Chapter 5: February 3 2017 - The day fake “anti-Semitism” smears began to be used as a weapon against Corbyn supporters in Brighton and Hove

This is the fifth chapter of what was always intended to be a single article. A compendium of all nine chapters — written and published since May 4 2019 — can be found together via this link to the single article (which will be regularly revised in the days and weeks after May 14 2020): Iain McNicol: The criminal conspiracy against the Labour Party, its leadership, and its members

Other individual chapters can be found here: Chapter 1; Chapter 2; Chapter 3; Chapter 4; Chapter 5; Chapter 6; Chapter 7; Chapter 8 (to come); Chapter 9.

This is a devastating instalment in this series of disclosures about the McNicol conspiracy. I did not realise how devastating, until I renewed my researches — thanks to the leaked report — into exactly what was going on at the heart of the McNicol conspiracy and on the battleground of Brighton and Hove in January and February 2017.

You will recall that the expulsions and suspensions had begun in Brighton and Hove: Mark Sandell (October 19 2016) and me (October 26 2016), respectively.

Moreover, after the Buckingham/NEC report, the City Party had to be split — as ordained by the Labour Party NEC Disputes Panel on October 18 2016 — into its three Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs): Hove, Brighton Pavilion, and Brighton Kemptown.

A timetable — and detailed arrangements for the initial general meetings (IGMs) of the three CLPs (with delegate-based meetings rather than all-member meetings) — were fixed by a steering committee (from which I had been excluded, by my suspension). The steering committee met three times: November 15 2016; November 29 2016, and February 3 2017.

It is, however the evening of Friday, February 3 2017 on which I wish to concentrate. Because this was the day — with the connivance of McNicol and his employees — Caplin (passim) and Cattell (passim), aided by others in their networks (mainly but not exclusively in Hove), used fake allegations of “anti-Semitism” for their own anti-democratic, anti-socialist, anti-Corbyn ends.

It was 6.29pm and I was first to arrive at the Caxton Arms public house in Brighton for an informal chat with a few pro-Corbyn colleagues. The others were all members of the NEC-imposed steering committee, which was about to have its final meeting that evening at 7.30pm; Brighton Pavilion CLP and Brighton Kemptown CLP were to have their initial general meetings (IGMs) the following day; Hove CLP was scheduled to follow a day later, on Sunday, February 5.

We were optimistic and anxious, in equal measure. And then, as the others were about to arrive, I saw the tweet. It came like a bolt from the blue; its author was Caplin, instantaneously disseminating a libellous new article from the so-called charity Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA).

For the first time since the “spitting” lies at and after the July 9 2016 City Party meeting, the “anti-Semitism” smears — increasingly prevalent in the national media had hit home.

And why?

Because the Hove CLP initial general meeting (IGM )— scheduled for Sunday, February 5 — was due to be held in Ralli Hall in Hove, two days later. And right-wingers like Caplin and Kyle knew pro-Corbyn candidates were on track to win, on Saturday, February 4, to win at the IGMs in Brighton Pavilion and Brighton Kemptown.

I had been to Ralli Hall twice before, initially for an early City Party meeting in January 2012.

More recently — after the City Party annual meeting — I had attended a meeting organised on July 26 2016 by the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, with guest speaker Peter Kyle and chaired by Fiona Sharpe, of whom more later.

The meeting — whose secret venue was disclosed to registrants only hours before it started — was organised by Amy Wagner, who has since been appointed special adviser to former Labour MP Lord Mann, the government adviser on antisemitism appointed by Theresa May in July 2019.

National headlines had begun to be increasingly dominated by a few — and ultimately spurious —high-profile allegations (fuelled by Mann’s ranting televised confrontation with Ken Livingstone on April 28 2016 and by the walkout of a “tearful” Ruth Smeeth, the now-former Labour MP at the launch of the Chakrabarti Report on June 30 2016).

Therefore, as the secretary-designate of the City Party, I attended to express the solidarity of local Labour Party members with the Jewish community in our city. I sat in the front row, opposite Sgt Peter Allan, Sussex Police’s hate-crime officer, a panellist to whom I gave — at the end of the meeting — a copy of my report of the recent abuse of Seema Chandwani in the Grand Central public house.

The whole of the meeting was filmed by Simon Cobbs, founder of Sussex Friends of Israel, who came to sit next to me shortly before the 7.30pm meeting started. Cobbs — a foul-mouthed opponent of pro-Palestine activists— frequently films such events.

I made only a brief contribution, as the final speaker — and only after Kyle kindly drew Sharpe’s attention to my upraised hand, which she had repeatedly ignored.

I made a few, brief — not particularly noteworthy — remarks. Quoting its first sentence, I welcomed the fact that the recently-published Chakrabarti Report had found the Labour Party was not overrun by antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism. I said how I had marched against racists on the streets, not only in Brighton and Hove, but also — as a member of the Anti-Nazi League in the 1970s and 1980s— in Leeds, Birmingham, and Southall.

I received a modest round of applause from some of the 80 or so people in the room. And one brief boo. I had a quick word with Sgt Allan, shook Kyle’s hand, and had a friendly chat with a couple who thanked me on the way out.

It was only much later — on August 1 2017, after a Subject Access Report to the Labour Party — that I discovered someone had made a totally-fabricated allegation about my behaviour at the meeting (see left). Not for the first time — nor the last — libellous attacks on my character and behaviour arrived on the desks of Labour Party officers. In almost every detail, they were palpably and proveably untrue.

Let us now return to Friday, February 3 2017 and the CAA article about Becky Massey, a pro-Corbyn (and pro-Palestinian) Labour Party member, who had recently — at a well-attended (and acrimonious) meeting on S
Saturday, January 14 2017—been elected interim chair of Brunswick, Adelaide, and Central Hove Branch Labour Party.

Present at the meeting were some of the branch’s most virulent anti-Corbyn activists: Kyle, Caplin, and Penn. None was pleased by Massey’s victory.

But it was only when I quickly tweeted my congratulations that I unwittingly gave Massey’s enemies the information they need to launch their bogus allegations; I tagged my message with her Twitter handle, which was the trigger for a massive trawl of her social media. As the CAA article makes clear (below left). [From this episode, I also became the target for their relentless and vicious abuse — of which more later.]

Caplin and his cronies got to work. They quickly scented blood, but timed their attack for maximum advantage. Following his usual modus operandi, Caplin did not associate himself directly with the initial smears; he organised their publication — less than 48 hours before Hove CLP’s crucial initial general meeting — via the CAA website and Twitter account.

Only then did he tweet the article, with a message (left) alerting local media (The Argus, BBC Sussex, and Latest TV) as well as the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).

Several of Caplin’s cronies — including Cattell and another Labour Party councillor at the time — immediately piled-on in what was clearly a coordinated effort. Cattell even drew the CAA article to the attention of a now-suspended Twitter account in the name of “Supersminter”, one of many anonymous accounts that are part of what became the #GnasherJew network of hate.

By midnight, Massey had received several threats of violence — one involving a knife; the other a gun — from unknown online trolls. Details were given to Sussex Police.

She quickly composed a public statement: “I am not a racist. I do campaign for justice for the Palestinian people and oppose continuing violations of international law by the state of Israel. This is legitimate activity and not anti-Semitic.

“As a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn I have been targeted in a horrible way by people whose aim is to derail the democratic process in Hove constituency Labour Party.”

But within hours, early the next day, it was mission accomplished: Ralli Hall cancelled the Labour Party booking for the Hove CLP meeting (at which Massey was due to stand as treasurer as one of a list of Momentum-supported candidates). The Argus even managed to get sight of the letter cancelling the booking and quoted Caplin (by name, unusually), who demanded disciplinary action.

Arrangements had also been made to alert the management team at what is now formally known as Ralli Hall Jewish Community Centre.

Its directors since 2010 include Fiona Sharpe (see above), who subsequently went on to become an official spokesperson in May 2019 (left) for the self-styled Labour Against Anti-Semitism (LAAS).

It may even be the case that Ralli Hall and/or one of its directors had advance notice of the CAA article and the subsequent tweets. Your guess is as good as mine, I’m sure.

[Regardless, the tactic of ensuring venues cancelled bookings was to be used again locally two years later — by Kyle — when Chris Williamson, the then Labour MP, was due to speak at the Brighthelm Centre in Brighton in July 2019 (and then in September 2019).]

On February 7 2017, Massey made a formal complaint to Gregson (passim) about Caplin’s libellous comments and took the precaution also of complaining directly to McNicol’s team at Labour Party headquarters. No action was ever taken.

Instead, on February 8, Massey was sent a formal warning by Matthews (passim), which is published here for the first time:

The Ralli Hall cancellation had bought time for the Caplin-Kyle cabal to attempt a rearguard action against the pro-Corbyn majority in Hove CLP; after branch delegates to Brighton Pavilion and Brighton Kemptown voted overwhelmingly to elect a “clean sweep” of pro-Corbyn leadership teams at their crucial general meetings (on Saturday, February 4), the Hove CLP meeting was postponed until Wednesday, March 1 — when pro-Corbyn supporters completed a hat-trick of clean sweeps, including Massey as treasurer (and Riad el-Taher, who — as we have seen previously — became Caplin’s next victim).

So why was Massey not immediately suspended or expelled? Caplin and Cattell must have been furious.

It was not until the leaked report that the answer became clear: On the very same day that Caplin launched his libellous smears via Twitter and the CAA, Matthews signalled a different approach to how complaints were to be dealt with:

Regardless, on March 9 — eight days after the pro-Corbyn victories in Hove — Matthews wrote to Riad el-Taher to tell him he had been summarily expelled (without any right of appeal) after Caplin and his cronies had engineered another vile article in Private Eye by Nick “Ratbiter” Cohen.

Strangely, the article appeared in the issue dated March 10.

Whether Matthews had been given advance notice of the article, your guess is as good as mine, I’m sure.

More to follow…..Next:

Chapter 6: The scandal of the “Ben Gowlett Trust” — and the £100,000 donation hidden from members by Labour councillors

This is the fifth chapter of an article that is related directly or indirectly to the shocking evidence contained in the recent leaked report entitled “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014–2019”. [Separately, I have put online some relevant extracts from the report.]

The final complete article will be sent to Martin Forde QC, the chair of the official Labour Party inquiry into the leaked report (even though, strangely but unsurprisingly, its terms of reference do not appear to allow for such democratic engagement).

Please let me know what you think via @GregHadfield; if you have any further information about the individuals or events mentioned, please email greghadfield@hotmail.com.

For much more background, see my full list of Medium articles, many of which are linked to throughout this article; I have also published a list of links to the most-viewed articles.

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