In Margaret Hodge - Part 3 we surmised that actually Hodge didn't want Labour to drop the action against her because she wanted the antisemitism story to stay in the limelight all Summer.
What happened on Friday 17th August, appears to back up this assertion. Hodge gave an interview to Sky's Beth Rigby, where she said this:
On the day that I heard that they were going to discipline me, and possibly suspend me, it felt almost like, I kept thinking, "What did it feel like to be a Jew in Germany in the thirties?" because if felt almost as if they were coming for me and it's rather difficult to define but there's that fear and it reminded me of what my dad used to say. He always said to me as a child, "You've got to keep a packed suitcase at the door Margaret, in case you ever have to leave in a hurry." And when I heard about the disciplinary, my emotional response resonated with that feeling of fear that clearly was at the heart of what my father felt when he came to Britain."
This was the first part of the interview that caused, arguably, the most uproar and rightly so. Hodge was likening what was effectively a disciplinary letter from her boss to the Nazis coming for Jews in the 1930s. A comparison that shocked many people in it's belittlement of the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany which led to the holocaust. It spawned the hashtag #HodgeComparisons which, you can see if you click through, divided Twitter as to whether it was a justifiable mocking of such a comparison or a bullying, nasty form of political discourse.
Labour's response to her interview was as follows:
"Jeremy is determined to tackle antisemitism in the Labour Party, so Jewish people feel it is a warm and welcoming home.
The next thing that caused offence was Hodge's reply to Rigby's question about what her relationship with Jeremy Corbyn was now like.
It's a very fine line between being pro Palestinian, the Palestinian cause which he's always believed in and being antisemitic and I think he's gone the wrong side of that line."
No. No there is not a fine line. It is perfectly possible to support the Palestinian cause, to defend and advocate for the human rights of all Palestinians, to support the Palestinians in their Great March of Return, to speak out against Israel's oppression against them and to advocate a two state solution without being at all antisemitic.
However, this is the tone of discourse that Hodge was determined to set and so she did, unchallenged.
Then there was this:
And I think it's a bit scary as well? We've got this, sort of, growth of populism, whether it's Trump, whether it's Boris Johnson, and now whether it's the cult of Corbynism, which allows these sort of attitudes to emerge and that's what scares me."
"The cult of Corbynism" - another planned narrative, a seed to plant into the minds of Sky viewers.
When asked if Labour should adopt the full IHRA definition of antisemitism, which of course is what this was all about, Hodge had this to say:
I think.. he's digging himself deeper and deeper into a pit, where the Jews just feel uncomfortable.. and I have to say to you that it isn't just the Jews Beth that feel uncomfortable with this, when I look at all the letters I've had, the emails, the ones that have been supportive, and there are thousands of them. It comes from what I would class / call "Middle England"? So people who just think, probably like I do, "Was it like this in the thirties? Isn't this a bridge too far? Shouldn't we step back from that?" So of course he's got to accept the definition, of course he's got to accept that definition. But even if he does that tomorrow, that will only be the start of a very, very, very long journey in rebuilding trust with the Jewish community.
Again, comparing Labour to Nazis basically and letting everyone know that even if Corbyn (actually the National Executive Committee as she full well knows) does accept the full IHRA definition that she and her allies will not let the matter drop and will keep antisemitism in Labour in the news for as long as they can, to cause as much damage as they can. Rigby didn't even challenge her on the fact that it is not a matter for Corbyn to decide on the definition but a matter for the NEC. This isn't about accuracy for Hodge however, it is about demonising and toppling Corbyn.
Rigby then questioned Hodge on Len McCluskey's recent HuffPost blog post where he compares what is happening in the party to McCarthyism. (His actual quote, for those of you interested, is, "While rooting out the anti-Semites, we cannot descend into a vortex of McCarthyism, however much Labour’s opponents might enjoy the spectacle")
That just shows what a terrible situation we are because I would put it to Len McCluskey that my receiving a letter saying they're starting disciplinary proceedings 11 hours after I had a perfectly legitimate conversation with the leader of the Labour Party in the lobby of the House of Commons, smelt to me of McCarthyism against people who oppose Corbyn and a purge against those people and I have to say, it felt to me like, OMG are they doing this to me because I'm Jewish? So it felt McCarthyist, McCarthyite against me and I don't see it the other way round at all. But doesn't that demonstrate the fact that Len McCluskey feels that he can say that, demonstrates the rift over the issue within the Labour Party, which as leader of the party, he has got to start healing that rift. That's his job, that's his responsibility. That's what he's leader of the Labour Party for."
Funnily, Hodge has just conferred leadership of the Labour Party onto Len McCluskey! Seriously though, no they did not do that to you because you're Jewish. You did not have a legitimate conversation with the leader of the Labour Party and the reason they did it was that you reportedly shouted at Corbyn:
You're a fucking anti-Semite and a racist. You don't want people like me in the party."
which would be an actionable offence in any place of work. Perhaps they also did it because you're not, in fact, a nice person (see Margaret Hodge, Margaret Hodge: Notice of Investigation, Margaret Hodge - Part 3) but it was in no way because you are Jewish.
In conclusion, this wasn't an interview it was a platform. You can watch it here. It was a platform where Hodge, as many times as possible referenced the Labour Party in terms of the antisemitism of Nazi Germany; where she deliberately conflated support for Palestine as antisemitism and stressed Corbynism as a cult with McCarthyite tendencies. She did this unchallenged by Rigby - an example of appalling journalism.
However, because of that first comparison, Hodge has shot herself in the foot. All that she will be remembered for in that interview is that she compared a disciplinary letter to Jews being persecuted in Nazi Germany. In a story that could have run and run - and it's clear that was her intention - it has suddenly gone silent with regards to Hodge. Let's hope that, from her at least, it's:
Following the Notice of Investigation, Margaret Hodge has continued making all her correspondence public. She tweeted this on Friday, August 3rd:
I won't embed all 15 tweets but if you click on this one you can read this letter from Labour plus the reply from Hodge's Silver Circle law firm.
On Monday 6th August, the complaint against Hodge was dropped. It appeared that an apology had been proffered to the Chief Whip of the Labour Party, accepted and that was enough to end the matter.
What a kick in the teeth for those denied a vote in the 2016 leadership contest for much less. Think back to those suspended for retweeting the Green Party or to Catherine Starr, denied a vote because of a Facebook post that said, "I fucking love the Foo Fighters". It stinks of double standards and hypocrisy and Labour members are justifiably angry.
It could be argued however, that, tactically, this has been the right thing to do. Labour have been under the media spotlight for weeks now over antisemitism, overshadowing Tory Islamophobia and the chaos that is Brexit. That Hodge herself is keen to keep it in the limelight points to the fact that she is not actually happy with the complaint being dropped. Perhaps the plan was to run with the story throughout recess so that Labour, with 12 MPs ready to resign the whip if the action continued, was in tatters by conference season. She has vociferously denied apologising for example.
The Skwawkbox have the following correspondence that refutes this claim:
It seems clear then, that Hodge wants to be kept in the limelight. In which case, it is fair to shine the spotlight on her in the hope that it becomes uncomfortably bright and hot.
Hodge's "defeat" of the BNP in Barking is covered here as is her tax hypocrisy. That she is an anti-racism expert / campaigner doesn't hold up to the facts and she has a nerve to accuse Corbyn of being a racist in light of her history. Added to her assimilation of the BNP's rhetoric for example, there is this about her hounding of the traveller community while she was Islington Council Leader:
While we have established therefore, her lack of credentials for calling out racism and tax avoidance, we haven't looked at the matter of the appalling child abuse scandal that went on while Hodge was in charge of Islington Council:
A noteable quote from this article summarises it well:
A local politician who had heard the gravest imaginable allegations about the maltreatment of children, refused to examine them on budgetary grounds, smeared a victim, attacked the newspaper that did its duty by investigating, and finally – after years of running for cover – offered the dismal excuse that people knew less about child abuse back then, became the national politician with responsibility for children."
People on Twitter have been digging a bit deeper though and here it starts to get even more murky. Let's turn up the spotlight.
NCCL stands for National Council for Civil Liberties, now known as Liberty. PIE stands for Paedophile Information Exchange. Yes, it really does and yes it really was affiliated with NCCL.
Whilst PIE was affiliated with it, the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty) argued that photographs of undressed children should not be considered "indecent" - and therefore illegal - unless it could be proven that the subject had suffered harm or that an inference to that effect or to the effect that harm might have been caused could reasonably be drawn from the images themselves, with Harriet Harman (later deputy leader of the Labour Party) arguing that it would “increase censorship”
Flesh crawling yet? There's more.
There may be those who will argue, what does this have to do with the case that has just been dropped? Directly, nothing. However, Hodge is being held up to the public as a paragon of virtue. A dame no less, an unimpeachable senior Labour figure who must be listened to when she throws around accusations of racism with impunity. She won't let the current matter drop. She is making it as public and long lasting as possible for nefarious reasons, the least of which seem to be antisemitism and racism. It is justifiable therefore, to shine a spotlight on her to ascertain if the public can trust a person of her character as defined by her past (and present) actions. So far, the answer appears to be no.
Yesterday Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, was released on bail while waiting for retrial on his contempt of court charges. This was greeted with jubiliation from his supporters, almost as if he had been proven innocent in some way.
There followed, this morning, interviews with two of the far right's commentariat on the BBC.
On Radio 4's Today programme there was Raheem Kassam - former editor in chief of Breitbart News London, former advisor to Nigel Farage when he led UKIP, a contester for UKIP's leadership in 2016 (he withdrew) and supporter of Yaxley-Lennon to the extent that he has been over in America raising money for Yaxley-Lennon's cause.
Whilst on Radio 5 there was Ezra Levant - founder and main contributor of The Rebel Media website and YouTube channel. The Rebel Media is a Canadian far right media platform for anti-Muslim ideology.
This is following hard on the heels of Steve Bannon being interviewed on Nigel Farage's LBC show, saying off air that Yaxley-Lennon (Robinson) was:
the f—ing backbone of this country. You lose guys like Tommy Robinson, you’re not going to have a country.”
Bannon, founder of Breitbart News (are you joining all the dots yet?) is one of the most vile, right wing fascists to hit our airwaves. He was also given airtime on Good Morning Britain on 13th July - being toadied to by Piers Morgan, as is his wont with the far right, which could be seen in his toadying over Trump. No shouting over Bannon as he does over other, usually more left wing, guests.
So, our airwaves, printed media, online media have been saturated with the far right lately. It's like there have been no lessons learned from Nigel Farage's media saturation, which involved 32 appearances on Question Time alone before we take into account any other show. When Nigel Farage first hit the media, he was treated with scorn and derision. David Cameron tried to brush UKIP off, calling them a bunch of
'fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists''
Boris Johnson said in May 2014 about the EU referendum promised by Cameron and the rise of UKIP threatening the Tory vote:
and so I say to all those toying with another self-styled Euro-sceptic party, whose MEPs notoriously slumber and snore through Strasbourg debates: You kip if you want to – the Tories are giving us the first chance to vote on Europe in my adult lifetime"
He also ended that article with:
it would be an utter disaster if we were to miss this chance by inadvertently ushering Miliband into power
I think I know what "disaster" is preferable right now.
Undoubtedly, the rise in media coverage of Farage and his party played it's part in Brexit and the rise in racism in this country. The more he was on TV, the more certain people said to themselves, "He's only saying what we're all thinking" so they were emboldened to say it themselves. Racism has increased, notably Islamaphobia although racism across the board. Some people no longer feel as if they can't say racist things any more and that it's absolutely fine to perform hate crimes such as pulling off Muslim women's hijabs.
Today Helen Dale tweeted
However, she is wrong, as these tweets counter:
As well as his party polling "the highest general election vote of any UK far-right party", Griffin himself won the most votes he'd ever had in a general election, 6,620, contesting Margaret Hodge's seat in Barking.
So Helen Dale, you are sadly wrong and if the media in this country doesn't learn from the vast amounts of historical evidence, racism and fascism in this country will continue to be legitimised in the eyes of Yaxley-Lennon and his supporters and will continue to rise. The media are currently enablers and will yet end up with blood on their hands.
Following her outburst last week, reportedly saying to Jeremy Corbyn:
You're a fucking anti-Semite and a racist. You don't want people like me in the party."
(more about which you can read in my previous post) Margaret Hodge has defended her accusation, although denies the swearing and repeated it in the media since, obviously without the swearing. On the 18th July she was sent a Notice of Investigation from Jennie Formby, General Secretary of Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC). Luckily for us Hodge has tweeted it:
She has also tweeted the reply sent by her lawyers:
I'm not going to dissect the solicitor's letter here. I'm sure you can draw your own conclusions from reading it. It seems a pretty lengthy reply to what is just a notice of investigation. Note on tweet 5/7 how attention is drawn to abuse Hodge has received. Abuse obviously shouldn't be tolerated in any political party. However, it's ironic that abuse is raised in a case where Hodge has been abusive herself. It shows the double standards that some Labour MPs seem to hold about their standard of behaviour and that of supposed (but not proven) Corbyn / Labour supporters. Battle lines have most definitely been drawn and the tone has been set.
You would expect consternation about the notice of investigation from many Labour MPs but I wasn't expecting to hear that John McDonnell thought it should be dropped. The headline in the Guardian was:
Labour should drop action against Margaret Hodge, McDonnell says
What he actually said was:
Someone has made a complaint so that’s being investigated. My view is let’s resolve this very, very quickly, almost drop the complaint, and let’s move on. Or if someone wants their complaint investigated, let’s get that done quickly.”
While there is much to be said for dealing with the complaint quickly, presumably with the aim of healing yet another rift before too much damage is done, the complaint should continue. The headline must have been something of a kick in the teeth for the 3,017 people purged from voting in the Labour leadership election of 2016 either by suspension, expulsion or having membership denied for far less reason than the cause of the investigation against Hodge.
It is doubtful that many (if any) of those 3,107 would have had the means to so challenge the decisions, often arbitrarily made against them, let alone access to a Silver Circle law firm that:
Grace Blakeley also raises a good point:
In a party that designates itself as "the party of equality", the complaint should be fully investigated to show that there is not one rule for members of the Parliamentary Labour Party and another for Labour Party members in general.
There's a huge debate in the Labour Party right now about antisemitism (again, just as Labour are ahead in the polls funnily enough). The current furore is over the acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Labour have accepted the definition but changed the working examples so there is scope for political debate about Israel. You can read more about it here.
According to Jennie Formby, General Secretary of the Labour Party, the NEC Code takes the IHRA Working Definition and supplements it “with additional examples and guidance”, thus creating “the most thorough and expansive Code of Conduct on anti-Semitism introduced by any political party in the UK”. Similarly, Jon Lansman, a fellow member of the NEC, calls the Code “the new gold standard” for political parties, “stronger than anything of its kind adopted by any political party in this country”. The Code, he says, “fully adopts the IHRA definition, and covers the same ground as the IHRA examples” but goes further, making it more workable. That is the view from the inside."
The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) were unhappy with this and on Monday 16th July passed a motion calling on the National Executive Committee (NEC) to drop the code of conduct proposals. On Tuesday 17th July, the NEC refused to allow a vote on the proposals instead deciding to consult more Jewish groups over the Summer. A Labour spokesperson said:
“The NEC upheld the adoption of the code of conduct on antisemitism, but in recognition of the serious concerns expressed, agreed to reopen the development of the code, in consultation with Jewish community organisations and groups, in order to better reflect their views.”
However, Margaret Hodge, a member of the pro-Israel / generally anti-Corbyn Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), was seemingly incensed by this. According to witnesses she approached Jeremy Corbyn after the Trade Bill votes on Tuesday evening and said to him:
You're a fucking anti-Semite and a racist. You don't want people like me in the party."
To which Corbyn is reported to have replied calmly:
I’m sorry you feel like that.”
Corbyn's office has since said that action will be taken.
Twitter exploded, with certain justification. The PLP are quick to jump on abuse from alleged Corbyn supporters and refer to it time and again in the media, yet here is a member of the PLP verbally abusing the leader of the party. When it comes to the language she used, it is interesting to compare it to when Catherine Starr applied to join the Labour Party to vote in the 2016 leadership contest. Her application was famously rejected because of a post on Facebook which said:
I fucking love the Foo Fighters"
Therefore, Corbyn supporters were understandably irate about Hodge's verbal abuse. The whole situation stank of rank hypocrisy. From the abuse angle and from the swearing angle.
The next day's response of the right wing of the PLP, including many members of LFI, was a co-ordinated tweet-a-thon about how Margaret Hodge saved her constituency, Barking, from the BNP.
So... Did Margaret Hodge actually save Barking from the British National Party (BNP)? In 2006 the BNP won 11 of the 13 seats it contested in local elections, after which there were calls for Hodge to be deselected and by 2010 had they had 12 seats. In 2007 Hodge assimilated the rhetoric of the BNP around the housing issue in particular, in much the same way as the Tories have assimilated the rhetoric of UKIP to hoover up their support since Brexit. She called for social housing policy to take account of length of residence, citizenship and national insurance contributions.
We should look at policies where the legitimate sense of entitlement felt by the indigenous family overrides the legitimate need demonstrated by the new migrants"
This garnered praise from BNP councillor, Richard Barnbrook:
I am indebted to you for having the gumption to tell the truth about housing allocation"
and he reportedly wanted to deliver flowers to her for supporting BNP policy.
The Labour Party however, were horrified:
There is no evidence whatsoever that immigrants are causing a problem with social housing. My problem with that is that's the kind of language of the BNP and it's grist to the mill of the BNP."
Housing is allocated according to need and it is disingenuous for Margaret Hodge to suggest otherwise. The problem is lack of housing supply and it's a shame she wasn't so vocal in the campaign for the building of more council housing"
It is not fair for her to play one group of people off against another. Margaret Hodge is missing the point. The problem is clear, there are not enough council houses to meet the demand."
In 2010 Nick Griffin, the BNP leader himself, contested the Barking seat and came third with 6,620 votes compared to Hodge's 24,628. Did she see him off? Or did she attract enough of his voters by pandering to BNP rhetoric? Or perhaps credit should instead be given to the multicultural voters of Barking, where turn out was high, thanks to Labour campaigners, for not voting for Griffin. Indeed, Griffin himself blamed the high turnout for placing him at a disadvantage and for leading to all 12 council seats being lost.
As for Liz Kendall's tweet saying Hodge has "fought tax dodgers" and for women's rights, it has perhaps slipped her memory that in 2013 the Telegraph headline was:
and if you were to dig further back to her time as leader of Islington Council:
We also shouldn't forget she has form for haranguing Corbyn - from the being one of the instigators in the letter of no confidence in 2016 to this in Islington in 1995:
Imagine disliking someone so intensely for so long then they become leader of your party. How that must stick in her gullet. However, it's no excuse for the hypocritical verbal abuse which should now be dealt with - with the severity that Labour Party members using similar language, in abusive and non abusive situations, have been dealt.
Theresa May is so scared of a leadership challenge over her Chequers Deal that she has suggested parliament break up for recess a week early. At a time when the UK is facing it's biggest peacetime challenge, May wants everyone to go on holiday.
Even though some MPs are against:
it is expected to pass.
This is quite despicable. Since the House returned on 5th September 2017, parliament has been in recess for 71 days, not including conference season. You can see the dates here. Summer recess, starting on 24th July as originally planned, would add another 42 days. So in this parliamentary year, MPs will have 16 weeks and 1 day in recess. Adding another 5 days, as May is suggesting, will make one day short of 17 weeks of holiday in one year. That is more than school children, who are better behaved and teachers who, I would argue, work much harder. You don't see teachers finding the time to write newspaper columns for example, books even, owning other businesses etc. You may find teachers having second jobs, as many MPs do but not usually through choice and not usually in high, well paid, corporate positions with a revolving door when their teaching career ends.
MPs will argue that they use recess time to catch up with their constituencies, that it is not holiday as such. They may indeed spend some of this time pursuing constituency business but to all intents and purposes they are on holiday.
In what other area of work does anyone get so much holiday? Indeed, what business would be expected to run itself for 6 weeks while it's bosses all went on holiday? MPs are paid more money than most of us could dream of and they can claim huge expenses on top of that. Many go straight into highly paid, corporate positions when their career in politics is over, thanks to that ever revolving door. The pension scheme is more generous than many of us could hope for and worth the insecurity of tenure that it is purported to reflect. More information on parliamentary pensions can be found here:
The current parliamentary system is a disgrace and it's in every MP's interest to perpetuate it. Therefore, it will never change. It is too steeped in tradition and privilege, with MPs hungry for the revolving door that follows, for any of them to vote for it to change. But change it should. Sixteen weeks of holiday is obscene. Making it seventeen makes it even more so.
On 23rd June, 2018 there was an Anti-Brexit march which called for a People's Vote on the final deal. It was attended by various MPs from across the political spectrum, including Tim Farron, former Liberal Democrat leader and Vince Cable, current Liberal Democrat leader. Rightly so, as the Liberal Democrats have positioned themselves as the pro-Remain party. Their mission is to save the country from Brexit.
At the march, the crowd delighted in taking the, "Oh Jeremy Corbyn" chant from the general election campaign last year and turning it into, "Where's Jeremy Corbyn?"
Yesterday, less than a month later, there were crucial votes on amendments to the Chequers Deal. The amendments to the resulting Taxation (Cross-border) Trade Bill were forced on Theresa May by the hard Brexit, European Research Group (ERG). Two of the votes only just scraped through by a majority of three.
It is worth mentioning here that many Tories rebelled in these two votes and the reason they passed is because of three Labour MPs - Frank Field, Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer. I've linked to their Twitter pages, apart from Stringer who doesn't have one, if you'd like to tweet them about this.
However, the leader and ex leader of the Liberal Democrats were nowhere to be seen. Far from riding in on their white chargers to save the day, they just didn't show. Tim Farron was at this event:
Earlier this week, prior to Donald Trump's first visit to the UK since becoming President of the United States, it was mooted that he would like to meet his "friend" Boris Johnson. Indeed the US Ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, said:
Boris Johnson has been a friend of the President"
Trump himself has said that Johnson would:
make a great Prime Minister"
All of which makes you wonder if they know what Johnson has said about Trump in the past.
In 2015, during his campaign to become the Republican Presidential candidate, Trump claimed that there were no go areas in London, where even police were too scared to go. He had been talking about banning Muslims from America when he said:
We have places in London and other places that are so radicalised that the police are afraid for their own lives. We have to be very smart and very vigilant"
To which Johnson replied:
I think Donald Trump is clearly out of his mind if he thinks that's a sensible way to proceed, to ban people going to the United States in that way, or to any country. What he's doing is playing the game of the terrorists and those who seek to divide us. That's exactly the kind of reaction they hope to produce.
He went on to say:
Crime has been falling steadily both in London and in New York - and the only reason I wouldn't go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”
Surely Trump and Woody Johnson know this? If they don't, should we tell them? Should we warn them of his hypocrisy, duplicity and disloyalty? That the only person to whom Boris Johnson is a friend, is himself? Because, as Theresa May has found out, with friends like Johnson who needs enemies? Or would it be much more fun to let them find out for themselves?
Besides the fact it might prompt a challenge to May's leadership and so potentially force a general election.
The top 5 reasons, in pictorial form so even he can understand.
4. Davis N0-Notes
In this current climate of Brexit and racism, you'd think we should welcome organisations that Stand up to Racism and Unite against Fascism. Indeed, when you look at the officers of Stand up to Racism, at first glance they are impressive from a left wing perspective:
Why is this a problem?
In September, 2012 a female member of the SWP made an allegation of rape against a member of the Central Committee, who throughout the proceedings was know as Comrade Delta. Comrade Delta was asked to stop doing any work on behalf of the party while the allegation was investigated. Instead of involving or encouraging the female member to go to the police, the SWP dealt with it at a Disputes Committee. In a transcript of the SWP Conference 2013 (which the female member was not allowed to attend, even though she wanted to) leaked to the blog, Socialist Unity, Sandy B states:
Comrades, we have to welcome the fact that we have a disputes committee. We have no faith in the bourgeois court system to deliver justice.
The Disputes Committee decided to use the standard legal definition of rape. They also decided to look at sexual assault and whether the relationship between Comrade Delta and the female member was abusive. The rape and other sexual assaults had happened over a period of six months in 2008/2009. The female member had made an informal complaint in 2010 about sexual harassment which didn't reach the Disputes Committee. A resolution was reached about this at the time. However, with confidence over the way the SWP handled the Assange case, she felt that she would get a fair hearing coming forward again in 2012.
In October 2012 the seven members of the Disputes Committee met for four days to hear evidence from Comrade Delta and the female member. Five of the Disputes Committee were either past or present Central Committee members, two were Central Committee members at the time of the hearing. All of the Disputes Panel knew Comrade Delta well and none knew the female member. This is the first indication that the hearing wouldn't be entirely fair.
A second indication was that:
she (the female member) was expected to respond immediately to the evidence that Comrade Delta was able to bring – she never got to see it in advance. He had her statement for weeks before she appeared in front of the panel. Some of the issues that were raised were things she had blocked out, and it was an incredibly traumatic experience for her."
A retrospective sign is the understanding about what the Disputes Committee's role actually is. As was stated at the 2013 SWP Conference:
We’re not a law court. We are here to protect the interests of the party.."
Although acknowledging the difficulties women face in a capitalist society when they make allegations of rape, notably victim blaming, one of the witnesses said that the Disputes Committee asked the female member about previous and subsequent relationships.
She was questioned about why she went for a drink with him, her witnesses were repeatedly asked whether she’d been in a relationship with him, and you know … she was asked about relationships with other comrades including sexual relationships. All this was irrelevant to the case.
It is said that one of the Disputes Committee who had experience in dealing with rape cases had to tell the Committee to stop certain lines of questioning as they weren't appropriate.
The Committee unanimously found Comrade Delta not guilty of rape. There was more disagreement over the sexual assault and harassment allegations. Therefore, the Committee found these were not proven. As such no disciplinary action was taken against him. It is said though, that he left the party in July 2013.
However, during the proceedings a witness for the female member came forward with allegations of her own about sexual harassment by Comrade Delta. She resigned from her job at the party. Charlie Kimber (presently Joint National Secretary, SWP) didn't want to accept her resignation on the basis that she should not be punished for bringing forward a complaint. However, by the time she felt she wanted to return to the job she was told repeatedly that she would "disrupt the harmony of the office".
This isn't the only evidence of bad feeling following allegations. The first female member was shunned after her hearing, as this testimony shows:
Recently the complainant wanted to attend a meeting and tried to talk to a local member. He told her that it wasn’t appropriate for him to speak to her and he walked away. What kind of message does this send out – that if you have a serious allegation to bring against a leading member, don’t bother because you’ll be victimised for doing so?
Since this hearing, the SWP have had others and don't seem to have learned anything about the victim blaming line of questioning and have reportedly been more threatening towards people coming forward with allegations.
Later in 2013 another female member made allegations of rape towards another senior party member. She left the party but was persuaded to go to the Disputes Committee. There she was questioned in a similar way to first female member. This included questions about her sexual past and
[They asked me] had you been drinking? … Are you sure that you said no, and are you sure you didn't consent. Was he drunk? Because it would be different if he was drunk."
During this hearing two other women made allegations of attempted rape and sexual impropriety about the senior member. The senior member was suspended and recommended to read up on women's liberation.
The female member involved in this hearing said to The Guardian:
"They said, if you go around calling him a rapist, you'll be in trouble. If you tell anyone, you'll be in trouble … They didn't elaborate. They're not the kind of people to get on the wrong side of.
Throughout all of these proceedings, which culminated in hundreds leaving the party including senior figures, Weyman Bennett was on the Central Committee and is to this day. All of this has happened with his knowledge. He is complicit in covering up rape and sexual abuse allegations in the name of the party. As co-convener of Stand up to Racism, he organises events and speakers etc. It is no passive role. I should imagine if Tony Cliff, a founding member of the SWP, were alive he would be horrified at the turn the party has taken.
The Left is divided on what to do about this. In 2016 an open letter was sent to all people due to speak at a Stand up to Racism event, to ask them not to attend because they would be sharing a platform with Bennett - a Central Committee member of a party with a rape culture. Jeremy Corbyn even split his supporters by turning up to speak at the last minute, having previously said he would not be going.
On the one hand, we do actually need to stand up to racism, to unite against fascism as a matter of urgency. However, do we need to do it in the company of a man such as Weyman Bennett who has facilitated such a culture within his own party? Just imagine if the boot were on the other foot and the Tories had an organisation where the co-convenor was a member of a right wing faction that were known as rape apologists. The Left would be, rightly, up in arms. As Karl Marx said:
Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex."
Going by this, progress by the SWP is poor indeed.
At the beginning of the article it states that, "it is likely that Sabby Dhalu was a member of the Socialist Workers Party in 2012/2013 at least." The reason for this is that in the transcript of the 2013 SWP Conference on the blog Socialist Unity there is an entry from Sabby.