new report slammed by Palestine Action and others

  • Post last modified:May 21, 2024
  • Reading time:9 mins read

The following article is a comment piece from Palestine Action

On Tuesday 21 May, secretary of state James Cleverly will present former Labour MP John Woodcock (otherwise known as Lord Walney)’s 240-page review on disruptive protest to the House of Commons. The report’s release, initially set to be on Wednesday 15 May (Nakba Day) was delayed, after Palestine Action’s lawyers pointed out Woodcock’s failure to meet his legal obligations as an independent advisor to the government.

Namely, he did not consult Palestine Action and the other groups mentioned in his report on its contents, nor provided the opportunity to ask for clarifications or a right to reply.  

Woodcock: avoiding accountability via parliament

Cleverly will now lay the document before MPs following the ‘Motion for Unopposed Return’ procedure, under the pretext that it was written by an independent advisor.

This enables the report to be published as a House of Commons paper, which means it comes with the protection of parliamentary privilege — a form of legal immunity that prevents any group named in the report from claiming defamation.

By publishing the review in this manner, Cleverly and Woodcock are using procedure in a deliberate attempt to avoid accountability – described by Shami Chakrabarti in a recent news article published by the Guardian as an ‘abuse of parliamentary privilege.’  

John Woodcock, the so-called independent advisor responsible for writing the report, claimed to apply an “objective standard” throughout — though it was only in October 2023 that he referred to Palestine Action in a tweet as “Hamas’s little helpers.”

Far from impartial

This assertion of impartiality seems even more dubious, when one considers his ties to the arms industry and long-standing connections with the Israel lobby group “Labour Friends of Israel” — where he acted as chair of the organisation from July 2011 to January 2013. He also makes frequent visits to Israel, with his most recent trip taking place between 2-7 January 2024. Described as a “solidarity visit,” Woodcock’s flights and accommodation were paid for by the European Leadership Network (ElNet UK) – all amidst the ongoing genocide in Gaza. 

Currently, Woodcock is advisor to the “Purpose Business Coalition”.

One of its clients is Leonardo UK, which has worked with the Purpose Coalition since March 2022. Palestine Action identifies Leonardo UK as an arms company that is facilitating Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people.

The weapons manufacturer has been a key focus of the group’s direct-action campaign to shut Elbit down and all its affiliates, with sites across the country repeatedly targeted — from activists occupying one of Leonardo’s factories in Edinburgh, to spray painting the London HQ 

Shilling for arms manufacturers and the West

Whilst Woodcock registered his interest as chair of the Purpose Business Coalition, he excluded his role as chair for the Purpose of Defence Coalition (PDC) – a distinct entity from the Purpose Business Coalition.

The PDC website was promptly removed, alongside a page on Leonardo and the Purpose Coalition, over the weekend after Woodcock was questioned on it. At the PDC’s launch event on 18 July 2023 in Parliament, which was “powered by Leonardo UK”, Woodcock said the following [emphasis added]:

Russia’s war on Ukraine has caused a seismic shift in the world. It has highlighted the crucial nature of defence in upholding our values and the need for a vibrant, well-regulated defence industry. The best defence companies have always acted with high ethical standards but their central role in helping the Ukrainian people to defend their sovereignty, and the significant investment they make in the communities where they operate, is rightly prompting ESG investors to look again at the sector. 

That is why I am proud to launch the Purpose Defence Coalition, part of the wider Purpose Coalition, to bring together the defence sector’s most innovative leaders and businesses to share best practice and develop policy solutions.

Featured image via Palestine Action and Wikimedia

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