Woodcock – the now ‘Lord Walney’

  • Post last modified:March 12, 2024
  • Reading time:7 mins read

Three of Britain’s leading civil society organisations – including Liberty – have issued a statement calling for a rejection of Lord ‘Woodcock’ Walney’s advice to political party leaders to ban their MPs from engaging with Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). It comes after the former Labour Party MP mounted a clear attack on some protests and campaign groups – or rather, ones he doesn’t agree with.

Stop calling Woodcock ‘Lord Walney’

‘Lord’ Walney is actually former Labour MP John Woodcock. He was a critic of the then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and actively worked to undermine the party at the time. Woodcock even went so far as to imply Corbyn was a threat to national security; said Labour “tolerated” antisemitism, and noted the party had been ‘taken over by the far-left’.

As the Morning Star noted:

As a Labour MP, he was best known for his strong support for British nuclear weapons and the Saudi assault on Yemen. He did a shift as chair of Labour Friends of Israel — “a great nation rooted in progressive liberal values,” he said.

In 2019 he backed the Tories in the general election and was subsequently ennobled by Boris Johnson in a move few would regard as coincidental and which made him a legislator for life.

Woodcock PSC: ‘political violence’ – or rather, people he doesn’t like

Now, Woodcock is working as the Tories’ extremism advisor. As the Morning Star reported, he is now:

the government’s official adviser on political violence and disruption. It is in that role that he has emerged in the van of the mounting threat to democratic and civil rights.

He has gone into overdrive with the Israeli attack on Gaza, which he fully supports, and the development of a huge mass movement against that genocide and British political complicity in it.

Almost every week… [Woodcock] proposes a new way of stopping the pro-Palestinian protests.

He has recommended making organisations responsible for the demonstrations pay for their policing, without any suggestion of giving them a say in how they are policed.

He is unbothered by protest thus becoming the preserve of the rich, who have little to protest about.

He has urged a ban on protests outside “democratic” locations, including the House of Commons, MPs’ surgeries and Town Halls…

Most recently, he has said that ministers and MPs should be prohibited by their parties from engaging with a range of groups, including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Over on X, and people were pointing out ‘who the hell does Woodcock think he is’?

Others were wondering why Woodcock had not published a report he was supposed to:

Declassified UK reminded us that Woodcock, while slamming the PSC, has also taken donations from the Israel lobby:

PSC: an ‘essential element of our democratic system’

So, in response to Woodcock’s PSC attacks, three groups have issued a joint statement over the PSC.

The statement has been issued by Liberty, Friends of the Earth, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and Amnesty International UK. It comes in response to Woodcock’s recommendation that political parties instruct their MPs and elected officials to shun PSC.

In their joint statement the three organisations declare that:

The activities of organisations like PSC are lawful, legitimate, and nonviolent, and are essential elements of our democratic system.”

They also state that:

Any suggestion that the government or political parties should ban all meetings or engagement with legal civil society organisations or sections of the electorate, is profoundly anti-democratic and sets a dangerous precedent.

At a time when civil society and human rights defenders are under attack around the world, the British government should be upholding our core human rights, not seeking to remove them from those with whom it has political disagreements.

Last week an open letter signed by nearly 50 civil society organisations including PSC, Amnesty International, Liberty, Greenpeace and Oxfam condemned the government’s announced intention to place further limits on the right to protest in specific democratic locations including MPs offices and council chambers.

The letter also condemned the smearing of the movement led by PSC, which is calling for an immediate ceasefire to stop Israel’s mass killing of civilians in Gaza.

Woodcock PSC: ‘profoundly anti-democratic’. Quelle surprise.

PSC is the largest organisation in Europe campaigning in support of Palestinian rights with a network of around 100 branches across Britain, and hundreds of thousands of members and supporters from a broad cross section of British society. As the statement underlines:

the scale of its recent demonstrations calling for a ceasefire show PSC is supported by a substantial body of public opinion in Britain.

Ben Jamal, director of PSC, said:

The recent demonstrations organised by PSC reveal a huge democratic gulf between the majority of the British population on the one hand, which opposes Israel’s violence, and most politicians on the other. Polling has consistently shown that that between two thirds and three quarters of the public supports an immediate ceasefire.

Politicians should be listening to the wishes of the public and put pressure on Israel to end its murderous assault, rather than trying to shut down democratic engagement and debate.

To suggest that MPs should be banned from engaging with PSC – an organisation that speaks for a massive body of opinion on this issue – is profoundly anti-democratic.

Featured image via GB News – YouTube

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