Awks for Steve Reed OBE.
The Progress MP for Lambeth South/Croydon North sent a message of support to his Blairite colleague Ruth Smeeth six weeks ago, as the Labour Party decided to suspend anti-racism campaigner Marc Wadsworth, one of his own constituents.
Last Thursday, Reed didn’t bother to show up at his constituency party meeting. In his absence, the CLP membership – including several Labour councillors – voted overwhelmingly to call for the immediate reinstatement of Wadsworth.
Reed, the former vice-chair of the right-wing Progress party-within-a-party, had tweeted his backing for Ruth Smeeth, the Labour MP whose complaint of anti-semitism against Wadsworth had initiated the suspension.
After a two-year wait for his disciplinary hearing, Wadsworth was expelled by Labour at the end of April for “bringing the party into disrepute”, with no mention of any anti-semitic offence.
Interestingly, after two years, Smeeth has removed from her website the original article which alleged that she had been abused in an anti-semitic manner – a claim for which there has never been any evidence. In that original article, dated June 30, 2016, Smeeth was quoted as saying that she had been “verbally attacked by a Momentum activist and Jeremy Corbyn supporter who used traditional antisemitic slurs to attack me for being part of a ‘media conspiracy'”.
Except that video recordings clearly show that no such slurs were ever spoken, and the phrase “media conspiracy” was never said. It is almost as if Smeeth and her supporters had invented the “attack” in an effort to further undermine the party leader.
The incident where the bogus offence was taken had occurred at the launch of Shami Chakrabarti’s report into … anti-semitism and racism in the Labour Party.
At that meeting, Wadsworth admits that he challenged Smeeth for working “hand in glove” with a reporter from the Daily Torygraph as part of an on-going campaign by the right of the party to unseat Corbyn.
The motion at Croydon North CLP to overturn Wadsworth’s expulsion was proposed and seconded by the branch secretaries of Bensham Manor and South Norwood wards – Peter Durrans and Peter Cambridge. Wadsworth lives in Bensham Manor, a ward whose councillors include the Blairite deputy leader of the council, Alison Butler.
At the meeting, no one spoke against the motion, and there was but a single vote against it.
Clive Fraser, recently elected as a councillor for South Norwood, who chaired Thursday’s CLP meeting, spoke in favour of Wadsworth. Fraser, who gave evidence in support of Wadsworth at the disciplinary hearing, described that hearing as biased.
The disciplinary panel which ruled on Wadsworth’s case was chaired by Maggie Cosin, a sometime member of Progress who, together with Smeeth, spoke at the first conference of Labour First, another right-wing party-within-the-party which opposes Corbyn’s as the democratically elected leader of the party.
Wadsworth’s expulsion has been heavily criticised, including by MPs Chris Williamson, Keith Vaz, Clive Lewis and leading Labour Jewish members, all of whom gave evidence to support him at the two-day disciplinary hearing. Williamson described the decision as “perverse” and “predetermined” by the anti-Corbyn Labour right-wing who dominated the all-white three-member panel that sat in judgement on the veteran black activist.
“I’m over the moon my party has opposed the miscarriage of justice I’ve suffered and supported me so wholeheartedly,” Wadsworth told Inside Croydon.
“This brings to more than a dozen that we know about the number of constituency Labour parties around the country that have demanded my reinstatement.
“I want to give my sincere gratitude to the tireless work of the activists who have made this possible.”
Wadsworth has just completed a successful eight-city #Justice4Marc national speaking tour, supported by Grassroots Black Left, Jewish Voice for Labour and the Labour Representation Committee, whose president is shadow chancellor John McDonnell MP.
The last event was a packed meeting in Manchester, also addressed by Williamson.
Four lawyers, including a top QC, have worked on the 12-page detailed letter sent on Wadsworth’s behalf to Labour calling on the party to “set aside” his expulsion to avoid a High Court battle that he hopes can be avoided.
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