This was published in Wavertree CLP’s weekly bulletin on Tuesday May 26 and has since found its way into the press and public domain. It has led to the ‘Wavertree 4’ being suspended from the Labour Party. Click here for our petition
Responding to Paula Barker’s article in The Jewish Telegraph
As members of who were active in Wavertree CLP in the months leading up to the resignation of Luciana Berger from the Labour Party in February 2019, we wish to make our views known regarding a number of points made by our MP Paula Barker in her article in The Jewish Telegraph of 16 May 2020.
We are deeply dismayed to be placed in the position of needing to correct the misleading impressions fostered by Paula’s article and, yet again, set the record straight about Ms Berger’s departure from our party. It is important to state that we understand and commend Paula’s expressions of support and solidarity with the Jewish communities in Liverpool in general, and Wavertree in particular, and her undoubted commitment and track record of opposing racism in all its manifestations, of which hatred of Jews is an important element with a long and brutal history.
We also pay tribute to the fact that since her election, and in the most difficult of circumstances, our MP has actively supported socialist causes of direct importance to the people of Wavertree, such as the cancellation of local authority debt, support for trade union action against bosses who put their members’ health at risk, and suspension of rent for private sector tenants affected financially by the pandemic . Within the constituency she was one of the first to take the problems in our care homes seriously and insist that action is taken to protect care home staff and residents, and she has not only helped many individuals in need, but also been instrumental in setting up a much-needed food bank locally.
However, we have to express our disappointment and hurt that someone we campaigned for so wholeheartedly appears to have reiterated the inaccurate and factionally motivated position on anti-Semitism which was used in order to personally attack and seriously undermine Labour’s socialist programme during the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
There are a number of points made in the article that we would take issue with, but the most important is the statement that:
’Luciana leaving the Labour Party was a shock to many and I find it deeply regrettable that she felt she could no longer stay….’
Though we accept that it was not explicitly stated that Luciana Berger was forced out of the Labour Party by anti-Semitic abuse from members of Wavertree CLP, Paula’s words will most certainly be taken to imply that we, as a CLP, were responsible. This accusation has been repeated by our political opponents, such as the anti-Corbyn Labour right and the Liberal Democrats on numerous occasions, culminating in Tom Watson’s calumny, under the protective cloak of parliamentary privilege, that Luciana Berger had been ‘forced out by racist thugs’ in Wavertree CLP. In the furore that followed, individual officers and members, such as our then chair, were subject to further abuse and false allegations in the media, all of which were designed to obscure the political differences between Ms Berger and the CLP.
These differences were fundamental; we were in no doubt that she was unhappy with the direction of the party following the election of Jeremy Corbyn, and she openly joined with others to undermine him in every way possible. The Executive invited her to meet and discuss her position on many occasions, but she did not respond. We knew very well that she faced, like all women politicians, horrible abuse on social media, and we publicly expressed our solidarity with her in standing up to this. We expressly offered her our solidarity when supporters of the far-right made threats and posted vile anti-Semitic comments about her. We passed a motion to this effect at the CLP in 2018.
Yet our political disagreement with her was cynically attributed to bullying, harassment and anti-Semitism on our part. Members of the Wavertree CLP Executive were consequently faced with extremely damaging and hurtful abuse, and still are. As a result of this article, we now need to remind all our members of what we said in a press statement in February 2019:
… as an Executive we have always and continue now to express total solidarity with Luciana as a victim of misogyny and of antisemitism – coming mostly from the far right. Our Chair is himself Jewish and the suggestion that the CLP Executive is in any way a party to bullying and antisemitism is a false and slanderous accusation.
Furthermore, we are surprised and puzzled to see reference to shock about Luciana Berger leaving the Party, when it was obvious to all that if Corbyn remained in power she was planning to go, along with a group of other MPs who shared her dislike of Corbyn and his Socialist agenda.
We also note that the list of Jewish Labour Party luminaries referred to in the article is impressive but a little one-sided. There are and have been many Jewish members who are or were critical of Israeli Government policy, for example Gerald Kaufman, Alf Dubs, Harry Cohen, Ed Miliband and not to forget Sydney Silverman – from Liverpool and an MP for 33 years – and his son Roger, who submitted to the NEC a warning against the adoption of the IHRA definition in 2018, saying:
‘I believe that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is deeply flawed. It is clearly designed to protect the Israeli state from legitimate criticism.’
We can only conclude that these other voices were not included because the article reflected the influence of a partial view that claims to speak for all Jewish people: it would perhaps have been more useful to consult a wider cross section of opinion in the Jewish communities before writing it.
We understand the pressure our MP is under from all sides on this very important question. Nevertheless, we are surprised that given the opportunity this article afforded, she failed to clearly and unequivocally defend Wavertree CLP from the slanders thrown at us over the last two years. Our disappointment is especially acute because we believed we now had an MP who could offer sincere support for Liverpool’s Jewish communities alongside a principled defence of the political integrity of the members of the CLP and the constituency which she represents.
Nina Houghton, Chair, Wavertree CLP
Kevin Bean, Secretary, Wavertree CLP
Helen Dickson, Women’s Officer, Wavertree CLP
Hazuan Hashim, BAME Officer, Wavertree CLP