The real reason Chris Williamson was pushed out of the Labour Party is a bitter pill to swallow

Chris Williamson
Support us and go ad-free

The real reason the Labour right and the corporate media hounded MP Chris Williamson out of the Labour Party is a bitter pill to swallow.

On 9 July, Labour’s Disputes Committee kept Williamson suspended from the party, referring his case to a new panel.

Not about antisemitism

Alleged antisemitic behaviour triggered Williamson’s suspension. But the attack on the MP actually has nothing to do with antisemitism for right-wing Labour power players. Given Williamson hasn’t said anything remotely antisemitic, that much is obvious. He said that Labour has been “too apologetic” in response to being “demonised as a racist and bigoted party”. And he spoke of tackling the “scourge of antisemitism” in the same address. In other words, Williamson was defending the membership and leadership from demonisation, while recognising genuine antisemitism.

In the past, the MP for Derby North established his constituency’s annual Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations and has long fought the far-right with the Anti-Nazi League.

War against the membership

So clearly, it’s not about antisemitism for these Labour elites. In reality, the hounding of Williamson is an extension of the Labour establishment’s war against its own membership. This war began in 2015 when Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to the leadership brought hundreds of thousands of new members to the party.

Labour elites felt threatened by the new grassroots base. Deputy leader Tom Watson, for instance, ludicrously smeared hundreds of thousands of people as under the control of “Trotsky entryists”. Instead of welcoming new party support, Watson tried to diminish the views of Labour members with a conspiracy theory about “old hands twisting young arms”. Then, he and the Labour right barred over 100,000 Labour members from voting in the second leadership contest, fighting them all the way to the High Court. Other tactics involved booting out as many left-wing members as possible for ‘crimes’ such as liking a tweet supporting Green Party fracking policy (apparently that qualified as betraying Labour).

Open selection and the threat from the membership

With this history in mind, it’s no coincidence that Watson and the right are after Williamson. Williamson has been the only Labour MP to tour the country campaigning for ‘open selection‘. This policy represents a direct transfer of power from MPs and union leaders to the membership. It enables anyone from the grassroots to become the Labour parliamentary candidate for their constituency if they can generate enough support. Open selection:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free
  • Means Labour MPs are democratically accountable to people in their constituency.
  • Introduces competition to Labour seats to ensure the best candidate is in place for a general election.
  • Provides a sure-fire route to remove gravy-train riders.

Open selection commands vast support among the membership. Indeed, a whopping 95% of constituency Labour delegates backed open selection becoming official Labour policy ahead of the 2018 conference in Liverpool.

Unfortunately, MPs and union leaders scuppered the chance because they would lose power over Labour’s selection process. In other words, Labour grandees refused to devolve power to the democratic will of the membership.

But Williamson did the opposite. He toured around the country in a ‘Democracy Roadshow’, campaigning for open selection. As the Guardian reported, he risked the “wrath of centrist colleagues” as he campaigned for greater democracy in their constituencies, which could ultimately result in them losing their jobs.

Cynical manipulation

Williamson’s campaign helped expose too many Labour MPs and union leaders as power-drunk elites hiding under Labour banners. The prospect of open selection generated fear and anxiety in Labour grandees. And Williamson’s strident support for Corbyn and his anti-imperialist foreign policy only pushed him closer to their crosshairs.

The real motive behind Williamson’s suspension is elite anxiety over losing power to the membership. It’s a cynical manipulation of the very real issue of antisemitism for political ends. And it’s utterly foul.

Featured image via screenshot

Support us and go ad-free

Get involved

  • You can help to make open selection Labour Party policy here.

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. The Tom Watson Gang has certainly been effective in quenching the desire of 95% of the labour membership for open selection then. That’s a tremedous number of people who must be very dissappointed in the Labour party for turning against their reasons for voting for Jeremy Corbyn. Cynical won’t cover the mood.
      What are people to do now in a General Election for it shows Labour isn’t fit to govern with any sense of democratic principal in the same manner which dominated the Brexit debate.
      How does one vote for who is the problem in the House.
      Voting for Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t mean voting for labour then, is where the Watson Gang has gone.
      What will the voters of the young of heart with good minds do now to upend these people will be fascinating to watch as I doubt very much they have given up on the dream as outlined by Jeremy Corbyn.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.