Labour NEC member accuses Tom Watson of using anti-semitism to attack Jeremy Corbyn

Posted On: 
9th July 2019

Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson has "undermined" the party's battle with anti-semitism in a bid to attack Jeremy Corbyn, a member of the party's ruling body has claimed.

Mr Watson has been an outspoken critic of Labour's handling of anti-semitism.
Credit: 
PA

Sky News reports that National Executive Committee member Darren Williams told party activists in an online presentation that Labour had dealt with "completely unacceptable" anti-Jewish abuse "in a serious and consistent fashion".

But he accused Mr Watson of using the issue to "promote his own position".

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Mr Williams is reported to have told party supporters: "We have made a lot of concessions, including on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition [of antisemitism], some of which I wasn't entirely happy with.

"But we are where we are, and I think the party has done enough to demonstrate to any fair-minded person that we do take the issue seriously.

"That is clearly not going to stop the same people bringing the issue up whenever it is convenient to do so.

"What is particularly frustrating, I think, is the way that certain key figures in the party - including obviously Tom Watson - have undermined, in my view, the way the party has tried to deal with the issue in a serious and consistent fashion."

The NEC member hit out at Mr Watson's decision earlier this year to urge all Labour MPs to notify him personally when they make complaints to party bosses about anti-semitism, racism or bullying by party members.

Mr Williams said: "Tom Watson's suggestion that MPs with knowledge of anti-semitism cases could come to him and that he would take them up and act as some kind of advocate was obviously undermining the work that the party itself was doing and was designed more to, I think, promote his own position and to attack the leadership than to actually resolve the issues in any sensible way."

His comments - which come ahead of a meeting of the NEC at which both he and Mr Watson will be present - have been slammed by the Jewish Labour Movement.

National chair Mike Katz told Sky News: "Yet again we see a member of Labour's ruling body, the NEC, treating racism as a factional plaything.

"If he really was determined to root out anti-Jewish racism from the party, Mr Williams would welcome Tom Watson's involvement with MPs, not dismiss it as party infighting.

"These comments underline why JLM was right to refer the party to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission for institutional racism against Jews."

'FUTILE'

The criticism comes amid a bitter row over non-disclosure agreements signed by former party staff ahead of the broadcast of a BBC Panorama documentary on Labour's handling of anti-semitism.

The Sunday Times reported this weekend that up to half a dozen former Labour employees have torn up NDAs to speak to a BBC Panorama programme about Labour's treatment of anti-Jewish abuse.

The move has seen legal letters sent to former party officials from top law firm Carter Ruck - a move described as "as futile as it is stupid" by Mr Watson.

Labour MP Wes Streeting has also threatened to use Parliamentary privilege - which guarantees freedom of speech for MPs in the House of Commons - to "torpedo" the "gagging orders".

Meanwhile, Tuesday's meeting of the Labour NEC will also consider whether Chris Williamson should be allowed back into the party.

The controversial MP's suspension was lifted two weeks ago, but Labour general secretary Jennie Formby asked the NEC's disputes committee to look at the decision again.