By STEVEN DOWNES
Marc Wadsworth, the campaigning journalist and broadcaster who was expelled by the Labour Party on trumped-up charges, has been awarded with the highest honour available to his trades union, the National Union of Journalists’ gold badge.
The presentation of the award was made at a NUJ London Freelance Branch meeting last week, an event which drew a record attendance for such a meeting, a signal of the high esteem in which anti-racism campaigner Wadsworth is held by his colleagues.
Making the presentation was Labour MP Clive Lewis.
“Marc, I’ve known you since you first came up to me when I was an activist in NUS for black students. And you came to tell me: ‘You haven’t been around for very long, have you? But I can tell you the history of the black student movement and what’s been going on. And you need to listen to me because if you don’t listen to me, then you’re going to have a lot of problems’.
“Well, it’s never stopped. I’ve never stopped listening to you… and I’ve never stopped having problems. I’m not sure whether they’re connected in any way!
“I’ve known you for a long time. You’ve been a comrade for a long time. I’ve got a great deal of respect for you.
“You sometimes bang on my door very loudly. But you know what? My aunt had an expression, which is that ‘The squeaky wheel is the wheel that gets the oil’. Well, you’ve had a lot of my oil.
“And that’s good, though. Because you deserve that oil. You deserve that attention. Because you’re always busy. You’re always active. You’re always striving. And you’re always looking forward for the next campaign.
“The next way that you can educate people, the next documentary that you’re going to do, the next campaign you’re going to set up… You are a natural activist, Marc, looking through your background, your history. And I’m going to talk to the rest of the members here who may not be aware of Marc’s background. It’s a very impressive background.
“This is a well-deserved award, for someone who hasn’t just been a member for a long time: they’ve been an activist and trade unionist. And they’ve been fighting for members of the NUJ for a long time, in a variety of ways.
“I’m just going to talk a little bit about Marc’s background. Marc’s known nationally as a campaigner against racism… He’s a lifelong trade unionist with a track record at every level of the NUJ. He joined the union in 1973 as an indentured reporter on the Surrey Daily Advertiser in Guilford.
“And early on, he had a really tough story, we’re told, as a 19-year-old being one of the first on the horrific scene of the IRA Guilford bombings in October 1974… He started shifts on the national papers, including the Daily Mirror where he got to know celebrated reporters like Paul Foot and John Pilger (whom I believe was going to make the presentation tonight but he isn’t able to be with us because he’s unwell; I am a stand-in and I’m quite happy with that).
“He landed the job at BBC Radio London as a reporter on its iconic Black Londoners nightly programme. And in 1981, he went to work as a TV researcher then reporter at Thames Television – at the time, the biggest ITV station – and this is where he cut his teeth as the NUJ Father of Chapel and chair of the Joint Shop Stewards Committee, representing around 2,500 staff.
“Now, I can’t even begin to think about what representing 2,500 staff is like; that is a massive responsibility. I, as a Chapel Father, was responsible for perhaps 100 or so people. For 2,500 people… that is on a scale that I can barely imagine. That was a very powerful position. And Marc was someone who stood up for his members.
“And when those unions came out against the Conservative government, based on their attacks on Thames Television for its documentary Death on the Rock where those four unarmed IRA activists were gunned down by the SAS, he led the charge in defending his members.
“Ultimately, the government won the day. They didn’t allow Thames Television to carry on and closed it down. Many of his members lost their jobs. Marc lost his as well. He was there on the front line with his colleagues, with his members whom he represented.
“And I think you had a hard time after that, Marc. It was tough to find work. I’m not going to say you were blacklisted, but something very close to that, for your political activism – and maybe you were.
“You then went through a period working as a freelancer. You did various bits of work for the NUJ. You worked on the NUJ Race Relations Working Party. You took up the issue of the Black Section inside the Labour Party. And you have been a political activist across a very, very wide variety of issues.
“You’ve also written a book on the first black MPs in this place. You are someone who is still making documentaries. You’ve made one recently for the BBC.
“You are someone who has been on the front line, Marc: someone who has been a genuine comrade to so many people. You’ve really put yourself on the line for people. And I think the NUJ should be proud to have you and proud to have your service for all of these decades.
“So thank you very much for all you’ve done, comrade. And thank you for all you’re going to do. I’m sure your best years are in front of you.”
Wadsworth, who lives in Thornton Heath, recently featured in an Al Jazeera documentary, part of the Labour Files series, which showed how he had been scapegoated as part of the antisemitism purges conducted by the party’s right-wingers.
Accepting the award, he recalled difficulties he had experienced in the Labour Party, from which he was suspended in 2016 and wrongly expelled in 2018.
Wadsworth, who had been a member of the Croydon North Constituency Labour Party, said, “Clive Lewis was one of only three MPs that stuck their necks out and supported me during that awful time, in which I was hung out to dry and went through a terrible trial by media.
“But we’ve fought through all of that, and we’ve succeeded.”
In 2021, Wadsworth was vindicated when he won a High Court libel case against the Jewish Chronicle, with the newspaper agreeing to pay “substantial compensation” and issue an apology.
Toasting the NUJ London Freelance Branch, Wadsworth said they had “always been in the corner in the fight for justice and supported campaigns that I have attempted to further, including the Justice for Stephen Lawrence campaign, where I was able to introduce Doreen and Neville Lawrence to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu”.
Read more: #TheLabourFiles: anti-racism campaigner expelled by party
Read more: Anti-racism campaigner Wadsworth wins High Court libel case
Read more: MP calls on Corbyn to ‘come out fighting’ over Wadsworth
Read more: Wadsworth asks supporters to stop abuse of MP Steve Reed
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