By Bernie McAdam JOHN MCDONNELL speaking at a fringe meeting at the Trade Union Congress in Brighton said of the coup launched in June against Jeremy Corbyn that “This is about the Establishment saying to you: how dare you elect a socialist as the leader of the Labour Party.” and adding “And it isn’t just the Establishment in the City of London or the Tories, but it’s part of the Establishment within our own political party as well.”
He warned that he believes “many more” than 3,000 people (the party’s official figure) have been banned from voting in the leadership contest. John is right from all the information coming in of members suspended and expelled up and down the country.
The outgoing Labour Party National Executive, combined with Deputy Leader Tom Watson and party General Secretary Iain McNicol, have waged a relentless campaign to violate the democratic rights of the members since the coup against Jeremy Corbyn was launched.
Local party bodies have also been sanctioned on unsupported charges of intimidation and bullying. The Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party held its AGM on 9 July, with a record 600 members present. A new executive committee of Corbyn supporters was elected. Three days after this the NEC voided the results and reinstated the old committee. The Chair of the NEC’s Disputes Panel cited as reasons “abusive behaviour by some attendees”, “reports that the ballots were not properly reached” and “the safety of the members at the meeting was compromised”.
On 12 July, the NEC suspended Manchester Gorton CLP on charges of bullying and intimidation and for good measure closed down all normal meetings of branches and GCs apart from nomination meetings and those to agree conference contemporary motions.
On 20 July, Wallasey Labour Party was suspended, once again, on anonymous allegations of bullying and intimidation. In reality, it was for discussing re-selection of their MP, Angela Eagle, who has been at odds with her constituency majority for some time.
Tom Watson and Iain McNicol have got their unelected Compliance Unit in overdrive, trawling through thousands of members’ social media to incriminate them. If your past life of sin included tweets that glorified the Green Party or Respect or, worse, were disrespectful to war criminal Blair, then woe betide you. Of course, if you were a Lib Dem or a Tory in a previous life then all is forgiven. Kristina Veasey, paralympian and disability rights campaigner, has been purged for retweeting Caroline Lucas two years ago!
In response to protests from Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, McNicol has released official figures which say “only” 3,107 have been excluded for being members of other parties, expressing support for rival political groups or being abusive to other Labour supporters. They announced that a further 1,616 people are still going through the validation process and have not received a ballot paper. A further 21,102 applicants could not be found on the electoral register, while 3,791 applications failed because their £25 fee could not be processed.
We will have to see whether these figures, ostensibly more modest than in previous press reports, represent the limits of the handiwork of the Compliance Unit. Its actions have already voided any trust the members might have had in its impartiality because a series of gross injustices have been committed against both long-term Labour members and new recruits.
Ronnie Draper, General Secretary of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union and 40 year member of the Labour Party, was suspended without any hearing or reason. The press seemed to know that his tweets had run foul of the Compliance Unit for suggesting Kinnock, amongst others, was a traitor. His suspension was lifted after his barristers got on the case, but thousands do not have that option. Pamela Fitzpatrick, Harrow West councillor, was similarly suspended because of her “conduct”. An email from McNicol informed her of her suspension with no details of the allegation. When she rang to ask why, no reasons or evidence could be given over the phone. Her suspension has now been lifted, still with no explanation.
In addition, a number of members have been expelled because of their support for the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL), an organisation that fell under the ban imposed by the undemocratic Kinnock purges of the early 1990s. Red Flag calls for the immediate reinstatement of all these comrades, despite our political differences with the AWL, in particular their confusion of anti-Semitism with opposition to the state of Israel and Zionism. During this summer’s anti-Corbyn campaign, this confusion gave credibility to press smears against prominent supporters of Corbyn as anti-Semites.
The NEC needs to set up an independent inquiry into the the actions of the Compliance Unit during the election. This body must be scrapped and all socialists suspended or expelled by it must be reinstated. Banned organisations from the days of the 1980s and 1990s must be allowed to rejoin, as affiliated organisations if their numbers warrant it. The only provisos must be that they support Labour candidates and campaigns and accept the discipline of the party constitution.
We need a transparent and accountable system for membership and disciplinary disputes. Members in dispute should be informed of charges against them in writing and preferably before the press! A proper hearing should be given before any decision is made, with a right to appeal. The witch hunt against the left must stop.
The Labour Party was founded by socialist groups as well as the trade unions and they have always existed in one form or another. The right wing groups like Progress, Labour First and the Fabians operate without harassment. The same rights should be accorded to the left.