Another victim of the witch hunt
Jackie Walker was expelled by a supposedly ‘leftwing’ panel, notes Carla Roberts
After a suspension that has lasted over two and a half years, Jackie Walker has finally been expelled from the Labour Party by its disciplinary body, the national constitutional committee (which richly deserves its alternative description of ‘national kangaroo court’). Although the panel took two days to come to its conclusion, the result was as predictable as it was unjust.
The leadership of the Labour Party should hang its head in shame over Jackie’s treatment. By not clearing her (and not clearing her much, much sooner), it has allowed her to be dragged through the mud and be insulted as an anti-Semite and racist on a daily basis. By standing idly by while rightwing rags like the Jewish Chronicle and the Daily Mail have heaped lie after lie onto Jackie, it has also prevented her from receiving any kind of fair hearing (tellingly, the Jewish Chronicle was informed of the NCC verdict before her solicitors). It was impossible for anybody not to become prejudiced in such a drawn-out and publicly fought campaign.
Just three days before the beginning of her hearing, Margaret Hodge MP clearly outlined what was at stake. In an inflammatory Daily Mail article, referring to comrade Walker as “John McDonnell’s ‘anti-Semitic’ ally”, Hodge is quoted as saying: “It’s extraordinary that it has taken so long to bring her to an expulsion hearing. Tough action must be taken, but one expulsion will not solve a far deeper cultural problem that has infected the party.”1
So not only must Jackie be expelled: more will have to follow. Many more. That is the real tragedy at the heart of this whole farce, of course. Whatever Jeremy Corbyn and his allies do to appease the right, it will never be enough. They have to deliver the next scalp, and then the next. We will undoubtedly see similar demands over Chris Williamson MP.
This campaign will not and can never end … at least not until Corbyn is finally replaced. As a self-declared socialist and, crucially, an outspoken supporter of the rights of the Palestinians, he is and remains an unreliable ally from capitalism’s point of view. Painting him and his supporters as anti-Semitic has been the key weapon in this struggle. And it has been incredibly successful - because Corbyn has allowed it to be. It really beggars belief that he still will not say a public word on the injustice heaped on some of his key supporters like Chris and Jackie.
Jackie Walker never had a chance of a fair hearing. Not just because of the massive pressure from the right to get rid of this woman, who has dared to call the witch-hunt … a witch-hunt. That was, incredibly, part of her charge sheet, as was her legal challenge against the party for breaching the data protection act by leaking her personal information to the press. As she outlines in her well-written and clear public statement, highlighting some of the injustices she has experienced: “I am being charged for defending my rights.”2
The key charges centred on her now infamous comments at a training session organised by the Jewish Labour Movement at the Labour Party conference in 2016 (where she was secretly filmed, with the footage passed to the press). She details the allegations in her statement - they are so obviously weak and pathetic that it is unsurprising that the investigating officers felt the need to include all sorts of other, equally pathetic, auxiliary charges.
Her case clearly outlines some of the serious shortcomings when it comes to the procedures in the party’s disciplinary process. For example, the investigating officers added a number of charges to her case a mere three working days before the hearing, making it pretty much impossible for her to counter them effectively. Her request that she should have a chance to respond to those allegations first before they were included in the charge sheet was met with the comment: “Natural justice does not require that she also has the opportunity to respond at an investigatory stage.”
I am not a lawyer, but I would have thought that for a hearing to be properly informed the panel would need to be aware of the accused person’s initial response to last-minute charges. Giving them a fighting chance to defend themselves effectively is pretty much at the heart of the concept of ‘natural justice’.
We do also have to wonder about the party’s motives for including in the evidence pack, statements and complaints provided by people who do not just criticise Jackie - but do so clearly on a basis of racist prejudice. The investigating officers managed to redact the names of the complainants - but they left statements in the charge sheet that include intros like “[JW is] a white middle class woman with dreadlocks” and “Walker - who claims to be part-Jewish”. Even the written statement provided by the party’s only witness, Mike Katz - leading member of the pro-Zionist Jewish Labour Movement - contains the sentence: “JW uses her self-identification as a black woman and a Jew as cover to put her beyond criticism …” (my emphasis).
That is an incredibly dumb statement by the usually so eloquent Katz - not just because Jackie clearly is a black woman, who also has Jewish heritage (her mum was a black Jamaican Sephardi Jew and her dad a Russian Ashkenazi Jewish). But he also charges her with exactly what the Zionist lobby has been trying to achieve all along: to label any criticism of their views or tactics as inherently anti-Semitic and therefore illegitimate.
Talking of which, it is also interesting that the NCC clearly had trouble proving that Jackie had indeed ever said or written anything anti-Semitic. The party could not apply the disputed International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism, because the charges relate to an incident in 2016 - ie, before the national executive committee adopted it.
But, had they applied this - or any other definition of any kind - they would have failed in their attempts to successfully convict her. Clearly, she is not guilty of “hostility or prejudice against Jews” (Oxford English Dictionary) or “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic or racial group” (Merriam Webster Dictionary) and she also does not fit the bill when it comes to Brian Klug’s definition: “hostility to Jews as Jews”.
So instead it was explained that the test to be applied in Jackie’s case “does not require the NCC to engage in a debate as to the proper definition of anti-Semitism”, but rather whether an “ordinary person hearing or reading the comments might reasonably perceive them to be anti-Semitic”3 (my emphasis).
In reality, of course, this is a Zionist’s wet dream of a definition. Not surprisingly, it is also pretty close to the definition that the JLM has been fighting for - and which the NEC and Labour Party conference 2018 actually rejected.
The JLM’s efforts here are based on a misapplication of the recommendations of the MacPherson report (produced after the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993). MacPherson recommended that, when a victim or someone else perceives an attack or hate incident as racially motivated, then the police must record it as such: ie, as possibly racially motivated. Pro-Zionist organisations in and outside the Labour Party have been working hard to change this into something quite different. The JLM, for example, tried to force through a rule change at the 2018 Labour conference, which wanted a “hate incident” to be “defined as something where the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity or sexual orientation” (our emphasis).
The compromise formulation eventually adopted by the NEC (and subsequently by conference) enshrines the need for some kind of - you know - evidence: “… any incident which in their view might reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on disability, race ... ”4 Again, the party would have a hard time proving Jackie’s guilt with this definition. And in the end they decided to throw her out on charges of “misconduct” instead, and thereby also discovered a certain “pattern of behaviour” - ie, she just would not shut up! This does not bode well for Chris Williamson MP, who is also charged with a “pattern of behaviour”.
The final straw for Jackie came with the panel’s refusal to allow her to read out a “brief opening address”. The panel had to adjourn the meeting to discuss with its four lawyers and their assistants what to do about such an incredible outlandish demand. Despite announcing that this would be an “informal meeting” and that Jackie should call the NCC’s Russell Cartwright by his “first name”, it was not quite informal enough to allow her the chance to make a brief statement.
And that despite the fact that the panel looked - from the outset - like a leftwing one. Russell Cartwright is treasurer of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (we hear that some of his CLPD comrades are far from happy that he took on this role). Anna Dyer, who is actually the interim chair of the NCC, is described by the Jewish Chronicle as a “Unite union activist”. We must confess we know little about her or her politics, apart from the fact that she was elected to the NCC in 2017, thanks to a place on the so-called “left slate” put out by the Grassroots Centre Left Alliance.5 The GCLA is dominated by the CLPD and Momentum, and exists only to put forward ‘centre-left’ candidates in Labour internal elections. (‘Centre-left’ is a very stretchy term, of course. For years, the GCLA slate for the NEC featured Ann Black, who played a leading role in robbing thousands of members of a vote in the leadership elections, following the first coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn.)
Momentum owner Jon Lansman and CLPD leader Pete Willsman have recently fallen out rather spectacularly, when Lansman dumped his comrade of 40 years over ridiculous allegations of playing down anti-Semitism (what else?). Lansman has, of course, now become a fully fledged witch-hunter; Willsman is, despite those allegations against him, very mealy-mouthed when it comes to the witch-hunt. The CLPD might have put out a brief statement in support of Chris Williamson MP, but it also sent out - uncritically and without comment - the old piece of advice by general secretary Jennie Formby that has mistakenly been interpreted as a ban on Labour Party branches and Constituency Labour Parties moving motions in support of Chris. Labour Against the Witchhunt has exposed this as fake news6 - but still Pete Willsman is refusing to correct his mistake, despite being urged to do so by LAW. In other words, many - if not most - of the candidates on the various ‘left slates’ have been, at the very least, questionably leftwing.
It is therefore not a huge surprise that the Jewish Chronicle describes Anna Dyer as, in fact, a rightwinger and “having a reputation for being independent”. The paper writes that the third panellist - Alan Tate from the Communication Workers Union, who “is reported to be ‘undecided’ on the allegations” - is “likely to be the casting vote on Ms Walker’s conduct”.7
So the Jewish Chronicle placed Dyer on the right, Cartwright on the left and Tate in the centre. It is a sad testament to the politics of the GCLA that it supported somebody that even the JC thinks can be relied upon to expel Jackie Walker on baseless charges.
We are also less than impressed with the conduct of Russell Cartwright. He was on the NCC panel that back in 2017 found Ken Livingstone guilty of three charges of “bringing the party into disrepute” and decided to extend his suspension for another year. This was no doubt supposed to be some clever plan to sneak Livingstone back into the party 12 months later and to avoid his expulsion (which Rose Burley, the rightwinger on Livingstone’s NCC panel had demanded). But, of course, by then the campaign to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism had grown so massively that Livingstone had no chance. Rightwingers were furious over the impending readmission and Livingstone resigned in the face of a massive media shit-storm. Clearly, by conceding that Livingstone was guilty, the NCC panel had helped to seal his fate.
Maybe the ‘leftwingers’ on Jackie Walker’s panel would have tried something similarly ‘clever’. We will never know. Testing this out and thereby exposing the CLGA’s deeply flawed methods of supporting ‘centre-left’ candidates might have been one of the few advantages of Jackie sitting through her two-day disciplinary hearing. Some might argue that, by walking out, she let the panel and the party off the hook.
But no doubt the outcome would have been the same in any case. By exposing the total lack of natural justice at the heart of her case with a fantastic, spirited party of well over 100 people outside her hearing, she has certainly gone out with a very loud bang. We doubt this will be the last we hear of Jackie Walker …