Artillery Row

The vindication of Paul Embery

The judgement will go down as one of the great working-class victories of our time

Despite what many said at the time of the referendum, the Labour and Trade Union movement was not united in their support for remaining in the European Union. It is true that most MPs and union leaders were in favour, but tens of thousands of activists and supporters at the grassroots level took a firmly different view and campaigned strongly to leave. One of those activists was Paul Embery, my friend and colleague in the Labour eurosceptic movement.

Paul was a leading figure in a small but vital group, Trade Unionists Against the EU, which campaigned up and down the country. That campaign, along with Labour Leave demonstrated how the European Union was anti-worker, anti-small business, anti-trade union, and contrary to the values and principles of the Labour movement in the United Kingdom. Despite winning the referendum, the establishment in this country, including many in the Labour and Trade Union movement, refused to accept the result and we had four terrible years of Brexit wars.

It was a dark day: that a Trade Union would punish a worker for simply having a different political opinion

During that period our very democracy was under threat. We Brexiteers fought with every ounce of strength we had to defend the settled will of the people. Paul was one of those campaigning to defend the original “peoples’ vote”, and warning the Labour and Trade Union movement of the consequences of their actions in trying to thwart Brexit. For these noble deeds, Paul was sacked from his position in his Trade Union, the FBU, where just under half of the members had actually voted to leave the EU. It was a dark day: that a Trade Union would punish a worker for simply having a different political opinion on the issue of the day reeked of authoritarianism and had to be fought against.

For years, Paul challenged the FBU to produce actual evidence that he had broken their rules. For years, Paul challenged the embattled and habitually suspicious General Secretary, Matt Wrack, to face him in open debate on how he was running the Union. For years, Paul defended the decision of the British people to leave the European Union. He fought for truth and he fought for justice and in the end, both have prevailed. The Employment Tribunal held in Norwich found that Paul’s dismissal from his official Union position was unfair and for that Paul deserves the respect of all those who believe in and defend free speech. But the fact that Paul had to take such action to clear his name should still concern all of us who believe in the right to speak out.

Paul and I worked together in the battle to secure our withdrawal from the European Union. On that issue and on many other issues we agree, but there are areas where we disagree: That’s the nature of politics. But neither of us would ever resort to attempting to destroy the career of the other on the basis of a political disagreement because we’re mature men who can appreciate and respect differences. Unfortunately there are many in our country today who cannot, and as a consequence individuals’ lives are being destroyed. From the twitter pile on to the growing threat of cancel culture, people are losing their income, their jobs, friends and family all because they have a different opinion.

The UK was once the envy of the world because the individual was sovereign

Over the course of the past year alone we have seen the vilification of Rosie Duffield, the first and only woman MP for Canterbury. Her crime has simply been to defend the rights of women to exist, to be safe and to be respected and virtually none of her colleagues have had the courage to defend her. We have seen the dangerous Black Lives Matter movement seeking to eradicate this country’s history and the establishment in this country has taken the knee to their vandalism of the curriculum and our monuments.  And there have been countless examples of ordinary decent people who have been trolled, fined or arrested for simply going about their daily business for failing to understand or remain up to date with the ever-changing utterances from Number 10 on Covid regulations. The country is changing and not for the better.

The United Kingdom was once the envy of the world because the individual was sovereign. We were a respectful country where ideas fuelled innovations that changed the world. The judgment by the tribunal this week is a restoration of decency in our political space where cruelty, division and extremes currently reign. The judgement will be recorded in history in the same league as all those great working class struggles that have taken place in our history. Paul’s victory this week may be a turning point; the moment where truth, decency and justice got its act together. Let us hope that is the case because by God it desperately needs to be.

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