UPDATE: Jo Bird’s suspension was lifted on March 15, though apparently she was given a ‘warning’ – for telling jokes!
Labour Against the Witchhunt unreservedly condemns the suspension from the Labour Party of Jewish councillor for Bromborough Jo Bird. At a Justice4Marc meeting last year in Manchester (in solidarity with Marc Wadsworth) she made a light-hearted comment, stating: “Jewish Voice For Labour is calling for disciplinary hearings to be paused until a due process has been established, based on principles of natural justice. What I call Jew process”.
Clearly, the context of that quote shows that her joke was not anti-Semitic at all – but the exact opposite.
Coming so soon after the suspension of Chris Williamson MP on equally baseless grounds, we are concerned that the small positive reforms of the disciplinary process introduced by general secretary Jennie Formby have been rolled back. We are seeing the return of automatic suspensions, even before an investigation has started. And again, they are used almost exclusively against left-wing supporters of Corbyn. Tom Watson, Margaret Hodge, Joan Ryan and Louise Ellman on the other hand get away with insulting and undermining Jeremy Corbyn and the party without any consequence. This is clearly not a fair process.
We are also greatly concerned with the plan to appoint Lord Falconer to “re-investigate” cases of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. As an ally of Tony Blair, a member of his war cabinet and the lawyer whose legal advice helped to break up the National Union of Mineworkers, we believe he is most certainly not the right man for the job. His interview in the Sunday Times shows that he is also far from impartial on this issue: “The most frightening thing is the profound and almost universal sense within the Jewish community that the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn are anti-Semitic. They feel they are not safe … because the potential prime minister and the main opposition party are anti-Semitic.”
This is nonsense. Firstly, there is no hegemonic “Jewish community”. There are pro-Zionist Jews and there anti- or non-Zionist Jews – those like Jo Bird, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and the thousands organised in groups like Jewish Voice for Labour, Jewish Socialist Group etc. They certainly do not feel “unsafe” in the Labour Party. It is a story spun by the right-wing in the Labour Party, in cahoots with non-Labour organisations like the Board of Deputies and the Israeli embassy – who are united in their desire to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
We believe these recent, bad decisions of the Labour leadership are the direct consequence of the formation of the so-called The Independent Group. Eager to stop any more right-wingers from splitting from the party, the leadership is bending over backwards once more. We are even hearing that the reformed trigger ballots are being put on hold to avoid any challenges to sitting MPs –despite the fact that this policy was agreed at Labour Party conference 2018. But the last three and a half years show: Appeasement does not work. Every time the leadership takes a step back, the right makes two steps forward.
As Ken Loach, one of LAW’s sponsors said: “If it looks like a witch hunt and behaves like a witch hunt – it may well be just that. This is intolerable and must end now.”