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POLITICAL witch-hunts targeting allies of Jeremy Corbyn must not be allowed to “poison relationships between the black, Asian and Jewish communities,” Clive Lewis told a Grassroots Black Left fringe meeting on Tuesday night.
Mr Lewis said he was proud to stand with anti-racist Marc Wadsworth in his battle to be reinstated as a member of the Labour Party, having known and campaigned with him for decades.
Mr Wadsworth was expelled from the party on the grounds of bringing it into disrepute by saying Ruth Smeeth MP was working “hand in hand” with the Daily Telegraph at the launch of the Chakrabarti report into anti-semitism in the party.
Ms Smeeth subsequently alleged that the accusation was an anti-semitic reference to supposed Jewish control of the press.
But Mr Lewis said Mr Wadsworth had merely been making a political point about right-wing MPs working with right-wing newspapers.
“It was not an anti-semitic trope. It was a political observation,” he said to applause.
The Norwich South MP said when Mr Wadsworth had asked for his help he had thought: “Shit!”
He added: “You’ve seen what happens when you stick your head above the parapet on this issue. It gets shot off,” but he had had to stand in solidarity with a comrade and for the principle that “people should be able to express themselves politically.”
He declared: “I would like to see Jeremy Corbyn come out fighting on this issue.”
Train drivers union Aslef president Tosh McDonald warned that the party’s treatment of activists like Mr Wadsworth was reminiscent of witch-hunts, with calls for people to be expelled rather than respect for due process and proper investigation of complaints and Chris Williamson MP said the cause was not just about justice for the anti-racist campaigner but for “thousands” of Labour Party members treated “appallingly” by the party's disciplinary arm.
Mr Wadsworth, an activist of decades’ standing whose work for the campaign for justice for Stephen Lawrence included introducing Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu to the Lawrence family, called for a revived grassroots anti-racist movement.
He said there was a lack of understanding of anti-black racism in the Labour Party and beyond.
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