The growing purge of Labour Party members has been continuing. But in one Constituency Labour Party (CLP), the situation has gone further. Because after the party machinery suspended its chair – the whole executive committee resigned.
CLP: ‘current Labour purge’
The Canary has been reporting on the growing number of people the party machinery is suspending. In the south west, it has clamped down on some high-ranking officials from Bristol CLPs. In Bath, the party has put a stop to a meeting to elect new officials. It also barred all motions there, except one which (ironically) marked the death of George Orwell. Then, the party suspended Liverpool Walton CLP’s secretary Alan Gibbons, a prominent member and community activist.
Why is the party doing this? Because back in November, it sent an internal memo out. SKWAWKBOX reported that it stated that “all motions which touch on” the “issues” surrounding Corbyn “must be ruled out of order”. In other words, CLPs must throw out any motions relating to the former Labour leader.
SKWAWKBOX has been providing running analysis of the situation. Recently it alleged that the party was using an “unpublished” bullying and harassment “code of conduct”. SKWAWKBOX said that the “party’s disciplinary ‘Dispute Panels'” were using the document’s definition of harassment to suspend people. It noted that:
Members are being judged against these vague and subjective criteria without having ever known they were criteria – and they have been twisted by the party to suspend officers and members on the flimsiest of grounds.
It is currently unclear which suspended individuals the party has judged using this document. The Canary‘s investigative journalist Emma Guy is currently collating information on suspensions. You can contact her by emailing emma.guy(at)thecanary.co
Alternatively, you can securely get in touch via our Tip Offs page here.
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Meanwhile, the situation in Labour’s south west region has escalated. Richard Marshall was south west Devon CLP’s secretary. In December, he and the other members of the executive committee [EC] resigned en masse. It was partly to do with a meeting where a motion in support of Jeremy Corbyn was discussed. The committee claims that other members subjected them to abuse over this.
So, Marshall sent an email to CLP members on 21 December. It read as follows:
I hope everyone is well and safe.
With regret, I announce the resignation of myself and the rest of your EC with immediate effect. The reasons largely relate to our November meeting and are as follows.
The merits of the motion regarding Mr Corbyn I won’t debate, but the speed with which the party moved to suspend our CLP chair (within 24 hours of the meeting) shows one thing – that our disciplinary process is problematic and selective. Issues of safeguarding in particular don’t appear to be taken seriously, which I trust will change with the new leadership.
Disagreements are positive – it’s how we learn and develop. But there are ways to disagree – shouting at someone until they submit is not among them. The aggression at that meeting was unsettling – I must give credit to the chair for remaining as calm as he did, goaded as he was. I, and others, were not comfortable to even put our cameras on.
I was made aware of abuse and name calling during the meeting directed at the chair.
Marshall’s email continued:
I was also made aware that I and two other officers were branded racists on social media – this was deeply shocking. Quite frankly I was disgusted, that someone who I’d never met had the gall to say something so hurtful and potentially damaging. Perhaps it was my taking votes that was deemed offensive? – that was quite literally my only job that evening.
I have enjoyed serving as your secretary. However, since that meeting, I have felt my position untenable. At present, I am not the right person for this role. No-one should have to tolerate vacuous abuse and aggression. I will not. Nor will your EC. I, and your EC officers, felt it was wrong to stay-on any longer, knowing our feelings. I have informed the regional office.
A “broad church”?
The Canary spoke with Marshall. He says that the south west regional office of the Labour Party had, as of 6 January, not “acknowledged the resignations”. But he went further. Marshall said that these resignations had been a long time coming:
The roots of this are very deep. Our resignation is the culmination of well over a year of abuse and harassment. It started in September 2019 with outside interference in our parliamentary candidate selection, with our regional office removing two left leaning candidates, and, it’s alleged, a regional committee member encouraging a third to stand aside. We ended up having region/Plymouth Labour’s ‘preferred’ candidate imposed instead. I authored a lengthy report on this at request of members.
He said that the leadership needs to act:
For me, there are three pressing things the Leadership must do – among many others undoubtedly:
The party needs to acknowledge the ‘broad church’ nature of Labour and accept that criticism and dispute are both normal and healthy. Shutting down debate that is inconvenient has eroded the faith of many, as has suspending officers who sought to facilitate debate. Freedom of speech should be a sacred right of members, not a privilege removable at the whim of officials.
He believes that the national party is not giving its CLPs the support they need:
Equally, more support for local party officers and members would also go a very long way… For our CLP, support on issues such as the alleged interference in our 2019 parliamentary candidate selection would have gone far. Members were rightly upset at the findings of an internal CLP report into this, and asked the party to investigate. Nothing has ever come of this – not even a recognition of receipt.
But Marshall also criticised the current disciplinary processes.
“Arbitrary and ill-defined”
He noted that:
Reform of the complaints system is imperative. It appears arbitrary and ill-defined, swift in its retribution against some; apparently non-existent where others are concerned. It has left some facing months of unchecked abuse, while others can shout, berate, abuse and harangue with apparent immunity. Fixing this with a transparent system could, I believe, regain the confidence of many.
Whether or not the party will listen to the words of members like Marshall remains to be seen. What is becoming clear is that its cracking down on socialist voices continues relatively unabated. Now more than ever these members need to make their feelings heard. Because the groundswell of disquiet at Starmer’s leadership and the party is equally continuing, unabated.
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