Ten Year’s Hard Labour is the most important account yet of the defeat of the Corbyn Project
Ten Year’s Hard Labour is the most important account yet of the defeat of the Corbyn Project
Chris Williamson describes how the Labour Right, with the complicity of Momentum, allowed the fake ‘Anti-Semitism’ narrative to destroy the Left
Ten Year’s Hard Labour – Chris Williamson,
Lola Books, 2022, pp. 394
There is a tendency amongst many on the left to engage in an uncritical adulation of Jeremy Corbyn now that we see how awful is his successor, the serial liar and empty suit, Sir Stürmer. That would be a mistake.
Stürmer did not emerge from nowhere. Despite being part of the Chicken Coup, Corbyn embraced this latter day Brutus without once questioning his role as Director of Public Prosecutions in the cases of Julian Assange, IanTomlinson and other similar cases.
Without an analysis and understanding of where Corbyn and his entourage went wrong and why their policy of appeasement could only lead to disaster, the Left is destined to repeat the same errors.
For those who wish to understand how the Corbyn Project went from the dizzy heights of near election victory in 2017 to catastrophic defeat two years later, Chris Williamson’s account is compulsory reading. Unlike books such as those by Owen Jones and Gabriel Pogrund/Patrick Wintour, it isn’t concerned with the gossip and tittle tattle of who did what in the Leader of the Opposition’s Office. [LOTO]
This is a book about the sustained attack that was mounted by Britain’s political establishment, in conjunction with the Zionist lobby and the secret state, on Corbyn and his allies. All with the connivance of Labour’s senior staff and the Labour Right. An attack which was fought in the name of ‘anti-Semitism’.
Today we can see where this fight has ended up. Starmer became leader of the Labour Party pledging to ‘root out anti-Semitism from the Labour Party’. Yet today Jews are five times more likely to be expelled for anti-Semitism than non-Jews. People like Jewish Voices for Labour members like Mike Howard, 72, for 40-years a Labour member and former Hastings councillor and Riva Joffe, a South African-born anti-apartheid activist in her 80s. Both died with the slur of ‘anti-Semitism’ hanging over them.
Not surprisingly Williamson’s book has been ignored by the mainstream press and those who were responsible for the fake anti-Semitism attacks on socialists and anti-racists in the Labour Party. Stürmer and General Secretary David Evans have ridden roughshod over all notions of natural justice and due process as they have launched a witchhunt, the likes of which has never been seen before in the Labour Party.
Those in the media who would have cried to the heavens if Corbyn had expelled Margaret Hodge or Ruth Smeeth, keep silent as thousands have been excluded by Stürmer.
I was the first Jewish person to be expelled in February 2018. When allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ were first raised in the Labour Party we were told that we were paranoid to suggest that it was all about Israel and Zionism. Yet today Stürmer, who defines himself as a Zionist ‘without qualification’ makes no pretence about the fact that he considers anti-Zionism to be anti-Semitism.
What Williamson calls the ‘optics left’, such as Novara Media, Richard Seymour, Dave Renton and Owen Jones, played a major part in the defeat of the Corbyn project. This book raises the question as to whether the Left can ever win control of the Labour Party since the Right will stop at nothing, including open collaboration with the Tories and the prostitute press, to destroy anyone who isn’t committed to neo-liberalism and NATO.
This book isn’t an autobiography and, as it name suggests, covers the years when Williamson was MP for Derby North, from 2010-15 and 2017-19, ending in his defeat in 2019.
Williamson ignores the period in the early to mid-2000s when he was Labour’s pragmatic leader of Derby Council making arrangements with the Tories in order that Labour could retain control of the Council and even using the Private Finance Initiative in order to buy up housing.
Chris Williamson followed in the footsteps of his hero, Tony Benn, in moving from right to left. Perhaps this was part of the reason why he was so hated by the right. Although Williamson came from a working class background unlike the aristocratic Benn, he defied the tradition in the Labour Party of Labour MPs moving in the opposite direction.
Williamson held on to Derby North, a red wall seat, in 2010 with a majority of just 613. In 2015 he lost the seat by the smallest majority in parliament, 41. In 2017, the first election under Corbyn, Williamson regained it with a majority of 2,015.
In 2015 right-wing Labour MPs, believing their own rhetoric that Corbyn would lose disastrously, asked voters to support them despite Corbyn’s leadership. Their campaigns, as we now know, were covertly funded by the rogue Ergon House operation run by Labour’s senior staff.
Nick Cohen summed up their mentality just one month before Theresa May announced the 2017 election. Cohen described the election disaster that was around the corner:
On current polling, Labour will get around a quarter of the vote… Will there be 150, 125, 100 Labour MPs by the end of the flaying? My advice is to think of a number then halve it.’
When the results were announced Labour had achieved a 40% share of the vote and an increase of 30 in the number of seats. It was the largest swing since 1945 and 9.6% more than Ed Miliband’s miserable performance in 2015.
Williamson took a principled stance and far from distancing himself from Corbyn issued a press release announcing himself as ‘the most Corbyn-friendly candidate standing anywhere in Britain.’ 
The Miliband Years
Williamson devotes relatively little time to his period in parliament from 2010-2015 when he was a Shadow Fire Minister under Ed Miliband before being sacked after standing on an FBU picket line. Williamson was not a firebrand or anti-imperialist when he was first elected. In March 2011 he supported a resolution approving the imposition of a no-fly zone in Libya, the precursor to NATO’s bombing of Libya. A decision he was to later regret.
Williamson describes how Miliband, having been elected as the left-wing candidate, proved a bitter disappointment. Williamson savages the decision to abstain as the Tories took the axe to social security benefits. Under Miliband the approach to austerity was that the Coalition, in the words of Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson, was ‘cutting too far and too fast.’ 
Chuka Ummuna, who was later to defect to the Lib Dems, was put in charge of opposing the privatisation of the Post Office. When Williamson urged Ummuna to commit Labour to renationalising the Post Office, the answer was revealing as to who really wields power in Britain: ‘We can’t do that. The City wouldn’t wear it.’
Williamson recalls Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, remarking that ‘One of the first acts of the Coalition government was to turbo-charge Lord Adonis’s academy programme.’  The privatisation of local authority schools had been inherited from New Labour.
As Williamson observed ‘The Shadow of New Labourism continued to linger on in the Miliband years.’ The book however is most revealing for its description of the Corbyn years and how Corbyn and the Labour Left snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in 2017.
The Corbyn Years
From the very beginning of his leadership Corbyn faced the unremitting opposition of Labour’s senior staff who, it was revealed in Labour’s Leaked Report, had openly wanted a Tory victory. When the polls began to turn in Corbyn’s favour they openly expressed their disappointment.
Corbyn’s election had been a fluke. The Labour Right had convinced itself that one-person one-vote would ensure that the Left would be forever marginalised. Right-wing MPs like Sadiq Khan had persuaded themselves that Corbyn could never win and therefore nominated him in order to make the process seem democratic. As Margaret Beckett ruefully remarked later, she was a ‘moron’ for having done so.
After having attacked Corbyn on a variety of grounds without success, the Right settled on ‘anti-Semitism’ as their chosen weapon. There were many reasons for this, not least that it gave them the moral high ground to be seen to be attacking Corbyn as a racist.
This should have been called out for what it was from the beginning. This was the most catastrophic mistake of Corbyn and the Labour Left, especially Momentum under Jon Lansman’s baleful influence.
It wasn’t as if it was difficult to point out the hypocrisy of the Labour Right adopting the mantle of anti-racism. The British National Party even sent Margaret Hodge a bunch of flowers in appreciation of her proposal for a Whites only housing policy.
Tom Watson, who declared that he wouldn’t rest easy until every last anti-Semite had been expelled from Labour, had a long record of playing the race card stretching back to the Birmingham Hodshrove by-election in 2004 when he told the electorate that Labour was ‘on your side’ unlike the Lib Dems who ‘were on the side of asylum seekers’.
When Phil Woolas, who had run a racist campaign in 2010 designed to ‘make the white folks angry’, was removed by an Election Court from Parliament for lying about his Lib Dem opponent, Watson wrote about how he had lost sleep thinking about ‘poor Phil’
Others who led the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign included John Mann, who had previously issued the Bassetlaw Anti-Social Behaviour Handbook which labelled a whole ethnic group, Gypsies, as anti-social. Mann ended up being interviewed by the Police under caution.
The worst New Labour racists had suddenly become concerned about anti-Semitism. Of course the Labour Party, with nearly 600,000 members harboured a handful of anti-Semites. It would be surprising if they didn’t. Statistically the Labour Party no doubt harboured a few paedophiles but no one suggested that Labour was overrun by them.
The Labour Right was full to the brim with Islamaphobes but nobody mentioned that. Yet Corbyn, McDonnell and Lansman, alongside the openly Zionist AWL adopted the anti-Semitism narrative wholesale.
The ‘anti-Semitism’ allegations were clearly about Israel. Today every human rights organisation accepts that Israel is an apartheid state. The only defence Zionist supporters have is to cry ‘anti-Semitism’. Unfortunately Williamson was the only Labour MP to get it.
When Black anti-racist activist Marc Wadsworth was suspended and then expelled for having criticised Ruth Smeeth MP at the Chakrabarti Inquiry press conference, only Williamson stood up for him. When Jackie Walker, a Black-Jewish member was suspended it was Williamson who stood by her. Williamson supportedLabour Against the Witchhunt and spoke on its platforms alongside expelled and suspended members.
At Wadsworth’s hearing a ‘lynch mob’ of all-White MPs accompanied Smeeth to the hearing. Yet instead of Corbyn coming out in support of his old friend, Marc was told by LOTO that ‘it won’t help Jeremy if there is a demonstration.’ When Marc told the press that Corbyn had phoned him personally to give support LOTO went out of their way to deny it.
When Williamson appeared on a platform with Jackie Walker, Ben Folley of LOTO told Williamson to heed the Zionists’ ‘advice’ not to do so.  As Williamson recounted:
The febrile atmosphere bludgeoned every MP but me into accepting the false narrative. I was, literally, the only MP prepared to challenge it publicly.
To this day I wonder why it never occurred to Corbyn’s advisors such as Seamus Milne that retreating only encourages your enemies. In Milne’s case he knew from personal experience how Israel’s supporters deploy accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’. The question must arise as to who Milne was working for.
If Jeremy had stood up to the weaponisation of anti-Semitism he could have turned the tables on his detractors. He could have pointed to New Labour’s racist record and mobilised the 70% of Labour Party members who consistently refused to accept that Labour was an anti-Semitic party.
The Zionist lobby in the Labour Party led by the Jewish Labour Movement [JLM] had its knives out for Williamson who they outrageously called a ‘Jew-baiter’. Williamson who had fought National Front influence on building sites, often with his fists, was now called a racist by those who had never fought either racism or anti-Semitism.
In March 2018 the Board of Deputies called a demonstration to protest at Labour ‘anti-Semitism’. Among the ‘anti-racists’ who attended were Norman Tebbit MP of the ‘cricket test’ and Ian Paisley Jnr, of the anti-Catholic DUP. Tebbit had previously said that those who supported the Indian or Pakistani cricket teams were not really British was now an anti-racist!
This was the first ‘anti-racist’ demonstration that the Board had ever called. When Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists tried to march through the East End in October 1936 they were repulsed at the Battle of Cable Street despite the Board advising Jews to stay indoors and keep their heads down. The Jewish Chronicle wrote:
Jews are urgently warned to keep away from the route of the Blackshirt march and from their meetings. Jews who, however innocently, become involved in any possible disorders will be actively helping antisemitism and Jew-baiting. Unless you want to help the Jew-baiters, keep away.”
The Zionist movement has never fought anti-Semitism. The Zionist movement, when it first arose at the end of the 19th century, was greeted by most Jews as a form of Jewish anti-Semitism. Zionism believed that anti-Semitism was a virus that all non-Jews carried around with them and therefore it was futile to fight against it.
Corbyn and his advisors, rather than standing up to their detractors, appeased and apologised, throwing first Ken Livingstone and then Williamson to the wolves.
Williamson was suspended in 2019. It was a classic example of what George Orwell called Doublethink. In the eyes of Jennie Formby and the witchhuntersBlack was White. At a meeting of Sheffield Momentum in February 2019 Williamson gave a speech in which he stated ‘We’ve been too apologetic. What have we to apologise for? For being an anti-racist party?’ 
This was twisted by the Yorkshire Post into ‘Chris Williamson tells a Sheffield Momentum meeting that Labour has been “too apologetic” about anti-Semitism”
A good example of how the McCarthyist ‘guilt-by-association’ technique had been adopted and accepted by Corbyn and Formby was the comment in the right-wing Labour magazine Prospect on hearing of Williamson’s suspension.
This week matters came to a head. In the space of 48 hours we have seen Williamson attempt to host an event in Parliament with a woman who has been suspended from the Labour Party under investigation for antisemitism before telling an event in Sheffield that the Party has been “too apologetic” about the same topic.
These two things in one week alone should have been enough to warrant disciplinary action even if they had come from nowhere. But Williamson has a well-established history of upsetting the Jewish community
The weasel words of these press whores, because journalists they are not, are a wonder to behold. They build their case resting one lie on top of another. Who in the ‘Jewish Community’ (is there one?) was upset? We are not told. Apparently it is unacceptable to host an ‘event’ (a film called, appropriately enough The Witchhunt) because it is with a woman accused of, anti-Semitism. In other words you are guilty until proven innocent (although Jackie Walker was at no time accused of antisemitism).
Yet what was the response of LOTO? To defend Williamson? To call out the harlots of the press and the Labour Right? No their advice was to apologise. Not only did the Socialist Campaign Group not defend Williamson but Laura Pidcock told him not to attend any more meetings! 
Solidarity was never the SCG’s strong point. McDonnell’s advice was to ‘apologise again and again’.  The only members to offer any support were Richard Burgon and the MP for Crewe, Laura Smith.
All the soft-Corbynites from Guardian journalist Owen Jones to Jon Lansman and Novara Media joined the calls for Williamson’s expulsion. Even Richard Seymour, the ex-SWP writer repeated the lie that Williamson had said Labour was too apologetic about anti-Semitism.  Yet what Williamson said was easily available.
In June 2019 a National Executive panel voted 2-1 to reinstate Williamson. Almost immediately a hue and cry was raised and Tom Watson launched a petition amongst right-wing peers and MPs. What Corbyn should have done was to issue a statement welcoming the decision and reaffirming his earlier statement of 31 January 2019 to the Derby Telegraph that ‘He is not an anti-Semitic in anyway.’ 
Yet Corbyn not only didn’t defend Williamson he issued a statement implying that he was anti-Semitic. Once again Corbyn had done the work of the Right. Williamson was duly resuspended 48 hours later.
Williamson went to court and applied for a Declaration that the suspension was unlawful. In September 2019 Justice Popperwell ruled that it was indeed unlawful. In anticipation Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby had issued a third suspension on a flimsy pretext but this was enough to carry the day and Williamson remained suspended.
Formby was appointed General Secretary in the wake of Iain McNicoll’s resignation. She was a supporter of Corbyn yet she had engineered a situation where the demands of the Right for Williamson’s head were met. Not for nothing does Williamson label her ‘Judas Jennie’ though perhaps this is unfair. Judas was paid 30 pieces of silver whereas Jennie betrayed Williamson for nothing!
After the high hopes of September 2015 and his success in defeating the challenge of Owen Smith MP in 2016 Corbyn, instead of fighting Labour’s pro-capitalist MPs had succumbed to them. As Williamson said of LOTO ‘they were one-trick ponies, whose only strategy was to appease and capitulate to hostile forces.’
Did this appeasement of the JLM achieve anything? Did Formby not understand that when she boasted of the expulsion of hundreds of Labour Party members for ‘anti-Semitism’ that all she was doing was confirming the Right’s false anti-Semitism narrative?
Labour’s Leaked Report (p.306) sums up the policy that Corbyn and his advisors had adopted of appeasing the Zionist lobby:
Jeremy Corbyn himself and members of his staff team requested to GLU that particular antisemitism cases be dealt with. In 2017 LOTO staff chased for action on high-profile antisemitism cases Ken Livingstone, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth, stressing that these cases were of great concern to Jewish stakeholders and that resolving them was essential to “rebuilding trust between the Labour Party and the Jewish community”.
Well we were all expelled or forced out of the party. Was trust rebuilt? Of course not. It simply whetted the appetite of Corbyn’s accusers who went on to demand more and more heads until there was no one left to expel but Corbyn himself.
Not content with preventing Williamson stand at the 2019 election, Corbyn and Formby introduced ‘fast track’ expulsions for the most ‘egregious’ of cases, which were subsequently used against hundreds of people including Corbyn himself.
Corbyn, who in a different era had been Secretary of Labour Against the Witchhunt, opposed the very things he had always fought for such as Open Selection of MPs at the 2018 conference. In doing so he sealed his own fate.
Possibly the main fault of Williamson’s book is his tendency to seek revenge against detractors like Edward Isaacs of Bristol University when they are simply unimportant. Williamson also does not really deal with whether what happened is inevitable in a reformist social democratic party which seeks to manage capitalism rather than change it.
However this book will be ignored by the Left at its peril. It is not about personalities or the weakness of Corbyn and Formby but about socialist strategy and whether Labour is doomed to remain a pro-capitalist party.