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Unity not smears: a statement from MTUC

Manchester TUC has discussed two statements posted publicly on Facebook by Nahella Ashraf, co-chair of Manchester Stand up to Racism, falsely alleging that Manchester TUC failed to oppose Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) in the recent European Parliamentary elections. MTUC decided that the Executive should post a statement in response.

Unity is important if we are to successfully resist fascists and the far right. This isn’t always easy to achieve, as debate and disagreement is an integral part of our movement. Inaccurate public smears should not be. In our experience it is almost always preferable to represent fairly the position of other organisations and to take up any disagreements directly with them in the first instance. We encourage Nahella to adopt this approach in future. This is particularly important when holding a prominent position in an organisation, as individual behaviour can impact negatively on the hard work of others. The beneficiaries of sectarian division and rancour between anti-racists are the racists and fascists. To publicly attack MTUC a few days before the Euro-elections was, at best, extremely naïve.

Given the false allegations made against us, some of which are still out there despite responses from a number of us, we need to set the record straight on a few key points:

1) Nahella’s claim that MTUC did not have a position against Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) in the European Parliamentary elections is untrue, as anyone can see from our twitter feed (https://twitter.com/TUCManchester). Indeed, SUTR Manchester had retweeted some of our anti-“Robinson” messaging. Manchester TUC had promoted campaigning against “Robinson”, including SUTR events.

2) Nahella’s claim that MTUC shut down discussion about “Tommy Robinson” standing in the Euro elections at the May Day festival is untrue. Three of the platform speakers at the main rally (including our President) spoke against him, and the issue was covered in many of the other sessions.

Nahella’s allegations appear to have been based on events at an additional meeting hosted and chaired by Unite’s Greater Manchester Community Branch at the end of the May Day festival, which had been organised to plan the response to the visit to Britain of Donald Trump. At the meeting, one member of MTUC exec stated accurately that the position of MTUC was not to support Labour candidates, but as a Labour Party member and councillor she would be campaigning for a Labour vote in the EU elections. At one point in the meeting, the chair of the Unite branch, who was chairing the meeting, and happens also to be on MTUC exec, pointed out that the meeting was for the purpose of discussing an anti-Trump rally, and not the EU elections or any campaign against Yaxley-Lennon, and he wanted the meeting to focus on that.

Stand up to Racism is a campaign that enjoys wide support within the Trade Union movement, and Manchester Trades Council is a body of that movement which has a strong position of opposition to racism and fascism and has supported SUTR for a number of years, including promoting events and working in collaboration.

We do not believe that the cause of unity against racism and fascism is served by misleading public attacks.

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