Ten steps in the denial of democracy

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb.  (Benjamin Franklin)

PROTECTING democracy requires that the general public be educated on how people can be manipulated by the Establishment and media into forfeiting their civil liberties.

After the insidious assault on democracy over the past year by forces within the Labour Party we certainly need protecting.

Or in the words of the late US satirist and political agitator Lenny Bruce, we must “shine a light in their beds”.

On 5 August 2015, journalist and author Owen Jones warned of the scenario which lay ahead: “If Jeremy Corbyn wins the Labour leadership, he will come under attack from the media establishment, the Tories and much of his own party.

“The liberal left and conservatives alike have united, dripping condescension, smarm, contempt or outright bile on Jeremy Corbyn and those who support him.

“The Corbyn campaign may have unleashed the biggest pan-British progressive grassroots political movement for many years. But should Jeremy Corbyn win the Labour leadership, then this movement will be plunged into a political firestorm.”

Now, with 12 months hindsight, what a firestorm that has been, with every Machiavellian trick and smear known to man, used to discredit Mr Corbyn and subvert democracy at every turn.

 

Step 1       

It started on 12 September 2015, when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party with a majority of almost 60% of the vote on the first ballot alone, and huge mandate for change.

He received 121,751 votes from Labour Party members, 88,449 votes from Registered Supporters and a further 41,928 votes from Trade Union Affiliated Supporters.

But within minutes of his election Progress backed Labour MPs were briefing journalists in the print media and the BBC on their plans to unseat him.

By 11pm on 12 September 2015, the normally Labour friendly Daily Mirror reported on plans to bring Blair acolyte David Miliband back as leader, the moment Jeremy Corbyn could be seen to fail:

Labour MPs are already plotting to bring back David Miliband after Jeremy Corbyn’s victory, reported the Mirror.

The triumph of left-winger Jeremy Corbyn has spurred on the Labour MPs who are secretly working for a dramatic Miliband comeback ahead of the 2020 general election.

His allies at Westminster believe Mr Miliband could be persuaded to make a sensational return to the Commons by 2018 at a by-election for a safe Labour seat.

A senior Labour MP said:

“If Corbyn is not up to the job as leader, there will definitely be another leadership contest.

“The best person for the job by a country mile would be David Miliband and overtures have already been made to him about a potential return.

“If things turn out as horrendously as we fear they will under Corbyn, David would be the only hope of saving the Labour Party.”

In a separate move, several MPs are also looking at ways of changing the Labour Party’s rules to make future leadership challenges easier.

At present, anyone trying to oust a Labour leader needs to put themselves forward and win the backing of a fifth of Westminster’s Labour MPs.

But a rival plan put forward earlier this year by right wing Labour MP Frank Field would mean just 30 anonymous Labour MPs could trigger a vote of confidence in the leader to get rid of a “deadbeat” leader.

 

Step 2

It became an uneasy autumn and a winter of discontent for Mr Corbyn, with 66 of his own MPs rebelling against him on the vote to bomb Syria and Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips stating she would knife her leader “in the front”, being some of the lowlights.

But nothing quite prepared Labour Party members or the general public for the sinister shenanigans which emerged on 7 January.

Mr Corbyn’s long expected Shadow Cabinet reshuffle led to the revelation, that BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Daily Politics presenter Andrew Neil and Labour MP Stephen Doughty planned his live resignation on their programme, hours before it began.

The producer of the programme revealed in a BBC blog (quickly deleted) that Neil, Kuenssberg and himself manipulated the news to negatively impact Mr Corbyn during Prime Minister’s Questions.

In the blog, the producer – Andrew Alexander – admitted that the BBC team were not just reporting the day’s news but trying to influence it:

“This was a story where we could make an impact,” he wrote.

“We took a moment to watch the story ripple out across news outlets and social media. Within minutes we heard David Cameron refer to the resignation during his exchanges with Jeremy Corbyn.”

The broadcasting set-up was conceived by Mr Doughty – under advice from fellow Progress backed MPs – to create the maximum damage to Mr Corbyn.

 

Step 3

On the morning of 23 March, just hours before Mr Corbyn was to tackle David Cameron in Prime Minister’s Questions on the Tories’ Budget U-Turn, a confidential list of loyal and disloyal Labour MPs was leaked to The Times.

The result was predictable: Mr Cameron used PMQs, not to defend the Budget U-Turn, but repeatedly mock the Labour leader for the leaked ‘list’.

It later emerged that the list was compiled three months earlier, yet it was leaked just as Mr Corbyn’s popularity was increasing in the opinion polls, just as the Tories were taking a big hit, just before a PMQs when Cameron was likely to be in very serious trouble, and weeks before the May council and mayoral elections.

So only an enemy within would deliberately leak the list at a key moment in order to help the Tories and do as much damage to Labour under Mr Corbyn as possible – to make them ‘a laughing stock’, as Labour plotter John Woodcock MP put it.

Ironic then that Woodcock privately tweeted to a journalist that it’s a ‘fucking disaster’, presumably to further damage Corbyn. Only he inadvertently tweeted publicly so we can all see what he’s up to and give momentum to the plot against the leader.

 

Step 4

On 13 June, The Daily Telegraph published an article which gave a deeper insight into the scheming of the Labour MPs, who hoped to topple Mr Corbyn.

The piece entitled: Labour rebels hope to topple Jeremy Corbyn in 24-hour blitz after EU referendum lays out the scheme:

Labour rebels believe they can topple Jeremy Corbyn after the EU referendum in a 24-hour blitz by jumping on a media storm of his own making.

By fanning the flames with front bench resignations and public criticism they think the signatures needed to trigger a leadership race can be gathered within a day.

They see the tactic as a way of securing public support for the move while targeting what is perceived as one of the Labour leader’s major flaws – indecision.

After the referendum Labour splits will return to the fore as the Tories call a string of parliamentary voters on Trident renewal and banning councils holding Israeli boycotts to help rebuild party unity.

While losing the EU referendum is seen as fatal by many to Mr Corbyn’s leadership, continued speculation remains about a challenge if the referendum brings a Remain vote.

Rather than naming a date to make their move – as some had done with May’s local elections – some rebels now believe taking advantage of an opportune row holds the beast chance of success.

“It is not going to be a date in the calendar, it will be on the back of a media firestorm. It could happen within 24 hours,” said one Labour MP.

Asked how the coup could take place, another said: “Things go wrong, people have had enough, you start to see resignations and it spirals from there.”

A third Labour MP who served in the shadow cabinet said: “There is undoubtedly a frustration and a simmering anger. After the referendum there is going to be an immense number of lessons to learn and decisions to make.

“It is likely to be a pang of frustration that makes one colleague say ‘enough and enough’ and just resign. If one person did it and said to others ‘how about it’, things are desperate enough that it will happen.”

 

Step 5

Now fast forward to the so-called Morning After the Night Before: Saturday 25 June – less than 36 hours after the Brexit referendum result.

Eight right wing Labour MPs broke cover to use the Brexit vote to knife their leader Mr Corbyn in the back.

MPs Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey submitted a motion of no confidence against him to the Parliamentary Labour Party chairman, John Cryer.

Almost immediately six other Labour MPs went on record backing the motion.

Mr Corbyn defended his conduct in the Euro referendum campaign amid criticisms that he offered no more than lukewarm support for remain, blaming government austerity cuts for alienating voters.

Asked about the vote of no confidence, he said: “Margaret [Hodge] is obviously entitled to do what she wishes to do. I would ask her to think for a moment. A Tory prime minister resigned, Britain’s voted to leave the European Union, there are massive political issues to be addressed.

“Is it really a good idea to start a big debate in the Labour party when I was elected less than a year ago with a very large mandate, not from MPs – I fully concede and understand that – but from the party members as a whole?”

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell accused many of the would-be assassins of being linked to Progress.

“They all come from a sort of a narrow right-wing clique within the Labour Party based around the organisation Progress”

he said.

“I don’t think they’ve really ever accepted Jeremy’s mandate. I’m afraid they have to recognise that Jeremy got elected with the largest mandate of any political leader from any political party in our history.

“I’m afraid they haven’t respected that leadership election result.”

 

Step 6

Within two days – hot on the heels of Mr Corbyn sacking Hilary Benn as Shadow Foreign Secretary for his part in organising the coup – a battle for the heart and soul of the Parliamentary Labour Party began.

By the evening of Monday 27 June, 34 Labour MPs had publicly announced their intention to try and oust Mr Corbyn as leader – with carefully timed resignations from the Shadow Cabinet.

Paul Flynn MP stated what many onlookers were thinking: “Orchestrated treachery. Resignations on the hour by the future Blair Tribute Party. Self-indulgent party games as steel jobs are in new peril.”

One of Mr Corbyn’s staunchest allies Ian Lavery MP said: “If we don’t respect democracy then we stand for nothing. The Labour Party membership gave Jeremy Corbyn a massive mandate. I’m supporting the membership and Jeremy.”

And as a shock to the plotters, shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham stood with the membership.

“At an uncertain time like this for our country, I cannot see how it makes sense for the Opposition to plunge itself into a civil war,” he said.

“I have never taken part in a coup against any leader of the Labour Party and I am not going to start now.

“It is for our members to decide who leads our Party and 10 months ago they gave Jeremy Corbyn a resounding mandate. I respect that and them.”

Angela Eagle was among the resignations from Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet on that Monday, in the wake of the Euro Referendum result and the sacking of Hilary Benn as Shadow Foreign Secretary.

But while heaping the blame for Brexit on Mr Corbyn, Ms Eagle failed to admit that just two weeks earlier she publicly said of Mr Corbyn campaigning for Remain: “Jeremy is up and down the country, pursuing an itinerary that would make a 25-year-old tired, he has not stopped.”

And within hours of her resignation, it was revealed that Ms Eagle’s leadership campaign website Angela4Leader was registered at 6pm on Saturday 25 June, hours before Hilary Benn was sacked and two whole days before she resigned.

The website was registered by Joe McCrea, a PR executive who served as a special adviser in Downing Street during Tony Blair’s tenure.

But as we all now know, Ms Eagle’s candidacy was that of a stalking horse for the more media friendly Owen Smith to step in.

 

Step 7

The next attempt to subvert democracy occurred on Tuesday 12 July, when a hastily called meeting of Labour’s NEC had to determine whether Mr Corbyn needed the nominations of fellow Labour MPs and MEPs in order to stand for re-election as leader.

The crunch meeting at Labour’s Westminster headquarters began at 2pm and continued well into the evening

NEC members voted 18-14 in a secret ballot that he was not subject to parliamentary nominations and could automatically stand for re-election.

The decision to hold a secret ballot at the NEC was taken after some of Mr Corbyn’s critics, including his deputy, Tom Watson, won the argument that some members might otherwise feel afraid to express their views.

Allies of Mr Corbyn said the move to a secret ballot resulted from “black ops” by Watson.

And in a separate decision taken after Mr Corbyn had left the room, the NEC ruled that only those who had been Labour Party members for more than six months would be allowed to vote – while new supporters would be given two days to sign up as registered supporters to vote in the race, but only if they were willing to pay £25.

Then in a further sideswipe at Labour Party members, on Wednesday 13 July, the NEC banned all CLP, Ward and branch meetings until AFTER the leadership election in September. In the cases of South Shields and Brighton and Hove District, the CLPs were suspended completely from the Labour Party.

This was done amid spurious and unfounded claims of bullying and intimidation within some CLPs.

 

Step 8

The firestorm was now ablaze as ordinary members cried foul and foul again.

The Anyone But Corbyn coup plotters decided to disenfranchise over 100,000 existing Labour voters, and in doing so deliberately destroy the incentive for people to join the Labour Party.

What kind of organisation would be so afraid of democracy that they’d openly discriminate against existing members by treating them as second class citizens if they hadn’t joined by an arbitrary date.

Or could afford to pay a poll tax of £25 each!

But the undermining of democracy didn’t end there.

Following the NEC ruling that Labour members who had joined the party since 12 January 2016 had been banned from voting in the upcoming leadership election. They were also denied attending their own constituency Leadership Nomination meetings – even as a non-voting observer.

I, like thousands of Labour Party members, received this email from my local CLP secretary:

I regret to inform you that our Freeze Date Report shows that you are not eligible to vote at the Labour Leader Nomination meeting because the start of your membership is after the Freeze date of the 12 January 2016.

Two days later a second email arrived:

We intend to hold a Constituency LP Nomination meeting to enable members to decide if the CLP should nominate one specific candidate for the LP leadership election or if the CLP should remain neutral with neither candidate being nominated.

A LP membership Freeze Report will be used to identify those members who are eligible to attend and vote. Anyone on the list who is shown as not eligible because they joined after the Freeze Date of 12 Jan 2016 will be emailed informing them they can’t attend the meeting.  Rules clearly state NO OBSERVERS are allowed 

Yet nowhere in the 12 July NEC ruling is any mention made of banning new members from ATTENDING Nomination meetings!

The coup plotters are clearly terrified of democracy, and they’ve tried using all kinds of anti-democratic measures to fight it.

 

Step 9

The next affront to democracy was done in the open, when millionaire and Labour Party donor Michael Foster applied to the High Court to stop Mr Corbyn standing in the leadership election.

But despite the overtly vindictive application, by this close friend of Tony Blair, on 28 July, Mr Justice Foskett ruled that Mr Corbyn could automatically appear on the leadership ballot.

Speaking after the decision was announced Mr Corbyn said: “There should have been no question of the right of half a million Labour Party members to choose their own leader being overturned.

“If anything, the aim should be to expand the number of voters in this election.

“I hope all candidates and supporters will reject any attempt to prolong this process, and that we can now proceed with the election in a comradely and respectful manner.”

 

Step 10

And just when you thought it was all over, the final denial of democracy and the will of hundreds of thousands of ordinary party members came last weekend.

Having exhausted almost every trick, the leaders of the coup are now so convinced that Jeremy Corbyn will win the leadership contest that they are planning to elect their own leader and launch a legal challenge for the party’s name.

Leading Blairites leaked to the Daily Telegraph that they are looking at plans to set up their own “alternative Labour” if Mr Corbyn remains in post.

The move would see them create their own shadow cabinet and even elect a leader within Parliament to rival Mr Corbyn’s front bench team and take on the Tories.

They are also already planning to go through the courts to get the right to use Labour’s name and assets including property owned by the party across the country.

They would also approach John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, and argue that having more MPs than Mr Corbyn means they should be named the official opposition.

“The notion that we’ll all go back to happy families is nonsense,” said one prominent Corbyn critic, saying that the plan would help avoid the “nuclear” option of a full party split.

But support for the move is not universal, with some Labour centralists saying a legal challenge would be unlikely to succeed and warning creating a de facto alternative leader would be too provocative.

But the fact the plans are now actively being considered by some of the party’s most senior moderate figures shows the level of despondency at Owen Smith’s chances of success and their contempt for democracy.

  • So there you have it: Ten steps in the denial of democracy, courtesy of the Labour Party. And to finish where we started: Protecting democracy requires that the general public be educated on how people can be manipulated by the Establishment and media into forfeiting their civil liberties.

 

Democracy doesn’t rule the world

That’s something you need to understand

This world is ruled by bankers

Who use politics as a sleight-of-hand

(Nic Outterside)

 

POST SCRIPT:

At the moment of publication on Monday 8 August, this welcome news is breaking:

Five new members of the Labour Party have won a High Court battle over their legal right to vote in the forthcoming leadership election.

The five accused the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) of unlawfully “freezing” them and many others out of the high-profile contest between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith even though they had “paid their dues”.

The NEC decided that full members would not be able to vote if they had not had at least six months’ continuous membership up to July 12 – the “freeze date”.

To gain the right to vote, members were given a window of opportunity, between July 18 and 20, to become “registered supporters” on payment of an additional fee of £25. Non-members were given the same opportunity.

But Mr Justice Hickinbottom, sitting in London, ruled that refusing the five the vote “would be unlawful as in breach of contract”.

The court action affects almost 130,000 Labour supporters who are victims of the freeze. The five who won the legal challenge are Christine Evangelou, Rev Edward Leir, Hannah Fordham, Chris Granger and “FM”, a new member aged under 18.

The judge said at the time each of the five joined the party “it was the common understanding, as reflected in the rule book, that, if they joined the party prior to the election process commencing, as new members they would be entitled to vote in any leadership contest”.

The judge added that that was the basis upon which each claimant joined the party, and the basis of their contract with it.

The judge overturned the requirement that they must have been party members since January 12 – that, is at least six months’ continuous membership up to July 12 – the “freeze date”.

He declared: “For the party to refuse to allow the claimants to vote in the current leadership election, because they have not been members since 12 January 2016, would be unlawful as in breach of contract.”

The Labour Party was given permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. It is understood that the appeal could be heard later this week.

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Author: seagullnic

Writer, editor, lecturer and part-time musician. Passions in life: my family, Bob Dylan, music of many genres, Brighton and Hove Albion FC, cooking plus good food and wine.

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