Earlier this week Rupert Murdoch’s openly racist, Islamophobic newspaper The Sun ran a short story attacking Labour MP Keith Vaz for submitting a written statement that defended Marc Wadsworth from the false charges of anti-semitism. This was a rare display of political principles by right-wing Vaz.
Vaz’s statement was a formal submission to the official inquiry which wrongfully decided to expel Wadsworth on April 27. But if you were to read the short piece of fake news in The Sun (May 8) you might be mistaken for thinking that Vaz was publicly defending Wadsworth in the wake of the expulsion. In reality The Sun was simply quoting a two-month old submission that Vaz had made to the inquiry (on February 27). Since this statement Vaz has remained completely silent on ths issue.
The Sun thus misled its readers by stating:
“DISGRACED Labour MP Keith Vaz warned Labour booting out an activist for verbally abusing a Jewish backbencher would send a ‘negative message’ to black voters, it emerged today. Mr Vaz wrote a 700 word character reference backing Marc Wadsworth – thrown out of the Labour party last month for a bitter tirade against Labour MP Ruth Smeeth. His intervention came despite Labour’s disciplinary body finding Mr Wadsworth’s behaviour ‘grossly detrimental to the party’. He wrote: ‘You are probably aware, black people are our most loyal supporters and the Labour Party cannot afford to lose a single one of their votes at the polls’.”
In typical Sun fashion, the article twisted a legitimate witness statement that illustrated Marc’s longstanding commitment to fighting racism into a means of stoking racial divisions. They succeeded in doing this by making it seem like Vaz was more concerned with losing a few votes from black voters than he was about challenging anti-semitism!
Of course, not mentioned by The Sun was Vaz’s recall of the key role that Marc had played as a founder member of the Labour Party Black Selections campaign (in the 1980s). Vaz then explained:
“Marc has a long record of campaigning for the greater representation of Africans Caribbeans and Asians in the Labour Party and wider labour movement and fighting against racism in all its form.
“He has always been outspoken in his advocacy of the issues of concern to the black community but never prejudiced in terms of race, religion or any other type of bigotry.
“I was present at the launch of Shami Chakrabarti’s report about anti-semitism and racism on 30 June 2016 and recall Marc speaking about the need for the Labour Party to ‘get its house in order’ by being more representative of Africans Caribbeans and Asians, about which his organisation had made a submission to the Chakrabarti inquiry.
“After being called out as ‘a Momentum supporter distributing a leaflet’ by a Daily Telegraph reporter, Marc, as an aside, defended himself by saying he had spotted that journalist handing a press release he had given her to a Labour MP and this made it look like they were colluding against our party leader Jeremy Corbyn.”
Vaz then added “Marc’s comment was not anti-semitic and it is most unfortunate that some people may have misinterpreted it as such.” Thus, Vaz’s comments about losing votes should be seen in the context of the Labour Party potentially acting to expel a dedicated anti-racist campaign on fictitious charges which, as Vaz correctly noted, would serve to “send an extremely negative message to the black community” within the Labour movement.
On the announcement of Marc’s expulsion (on April 27) we might note that Vaz has remained silent on this critical issue for the future of democracy within the Labour Party. The same however has not been true for two other Labour MPs who also submitted evidence to the inquiry, these being Chris Williamson and Clive Lewis, who have both spoken out publicly against Marc’s wrongful expulsion. For instance, Williamson reacted by saying:
“I am astonished by the National Constitutional Committee’s (NCC) perverse determination of Marc Wadsworth’s case. It flies in the face of the evidence that was presented and offends against the principles of natural justice. The NCC’s decision has all the hallmarks of predetermination and tramples on the Labour Party’s record of standing up fairness. I will therefore continue to stand four-square behind Marc and assist him in his efforts to clear his name, and his reputation as a veteran anti-racist campaigner, which have been besmirched by this absurd NCC ruling.”
So, in an effort to promote some form of justice it would be a great step forward if some members of the Leicester Labour Party could pass the following motion that is being promoted by the Grassroots Black Left (online here) that calls for Marc’s reinstatement.
Importantly the motion explains how the “handling of Marc’s case sets an unsound and dangerous precedent for the handling of other disciplinary cases by the Labour Party through its denial of natural justice and due process.” And the motion calls upon Labour Party branches to call upon the Labour NEC to firstly, “review and overturn the decision of the NCC to expel Marc Wadsworth, and to lift his suspension of membership”; and secondly, to “speedily to implement all proposals in the Chakrabarti Report, including those that would have disciplinary cases handled with fairness and transparency to ensure natural justice.” https://labourrep.com/blog/2018/4/27/jvl-condemns-expulsion-of-black-activist-marc-wadsworth