The one thing bringing the Labour Party into disrepute is this one-sided political purge

And it’s time for Iain McNicol to resign

 

By Stuart King

Iain McNicol, the Labour Party General Secretary put out some figures last week (8 September) of Labour members excluded/suspended around the leadership election.

A spokesperson for the party declared, “The speculation that huge numbers of applicants have been denied a vote has been wildly exaggerated.” They went on to claim that less than 0.5% of the electorate had been denied a vote.

This statement came after growing uproar from those arbitrarily excluded and the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s remark that there was a “rigged purge going on”.

It is worth drilling down into the figures released by Labour’s Compliance Unit. The 0.5% claim refers to the entire Labour Party electorate of 650,000, not to new members where the purge has been targeted.

After the failed parliamentary coup in June there was another wave of tens of thousands of people joining the party to defend Jeremy Corbyn. This produced the decision by the July NEC to deprive these members of a vote in the leadership election by setting the deadline at January 12th. Despite this around 180,000 members and supporters paid £25 to be able to vote. It this group that the purge has been primarily aimed at.

Who is being excluded?

So far, of this group, 21,000 were excluded because “they did not provide details that matched the electoral roll”. This has been interpreted extremely tightly; a slight variation in the person’s name as it appears on the electoral roll, a Flat 1 down as Flat A etc.

Many of these people will never know why they did not receive a ballot paper and will not chase it up and appeal. Another 3,107 have been ruled ineligible on grounds of party rules and a further 1,616 cases are awaiting a decision – that is 4,720 excluded up to 1 September. Another 3,791 people apparently failed to make the necessary £25 payment – maybe because the website process wasn’t that easy. Were they chased up – no chance!

So just taking the first two groups, nearly 26,000 people have been excluded from voting out of 180,000 who applied, that is 14.4% not 0.5%. And this figure is only up to September 1st, the purge is continuing apace up to conference.

The Compliance Unit now seem to have turned their attention to Labour conference delegates with one Labour blogger learning of five Corbyn mandated delegates excluded in 24 hours!

Ian McNicol has claimed all these suspensions/barrings have “been approved by the NEC” but of course the NEC has not met since July. They are in fact approved by an NEC sub-committee run by the right – the NEC Oversight Panel – the new left leaning NEC does not come into being till after conference.

How members are treated

It is worth giving some examples of the decisions being made to get a flavour of the members being excluded.

One group involves people who, in one way or another, were sympathetic to the Green Party when the LP was lurching rightwards and who now are attracted back to Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Surely a group the LP should really be chasing if we want to win a majority over the Tories?

Take the case of Kristina Veasey, a Paralympian and a disability rights campaigner, which was reported prominently in the Huffington Post. She recounted what happened. “I am a community activist, an artist, a mother, an equalities consultant and until a few days ago I was a Labour Party member.” Two years ago she retweeted something that the Labour Party’s Compliance Unit found unacceptable.

Not an abusive message, but an anti-fracking one by Green MP Caroline Lucas. “For those investigating me this was enough to expel me on the grounds that ‘you supported comments made on Twitter that evidenced your support for the Green Party’.

The expulsion was carried out under Appendix 2.1.B.x of the Labour Party rules – an automatic exclusion clause which prevents her from reapplying for membership for two years unless there are exceptional circumstances.

In another case, Sophie McKeand was sent a letter from the General Secretary saying “You were asked to confirm ‘I support the aims and values of the LP and I am not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it”. A panel of the NEC has considered your application and has decided to reject it on the grounds that you tweeted in support of the Green Party on 8 May 2015”.

Clearly this rule, involving supporting another party within two years of applying to join, was designed for people who stood against Labour in elections or their agents, not against people who tweeted something.

It is a scandalous abuse of the rules aimed at weeding out Corbyn supporters. Of course this rule has never been used against Tory or Lib Dem members who have applied to join Labour because they have generally strengthened the right

Then there are the trade union members who are known to support Corbyn.

Steve Hedley, Senior Assistant General Secretary of the RMT, said recently that many RMT members had been excluded in the current purge.

This included a 38 year long member of the Labour Party who put a “like” against a TUSC candidate on Facebook who was a friend of his. Even the Bakers’ Union General Secretary, Ronnie Draper was excluded on the grounds of past comments made on social media, but with no details provided about the precise nature of the offence. He appealed and was later re-instated, probably because he was so prominent a figure in the labour movement, others have not been so lucky.

An 82-year-old pensioner and lifelong Labour voter and member has been expelled by the party for supporting media democracy. A year ago on social media, she retweeted a post calling for the Green Party leaders to be included in TV debates.

For the Compliance Unit that single retweet justified expelling her and barring her for five years, because it supposedly signified support for the Greens. She tweeted in reply: “Well this housebound carer/pensioner expelled today. Mr McNicol’s way of thanking me for 50 years of votes?? Stunned!”

Then there is the just plain ludricrous examples from this purge. The Labour member who was suspended for saying on Facebook that she ‘f*cking loves the Foo Fighters.’ One assumes this was probably a software error but who knows! The Foo Fighters later commented on social media that they’re surprised to be on the Labour Party Compliance Unit blacklist.

Bringing the Labour Party into disrepute

If anything is bringing the Labour Party into disrepute it is this one sided political purge, using the most ridiculous of pretexts to exclude members/supporters and damage the Labour’s image across a range of social media.

Of course the established press, the BBC, Channel 4 etc ignores these cases because they counter the media narrative that it is the Labour Left and Momentum that are the bullying, bad guys.

Why is the right-wing, ensconced in Labour’s apparatus, going to all this trouble when it looks like Jeremy Corbyn is the favourite to win?

One reason is to reduce his majority, to be able to say “there you are, he is losing support even among the members after a year in office”. Another is to save face, both for Owen Smith and the Labour right in the PLP who forced another election so soon.

A more sinister reason is to try and rig the Labour Party conference by excluding left wing delegates and pushing through Tom Watson’s electoral college idea, a structure that would restore the parliamentary and trade union dominance over the individual members of the party by depriving them of their votes.

These are the dying efforts of a right wing in retreat at all levels in the party; an attempt to fight to the last by gerrymandering elections.

The lesson that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters must learn from this is to make no compromises when it comes to taking control of the key NEC sub-committees, the full-time apparatus of the party and to deal with the coup mongers in the PLP itself.

The current General Secretary must resign.

The Compliance Unit must be abolished and replaced by something that welcomes new members and holds all members to collective discipline – left or right.

To do this we cannot rely on the PLP left alone, nor even the currently active Labour members. We need a sustained effort to involve the new members into an outwardly focused party, campaigning against austerity and against the Tories.

If we do this, the right-wing will realize they have no future if they continue to obstruct the efforts to radically change the party. Things can and will change.

(Stuart King is a member of Lambeth Momentum)

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Hanging from Traitors’ Gate – Progress: Labour’s right wing Militant

Traitors_Gate

IT is more than 30 years since former Labour leader Neil Kinnock began his attack on Militant – as a left wing ‘Party within a Party’ seeking to undermine core Labour values.

Within six years Militant had been proscribed by Mr Kinnock and banned from ever being part of the Labour Party.

Now in 2016, his son Stephen Kinnock is part of a sinister group known as Progress – a right wing ‘Party within a Party’.

More sinister and undermining than Militant ever were.

Progress is the Blairite power behind the 75 treacherous MPs now seeking to oust the Labour Party’s democratically elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Progress runs on £260,000-a-year funding from Lord Sainsbury.

He used to fund the Labour Party, giving over £6.3 million between 2005 and 2010. But he stopped funding Labour when Ed Miliband got elected. Angry at Miliband’s shuffle to the left, Sainsbury went on a rich man’s strike.

But he didn’t just take his money and go home. Instead of funding Labour, he funds Progress, whose job is to keep Labour right wing and Blairite.

Progress’s income since 2010 is about £1.5 million.

Progress, through its website, its weekend school, its meetings at Labour’s conference and its activist network push the candidates and policies Sainsbury likes.

Tristram Hunt is a particular Sainsbury favourite — he was in fact Lord Sainsbury’s personal spokesman before he became a Labour MP.

Hunt was working for Sainsbury when Progress was formed out of the money left over from the original campaign to make Tony Blair leader of the party.

Sainsbury originally got Derek Draper to run Progress.

He soon disgraced himself and Labour by claiming he could get influence with the New Labour government for corporate lobbyists.

Despite this early link to a lobbying scandal, Progress still relies on money and contacts from lobbyists, alongside Sainsbury’s cash. In fairness, Progress is more open about its income than it used to be. Its website advises that in 2014 it relied on money and support from Bellenden Public Affairs, a lobbying firm that represents privatisers like Serco and NHS outsourcer Care UK.

Progress also took money from Lexington, another lobbying firm whose clients include Interserve, another major privatiser, and the “Giant Vampire Squid” of banking, Goldman Sachs. The City of London Corporation put some cash into the Progress operation as well.

Progress is deeply committed to pro-privatisation and pro-corporate policies. It has also campaigned to reduce trade union influence in the Labour Party.

During last year’s Labour leadership election Progress supported Liz Kendall for Labour leader and Tessa Jowell for mayor of London.

Progress could not pick a candidate for deputy leader — which in fact shows how deeply Progress is embedded in the parliamentary party.  The three deputy leader candidates — Caroline Flint, Ben Bradshaw and Stella Creasy — are all Progress members, so they couldn’t choose which one to back.

Progress’s attempts to shift the party towards privatisation and other business-friendly policies favoured by their funders aren’t hard to find.

But they don’t get reported that much because most journalists both rely on Progress members for their stories and agree with their Blairite arguments.

Only now are people waking up to the sinister nature of Progress’s coup attempt to unseat Jeremy Corbyn.

Paul Flynn MP (Newport) condemned the plotters as:

“Orchestrated treachery. Resignations on the hour by the future Blair Tribute Party. Self-indulgent party games as steel jobs are in new peril.”

Even former SNP leader Alex Salmond – a politician I know personally and someone steeped in honesty – called out the plotters last night.

The mass resignation of senior Labour MPs over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party is a “disgusting, organised coup”, he said.

“I find it depressing to see people that he appointed, most of whom the public have never heard of, stabbing him in the back.

“I find that is a debilitating sight, and personally I hope he sticks it out and is vindicated, because I’ve never seen such a disgusting, organised coup.

“On the hour, every hour, one of them resigns, and if they think the general public finds that impressive I think they’ve got another think coming.

“I can’t help but have a good deal of sympathy for Jeremy Corbyn and some contempt for the tactics of those who he appointed, who now feel free to stab him in the back,” added Mr Salmond.

But their plotting has been an open secret.

An article in the Telegraph dated the 16 June detailed that the Progress led “Labour rebels hope to topple Jeremy Corbyn in 24-hour blitz after EU referendum.”

Further evidence that these Labour MPs have been plotting against Mr Corbyn and would have assailed his leadership regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has described the MPs in Progress as a “narrow right-wing clique”, “conservative” and “hard right”.

“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.”

Some 30 of the 75 plotters who have so far broken cover are active Blairite members of the Progress cabal.

But while they try and oust Jeremy Corbyn as leader, many more are supporting him and more than 217,000 ordinary members have signed an online petition of total confidence in him.

These plotters must now be put on notice: We are watching you, have noted your actions as traitors to the Labour Party and your time as a Labour MP is numbered.

  • Alan Johnson (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) PROGRESS
  • Alex Cunningham (Stockton North)
  • Alison McGovern (Wirral South) PROGRESS
  • Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith)
  • Angela Eagle (Wallasey) PROGRESS
  • Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge)
  • Anna Turley (Redcar)
  • Ann Coffey (Stockport)
  • Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) PROGRESS
  • Caroline Flint (Don Valley) PROGRESS
  • Chris Bryant (Rhondda)
  • Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) PROGRESS
  • Chris Matheson (Chester)
  • Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East)
  • Conor McGinn (St Helens North)
  • Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) PROGRESS
  • Diana Johnson (Hull North)
  • Frank Field (Birkenhead) PROGRESS
  • Gloria de Piero (Ashfield) PROGRESS
  • Hilary Benn (Leeds Central)
  • Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East)
  • Ian Murray (Edinburgh South)
  • Ivan Lewis (Bury South)
  • Jamie Reed (Copeland) PROGRESS
  • Jenny Chapman (Darlington) PROGRESS
  • Jess Phillips (Birmingham Yardley) PROGRESS
  • John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne)
  • John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) PROGRESS
  • Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge) PROGRESS
  • Julie Elliot (Sunderland Central) PROGRESS
  • Karen Buck (Westminster North)
  • Karin Smyth (Bristol South)
  • Karl Turner (Hull East)
  • Kate Green (Stretford)
  • Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras)
  • Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East)
  • Kevan Jones (North Durham) PROGRESS
  • Liam Byrne (Birmingham Hodge Hill) PROGRESS
  • Lillian Greenwood (Nottingham South)
  • Lisa Nandy (Wigan)
  • Luciana Berger (Liverpool Wavertree)
  • Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) PROGRESS
  • Margaret Hodge (Barking) Non Progress Blairite
  • Maria Eagle (Garston) PROGRESS
  • Matthew Pennycrook (Greenwich and Woolwich)
  • Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby)
  • Michael Dugher (Barnsley East) PROGRESS
  • Mike Kane (Wythenshawe)
  • Mike Gapes (Ilford South)
  • Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Southwark)
  • Nia Griffith (Llanelli)
  • Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe)
  • Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) PROGRESS
  • Nick Thomas Symonds (Torfaen)
  • Owen Smith (Pontypridd)
  • Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) PROGRESS
  • Peter Kyle (Hove and Portslade)
  • Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) PROGRESS
  • Richard Burden (Birmingham Northfield)
  • Roberta Blackman-Wood (Durham)
  • Ruth Smeeth (Stoke on Trent North) PROGRESS
  • Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) PROGRESS
  • Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) PROGRESS
  • Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South) PROGRESS
  • Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) PROGRESS
  • Stephen Twigg (West Derby) PROGRESS
  • Steve Reed (Croydon North) PROGRESS
  • Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South)
  • Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West)
  • Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) PROGRESS
  • Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South)
  • Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central) PROGRESS
  • Vernon Coaker (Gedling)
  • Wayne David (Caerphilly)
  • Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield)

At the time of writing fellow Progress members Chuka Umunna (Streatham) and Liz Kendall (Leicester West) have yet to indicate whether they will vote to oust Mr Corbyn.

Watch this space!

  • Acknowledgement: The Morning Star