. People won’t vote for the status quo. They want to vote for change, and we need to stay in the party to make sure there is something there for them to vote for. A strong left wing party that offers hope and an alternative to the dull reality that is centrist politics.
Maybe when all the bad eggs are gone, we can start to work together to turn a party in-waiting to a party in government. However, until that point there will always be some right wingers in the party that don’t like the fact that there is a left wing Labour Party, that is not only popular, but could also be the government to change the bourgeois politics they enjoy.
By Edward Lawrence.
Author of Why Socialism is Sexy Now