Chris Williamson and friend in better days for Labour

It’s no big secret. The Labour Party is in crisis. 

It really wasn’t that long ago the Party had £13 million in the kitty, the largest membership of any political organisation in Europe and plentiful funding from the unions. 

But this Labour Party, led by the hapless Keir Starmer, is pleading with billionaires to come and buy their own little bit of grubby influence – to the point where they’ve actually hired someone to seek out the billionaires. 

Whether you were a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, or whether you really thought a bit of free broadband was likely to bring the British economy to a grinding halt, at least you knew what Jeremy and the Labour Party stood for. 

But what does this Labour Party stand for?  

So I thought I would catch up with an old mate and get their take on things. 

Chris Williamson was the Member of Parliament for Derby North from 2010 until 2015, and from 2017 to 2019. He was Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government from October 2010 to October 2013 under Ed Miliband, and the Shadow Minister for Fire and Emergency Services from 2017–2018, under Jeremy Corbyn. 

Prior to his time as an MP Chris was previously a local councillor in Derby, representing the Normanton ward from 1991 until 2011, serving twice as leader of Derby City Council. 

Following his resignation from the Labour Party in 2019, Chris initiated The Resistance Movement, with the stated aim of fighting for change and social justice for all. 

And just last year, the EHRC report into the vastly exaggerated Labour antisemitism crisis found that Mr Williamson had not contributed to ‘unlawful harassment related to Jewish ethnicity’ in the Labour Party – a complete vindication, and a firm two-fingered salute to the orchestrators of the witch hunt. 

Here’s what Chris had to say to me…

What are your thoughts on the exclusion of the pro-Palestinian, award-winning filmmaker Ken Loach from the Labour Party? 

Ken Loach is a towering figure in the labour movement, whose acclaimed films are acknowledged as landmarks of social realism, so I’m appalled by the way he’s been treated, but not surprised.  The battle for the soul of the Labour Party was lost several years ago when the leadership and the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs failed to stand by Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth and many others.  

Just before I was suspended by Jennie Formby, the supposed left-wing general secretary who actually intensified the witch-hunt, I pleaded with the Campaign Group to start publicly opposing the smear merchants, but they ignored me.  When I was kicked out they remained silent.  When I was reinstated, then kicked out again, still they remained silent, even when I explicitly asked them for their solidarity.

By contrast, Ken Loach spoke out in my support, and backed others who were unfairly targeted too by the unholy alliance of right-wing neoliberal apologists and Zionist zealots.  This pernicious partnership, which shamelessly weaponised anti-Semitism to bring down the Corbyn movement, have had Ken in their crosshairs for years.

Tragically, Jeremy facilitated this infuriating debacle, by continually conceding to bad faith actors.  The expulsion of Ken Loach, is the inevitable, stomach-turning consequence of the Campaign Group’s cowardice and the appeasement strategy that Jeremy’s advisers pushed him to adopt.  If they had taken a leaf out of Ken’s book and stood by their comrades, and stood up to our enemies, Jeremy would be prime minister now, I would still be a Labour MP and Ken Loach would be one of Labour’s greatest assets. 

Given the rapid decline in Keir Starmer’s personal approval ratings, and the Labour Party some distance behind the worst government in living memory in all of the opinion polls, do you think Keir Starmer is likely to be leading Labour into the next general election? 

Starmer is without doubt the worst leader in living memory, probably the worst leader the party’s ever had.  But will he be replaced before the next election?  I doubt it.  Even if he was, who would replace him?  Lisa Nandy? Wes Streeting? Rachel Reeves?  That would be like leaping out of the frying pan into the fire.  No left-winger would make it onto the ballot paper and even if they did, they’ve all proved to be paper-tigers.

So, the Labour Party is over as a vehicle for even a modest form of socialism, and as for being a force for anti-imperialism – you can forget it.  Our only hope is to build an alternative to the Labour Party.  Clinging to the hope that the Labour Party can be reclaimed is a recipe for perpetual disappointment.  Worse still, it provides a fig leaf for the neoliberal imposters who control the party to say it’s still a broad church.  But the only church they’re interested in is one where the congregation puts money in the collection box and spreads the word handed down from on high.

Earlier today I was reading an old letter in support of you and your readmission to the Labour Party. Included in the list of distinguished signatories was none other than the legendary Noam Chomsky. How did it feel to have his backing, when clickbait flip-flop Guardian columnists and Blairite relic MPs that tried to get a 176-year-old Jewish cemetery bulldozed, were more than willing to throw you under the wheels of the first passing bus? 

It was enormously uplifting to receive the support of people like Noam Chomsky, Miriam Margolyes and Yanis Varoufakis, but more important than that, was the amazing outpouring of love and solidarity from grassroots supporters all over the country.

The support was there from decent people, but sadly the leadership did not get behind the democratic reforms that I toured the country to promote, which allowed the haters to prevail.

The Labour Party should be the natural vehicle for societal change, but Starmer’s Labour Party would seem to be more of a clapped-out Morris Minor driving in reverse. Can you see any realistic way back for socialism and socialists in the Labour Party, or is it time to accept the party of Attlee, Skinner, Corbyn, and Benn is now the party of Akehurst, Streeting and Mandelson? 

No, the party is finished.  The sooner we all recognise that fact the better.  The Labour Party is now part of the problem.  Indeed, it’s been part of the problem since Neil Kinnock’s days as leader, and it’s got progressively worse ever since.  We have been kidding ourselves for decades, me included, that Labour was a credible vehicle for progressive societal change.  It isn’t.  It’s in thrall to corporate capitalism and the military industrial complex.  In short, it’s part of the war machine that has visited death and destruction around the world and whilst it might provide a few crumbs from the table for people at home, that’s all it is – crumbs.

Remember inequality rocketed when New Labour was in government.  Privatisation prospered.  War proliferated.  Anti-trade union legislation remained on the statute book.  Social security benefits were cut.  The pension age was increased.  Financial services were further deregulated.  Tuition fees were introduced.  And millions were forced to live in unfit accommodation to name but a few of the scandalous situation that pertained under the last Labour government.   

I read a report suggesting Keir Starmer has kicked out more left-wing Jewish people from the Labour Party than all of the other Labour leaders, combined. Does the Labour Party have an antisemitism problem, and why do we hear so little about it in the media, compared to the false allegations made about people such as yourself, which received wall-to-wall coverage? 

It’s not a problem with anti-Semitism as such.  The Labour Party has a problem with its remaining socialists and anti-imperialists.  That is why they are targeting Jewish socialist comrades who speak out in support of the Palestinian people.  Don’t forget, Sir Keir Starmer says he supports Zionism without qualification, and Zionism is a racist, settler-colonial ideology, so it’s hardly surprising that anti-Zionist Jews are being targeted.

The British left has been fractured for quite some time. Some smaller groups have formed, working around a ‘Corbynesque’ type of platform, but ranty egotistical ‘leaders’, a failure to understand how our political system works, and a complete lack of credibility ensures they’ll never be much more than an annoying divisive Twitter account. There’s a lot of politically homeless socialists out there right now. What, or who would you suggest they get behind, if they’re looking to continue their activism? 

We need to find a way of collaborating on the left.  Unless we do that, we are doomed to fail.  But there is hope.  The Resist Movement for a People’s Party is organising a Festival of Resistance in Nottingham on October 16/17 to consider the way forward.  The Workers Party nearly caused an upset in the Batley and Spen by-election.  The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, or TUSC, has also been reformed, so there are a few acorns being planted.  Our task is to ensure they grow into giant oak trees.  But we don’t just want a few isolated oak trees, we need a forest of giant oak trees throughout the land.  

I know that changing the political status quo won’t be easy.  But as I keep saying, it’s better to start today than to leave it to another generation.  And that means recognising that the Labour Party is not the solution.  We need to get out of this abusive relationship and start again.  I would urge people to join us in the deliberations in Nottingham in October and come to the Resist Event at the Rialto Theatre in Brighton that will take place from 26 – 28 September.  

A social movement can secure political change, not by being nice to politicians, but by frightening them into action.  Let’s also demand that our trade unions stop funding this shit show of a party, and start community organising, working with groups like Resist.  Let’s inspire new working class leaders to emerge so that we can start electing people that represent the working class instead of the corporate class.  But let’s not put all our eggs in an electoral strategy, because we’ve seen that representative democracy isn’t fit for purpose.   We need a social movement to ensure that those who are elected do not lose their way.  So I guess what I’m saying is, let’s build a social movement to replace our broken democracy with participatory democracy to ensure the world’s fifth biggest economy works in the interests of the many, not the few.  

Finally, I believe you are writing a book? What can we expect in a book written by Chris Williamson, and when do you think we might be able to get our hands on a copy?

I am indeed, and I am just putting the finishing touches to it.  I was first elected to parliament in 2010, before losing in 2015 by 41 votes, then winning my seat back in 2017. So, it’s my first-hand account, the inside story if you like, of the Miliband and Corbyn years, and will include some thoughts on the future.  

The next task will be finding a publisher. The title of the book will be ’10 Years Hard Labour’. I hope to get it published by the end of the year, but that will depend on the publishers.

Huge thanks to Chris Williamson for taking the time to speak to me. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts, if you want to chip in towards improving my ongoing campaign, and it would cause you *no hardship*, you can do so here:

5 thought on “Rachael talks ‘hard labour’ with Chris Williamson”
  1. Totally agree We most definitely Should we are now going to be Blamed For Tax Hike and again all Muslims are going to be blamed to too we need to use our Hate Crimes and Start at the Top They Need Scapegoats desperately Because of the Brexit Bullshit all the Fuck ups every where whilst there is very Few Party Members that will speak out we need to support the ones that do.
    Will be Used against us.We can be strong together we are becoming a bit of an Army but our weapons are our Real life Experience, Our ability to Empathize, and Socialist Principles Hi Rachel Great Interview BTW Chris Williamson Never really got past the mess and Blame I feel a bit different about him now however he has a Book to sell so time will tell loving the
    Probe a bit of real News. I’m loving the Site it looks fantastic I think I will be popping back for more can’t wait to read Charlottes and Dave’s Blogs next Turiings totally relatable loved it My family sent me to Coventry for Dating a black Guy who was adopted by a White Family it was a long while ago it Hurt 💔❤️‍🩹. ☮️👊🏼

  2. What’s so great about Rachael, is that she has no fear, just a determination like a cat with a mouse to articulate her views and find common ground with many who would see themselves at odds with her standpoint, it’s this that makes a great journalist, being unafraid, saying how they see it and putting that across in a way its hard to disagree. Freedom to express OUR views is something that increasingly concerns me as it’s so under threat.
    The Labour Party as anyone with a basic history of the movement will be aware has NEVER been united, in part due to the broad Anti Tory alliances it has to work with in order to get the keys to number 10 at a time the political two-party system especially in England is so undemocratic and without PR never going to happen whilst Tories have power. What should give everyone faith is that over 300,000 who were inspired by Corbyn joined and remain, party members, if just 50% take an active role in the local CLP and Union branch meetings change will come, but it’s only possible when WE ALL take a stand. Keir may never win the keys to Number 10, But in the present climate who would want the job?

    1. Raymond,
      Your standpoint is the very one that Chris is saying has failed. I left the Labour Party 30 years ago after it embraced neo liberalism and neo imperialism. By remaining in a right wing dancer means you will just dance to their tune. It is a dysfunctional relationship with the right wing being predominant and the abusers. This is the time to take on the Labour Party and replace it with a new grass roots movement

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