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Formby hits back at Watson in Labour antisemitism row Jennie Formby hits back at Tom Watson in Labour antisemitism row
(30 minutes later)
Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has been accused of “traducing” the party’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, while she is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has been accused of “traducing” the party’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, while she is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
Watson had written to Formby after a BBC Panorama programme on antisemitism in Labour. He asked her to publish the party’s submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which is investigating Labour over allegations.Watson had written to Formby after a BBC Panorama programme on antisemitism in Labour. He asked her to publish the party’s submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which is investigating Labour over allegations.
Watson also raised claims she had deleted emails relating to cases, which Formby denies.Watson also raised claims she had deleted emails relating to cases, which Formby denies.
Replying to Watson, Formby said she was “very disappointed” he had criticised the party’s response on antisemitism and accused him of abusing his position.Replying to Watson, Formby said she was “very disappointed” he had criticised the party’s response on antisemitism and accused him of abusing his position.
Two major public furores about antisemitism occurred in 2016, with Labour MP Naz Shah apologising for an antisemitic Facebook post, and former London mayor Ken Livingstone making remarks about “the Israel lobby” and Hitler supporting Zionism in broadcast interviews that eventually led to him quitting the party after a lengthy disciplinary process. A report that year by Shami Chakrabarti exonerated the party of widespread antisemitism but reported an 'occasionally toxic atmosphere'.Two major public furores about antisemitism occurred in 2016, with Labour MP Naz Shah apologising for an antisemitic Facebook post, and former London mayor Ken Livingstone making remarks about “the Israel lobby” and Hitler supporting Zionism in broadcast interviews that eventually led to him quitting the party after a lengthy disciplinary process. A report that year by Shami Chakrabarti exonerated the party of widespread antisemitism but reported an 'occasionally toxic atmosphere'.
Matters escalated in 2018 when it became evident that the party was receiving more and more complaints, to the extent that there was a backlog of disciplinary cases. Jeremy Corbyn apologised that April for hurt caused to the Jewish community by problems in the process and pointed to only 0.1% of members being under investigation for alleged antisemitic comments.Matters escalated in 2018 when it became evident that the party was receiving more and more complaints, to the extent that there was a backlog of disciplinary cases. Jeremy Corbyn apologised that April for hurt caused to the Jewish community by problems in the process and pointed to only 0.1% of members being under investigation for alleged antisemitic comments.
But the party was also mired in a row about whether to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which it ended up ultimately approving. Then accusations of political interference in the complaints process by aides close to Corbyn began to emerge earlier this year, which the party strongly denies.But the party was also mired in a row about whether to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which it ended up ultimately approving. Then accusations of political interference in the complaints process by aides close to Corbyn began to emerge earlier this year, which the party strongly denies.
The resignations of some MPs and peers over antisemitism in February 2019 alarmed many Labour colleagues. Then Chris Williamson, a Labour MP and ally of Corbyn, caused an outcry for saying that the party had been 'too apologetic' about antisemitism complaints. However, many of his supporters in the party backed a campaign saying he had been vilified and badly treated. Then came the announcement that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission was placing the party under formal investigation over antisemitism.The resignations of some MPs and peers over antisemitism in February 2019 alarmed many Labour colleagues. Then Chris Williamson, a Labour MP and ally of Corbyn, caused an outcry for saying that the party had been 'too apologetic' about antisemitism complaints. However, many of his supporters in the party backed a campaign saying he had been vilified and badly treated. Then came the announcement that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission was placing the party under formal investigation over antisemitism.
In a July 2019 programme, eight whistleblowers spoke to a BBC Panorama documentary, with some saying they felt there was political meddling from Corbyn’s office in the process for handling antisemitism complaints. Seumas Milne, one of Corbyn’s closest aides, told officials the party was 'muddling up political disputes with racism' and must review processes. Jennie Formby, the general secretary, was accused of attempting to interfere in who sat on a panel examining the case of Jackie Walker, a high-profile activist who was eventually expelled from the party.In a July 2019 programme, eight whistleblowers spoke to a BBC Panorama documentary, with some saying they felt there was political meddling from Corbyn’s office in the process for handling antisemitism complaints. Seumas Milne, one of Corbyn’s closest aides, told officials the party was 'muddling up political disputes with racism' and must review processes. Jennie Formby, the general secretary, was accused of attempting to interfere in who sat on a panel examining the case of Jackie Walker, a high-profile activist who was eventually expelled from the party.
Labour strongly denied the allegations of political interference, and came out on the offensive, accusing the BBC of bias and calling for the documentary to be pulled. A Labour spokesman said the party had fully answered “a number of questions” put to it by the programme, and had also sent 50 pages of documents in response. The complaints to the BBC had been made “at various levels, including the director general”.Labour strongly denied the allegations of political interference, and came out on the offensive, accusing the BBC of bias and calling for the documentary to be pulled. A Labour spokesman said the party had fully answered “a number of questions” put to it by the programme, and had also sent 50 pages of documents in response. The complaints to the BBC had been made “at various levels, including the director general”.
Rowena Mason, Deputy political editorRowena Mason, Deputy political editor
“The party has at all levels consistently shown that it recognises the vital importance of combating antisemitism, yet you consistently abuse your considerable platform to denigrate any progress that has been made and any individual that is involved in that,” she said.“The party has at all levels consistently shown that it recognises the vital importance of combating antisemitism, yet you consistently abuse your considerable platform to denigrate any progress that has been made and any individual that is involved in that,” she said.
“Traducing my reputation and publicly attacking me when you know I am undergoing chemotherapy and am unable to respond in the media is another example of the inappropriate way in which you choose to discuss this issue.”“Traducing my reputation and publicly attacking me when you know I am undergoing chemotherapy and am unable to respond in the media is another example of the inappropriate way in which you choose to discuss this issue.”
The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, a key ally of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, also attacked Watson, tweeting it “goes beyond my understanding” the letter was sent “when he knows she’s undergoing chemotherapy”.The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, a key ally of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, also attacked Watson, tweeting it “goes beyond my understanding” the letter was sent “when he knows she’s undergoing chemotherapy”.
He wrote: “I just don’t understand why the deputy leader of the Labour party uses the media to demand information from Labour’s general secretary @JennieGenSec, which has already been offered to him.”He wrote: “I just don’t understand why the deputy leader of the Labour party uses the media to demand information from Labour’s general secretary @JennieGenSec, which has already been offered to him.”
The fallout from the programme continues to cause serious ructions in the party.The fallout from the programme continues to cause serious ructions in the party.
Watson said a document produced for the EHRC’s investigation should be made public because “only sunlight can disinfect Labour of antisemitism now”.Watson said a document produced for the EHRC’s investigation should be made public because “only sunlight can disinfect Labour of antisemitism now”.
LabourLabour
AntisemitismAntisemitism
Tom WatsonTom Watson
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