In the past week, thousands of Labour Party members and registered supporters have been suspended or expelled from the party, often for unconvincing or unclear reasons, in what has been dubbed as a purge. Those who have faced suspension include figures as prominent as Ronnie Draper of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union and John Dunn of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.
Victims of the purge will be barred from casting a vote in the ongoing leadership election where current Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn is going head-to-head with Owen Smith in a battle for leadership of the party, and it is widely suspected that the vast majority of suspended members support Corbyn. I know of many abusive Smith supporters on social media, including a councillor, but none have been suspended to my knowledge.
Following the suspension of Ronnie Draper, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell made a statement via Twitter suggesting a rigged purge of Corbyn’s supporters was under way:
“The decision by Labour Party officials to suspend the Bakers’ Union leader Ronnie Draper from the party and deny him a vote in Labour’s leadership election over unidentified media posts is shocking, and appears to be part of a clear pattern of double standards.
“While Ronnie, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, has been denied his say in Labour’s election no action is being taken over the Labour peer Lord Sainsbury, who has given more than £2m to support the Liberal Democrats.
“And no action has been taken against Michael Foster, the Labour Party member who abused Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters and staff as Nazi stormtroopers in the Daily Mail.
“Both will, as things stand, be able to vote in this election. Meanwhile thousands of other members and registered supporters are reported to have been denied a vote without being given an explanation or opportunity to challenge the decision or process.
“Labour Party members will not accept what appears to be a rigged purge of Jeremy Corbyn supporters. The conduct of this election must be fair and even-handed.
“I am writing to Labour’s General Secretary Iain McNicol to demand that members and supporters who are suspended or lose their voting rights are given clear information about why action has been taken and a timely opportunity to challenge the decision.
“In particular the specification of particular terms of abuse to exclude Labour Party members from voting should not be applied retrospectively.”
Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn spoke to Sky News and claimed to be very concerned that some people have been removed from the ability to vote in this election. I understand Corbyn has been in contact with the Labour Party’s General Secretary Iain McNicol to have this issue resolved.
I shared my thoughts on the situation this morning via Twitter:
The compliance unit is appointed by Iain McNicol – a man Labour Party members didn’t vote for. Anyone else want general secretary elections?
The tweet reached the democratic socialist community quickly and had received 58 retweets by lunch time. At about 4:30PM, secretary of Labour First and failed National Executive Committee candidate Luke Akehurst responded with this:
Anyone want to explain to this guy that the General Secretary is elected – by the elected members of the NEC?
The compliance unit staff aren’t taking decisions on who can vote – determined by a panel of elected NEC members.
Within minutes, my Twitter notifications were bombarded by Owen Smith supporters mocking me, therefore I locked my Twitter account for a while, preventing those who don’t follow me from seeing my tweets.
Luke Akehurst totally missed my point. I know the General Secretary is elected by the NEC, but it is an incredibly important position and there are only thirty-three NEC members. There are more than 500,000 Labour Party members and many are unhappy with the NEC’s bureaucracy.
Most trade union general secretaries are elected by their members despite having their own executive committees, and in my eyes, there is nothing stopping the Labour Party from adopting this kind of system.
For example, Len McCluskey was elected as General Secretary of Unite the Union in 2013 with 144,570 votes – a majority of 64,751 and a total vote share of 64.2%. Despite this, many of Owen Smith’s key backers have complained about a low turnout of 15.2%. Admittedly, the total turnout was low, but it doesn’t delegitimize McCluskey’s position. There are plenty of Labour councillors who have been elected on similar turnouts in by-elections, but that doesn’t change the fact those who turned up to the polls voted for them.
Frankly, I find it amusing when the right wing of the Labour Party criticises Len McCluskey for being elected with 140,000+ votes on a low total turnout while accepting and defending Iain McNicol – a General Secretary elected on less than forty votes. Stinks of hypocrisy.
Thanks for reading, and solidarity to my suspended comrades. I hope those of you who are innocent of any wrongdoing are reinstated as soon as possible.