The Labour Party has suspended David White, the secretary of the Croydon Central constituency party, following complaints over a single tweet sent a fortnight ago in defence of Ken Livingstone, after the former London Mayor’s Hitler and Zionism brain belch.
Tonight, White said, “I shall fight my suspension and work to be reinstated in the Labour Party.”
There is more than a whiff of the involvement of Progress around the suspension of a socialist who has been a Labour Party member all his adult life.
Last week, Lambeth South MP Steve Reed OBE, a deputy chair of Progress, , the Blairite party-within-a-party, seemed to suggest that something was underway when he referred to “internal disciplinary matters” in a tweet regarding White’s situation. This was long before the Croydon party official had received any notification that he was subject to such a procedure.
This is not the first time that Progress has conducted a witch-hunt against socialists in Croydon.
It was widely understood that Progress members, possibly including Labour employees, were behind the attempt to have Jeremy Corbyn’s adviser, Croydon resident Andrew Fisher, kicked out of the party over some trumped up charges suggesting disloyalty towards The Hon Emily Benn, who barely lasted two years as a Croydon councillor. The petty factionalists of Progress have also been active in barring from party membership the likes of Mark Steel, the comedian and columnist.
It seems Progress – which is staging its own, separate annual conference this weekend – is struggling to come to terms with the fate of its candidate, Liz Kendall, who accumulated a mighty 4.5per cent of the popular vote in the Labour leadership election last year to Corbyn’s 59.5 per cent.
White, 67, a retired solicitor who lives in Park Hill, has been a Labour Party member since 1970.
“My alleged offence is that I sent a tweet commenting on remarks of Ken Livingstone concerning anti-semitism,” White said in a statement tonight.
White and Livingstone are long-time colleagues, having both served together on the Greater London Council in the 1980s.
“Specifically I commented that Ken was largely factually accurate in referring to an agreement in the 1930s between the German Nazi Party and some Zionists to provide for some Jews to go to what is now Israel (the so-called Haavara agreement),” White explained in somewhat more than 140 characters.
“Immediately I sent the tweet I realised that it was unwise, whatever the historical facts, to conflate Zionism with Hitler.”
White says that he quickly deleted his ill-considered comment. But a reporter on a local newspaper had screen-grabbed the tweet and used it as the basis for an article which included the dread words “Ken Livingstone’s Hitler comments were ‘largely accurate’,” in its headline.
With London elections just over a week away, this was eagerly seized upon for political gain by local Tories. “The Tories were clearly trying to stoke the controversy about anti-semitism in the Labour Party for political purposes… Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith had been accused of conducting a racist campaign and the Tories no doubt wanted to move the spotlight away from this,” White said.
“I didn’t think for one moment that my party would heed the Tory calls for action against me.” It was six days before White received a letter, dated May 4, from John Stolliday, the head of the Labour Party’s constitutional unit, advising him of his summary suspension from the party.
“The Labour Party should review its internal procedures,” White said. “It isn’t right that people should be suspended before they have had any chance to put their case or answer accusations. I gather that there are a substantial number of people up and down the country who have been suspended as I have.”
He also said, “Anti-semitism is a terrible thing and should be forcefully opposed. I have a long history of opposing anti-semitism and other forms of racism, dating back more than 50 years. However I am very concerned about the current febrile atmosphere in which almost any comment criticising the actions of the Israeli government, or any comment about the history of Zionism, is liable to lead to accusations of anti-semitism.”
White’s suspension leaves Croydon Central CLP without its two leading officers: Bob Hewlett recently stood down as chair for personal reasons. The parliamentary seat was won last year by Tory Gavin Barwell with a much-reduced majority of 165 votes.
“David is one of kindest, most trusting of people, who has worked incredibly hard for the party for many years,” a Croydon party colleague said tonight. “He is also totally trusting, which is one of his greatest qualities, but which also makes him open to abuse.”
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