A group of suspended members just put Keir Starmer on notice

LIEN Logo and Keir Starmer

THIS ARTICLE WAS UPDATED AT 2:30PM ON SATURDAY 23 JANUARY TO REFLECT AN ERROR. IT ORIGINALLY STATED NORMAN THOMAS WAS THE FOUNDER OF THE GROUP. HE IS, IN FACT, CO-FOUNDER ALONG WITH SEVERAL OTHER PEOPLE

Keir Starmer’s leadership just became a bit more embattled. Because amid the ongoing “purge” of dissenting Labour Party members, a new group has formed. Its aims? To force the leader’s hand to either end the strong-arming of left-wing voices – or face the consequences.

The Labour “purge”

The Canary and SKWAWKBOX have been documenting the ongoing issues within the Labour Party. For example, 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 whole of the south west Devon Constituency Labour Party (CLP) executive committee resigned en masse. Elsewhere, the party suspended Liverpool Walton CLP’s secretary Alan Gibbons, a prominent member and community activist.

SKWAWKBOX has reported on Starmer allegedly forcing Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard out of his job. He did this reportedly because of the influence of party donors. Then, The Canary‘s investigations team reported on Labour facing legal action. As Emma Guy wrote:

We can confirm that Jewish Voice For Labour (JVL) has now launched its own legal proceedings into the suspension of CLP members and an alleged ban on discussing motions relating to antisemitism within the Labour Party. JVL is also fighting a ban stopping members from passing motions of solidarity with former labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

But now, another suspended CLP member is taking things one step further.

“Outrageous suspensions”

As The Canary previously reported, Norman Thomas was chair of South Thanet CLP. But the party suspended him in December 2020 – giving no reason at the time.

Thomas told The Canary:

People are being punished for simply carrying out their duties as elected officers. We have to take action to fight these outrageous suspensions. This is a battle for justice, free speech and democracy in our party.

He also said:

We are seeing a planned purge of left wing members of the party. By suspending officers the Starmer leadership is hoping to demoralise people and get them to resign. Many are going. But I think we should stay and fight for the party we believe in. The battle has only just begun.

So, Thomas has helped formed a new group.

Exiled

It is called Labour in Exile Network (LIEN). As SKWAWKBOX reported, Thomas co-founded it in December 2020, along with several other suspended/expelled members. And as Guy previously noted, the group already has around 500 members. It’s important to note the aim of the group is not to form a new political party. Thomas previously told The Canary:

We are not aiming at forming a party at all.

Our new group will be a vital network for those who continue to fight for democracy and socialism in the Labour Party; for those who have been unfairly suspended or expelled in the last five years and those who have resigned from the Labour Party in desperation of the party direction of travel under Keir Starmer and his unendorsed General secretary, David Evans.

The group will be holding a launch conference on 27 February. You can register to attend this via Zoom, here. But now, LIEN has given a “notice” to Starmer. Thomas told The Canary:

Our former leader Jeremy Corbyn and many party officers have been the victims of a gross injustice — and we will not cooperate with our party bureaucrats until this injustice is righted.

Starmer: on notice

The full notice reads:

TO THE LEADER AND THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE LABOUR PARTY

We the undersigned members of the Labour Party demand:

• the restoration of the whip to Jeremy Corbyn;
• the reinstatement of all Labour Party members wrongly suspended or expelled since the appointment of the current general secretary;
• a review of all previous suspensions and expulsions imposed during the previous leadership;
• a root and branch reform of the deeply flawed complaints and disciplinary processes of the party;
• and an immediate restoration of the right of constituency parties to freely discuss and pass motions on political issues as they see fit.

Until these demands are met we will pursue a policy of non-cooperation with the party’s general secretary, regional officials and the governance and legal unit, and we will absolutely refuse to comply with any advice, guidance or instructions from any of the above which we consider unfair and discriminatory.

As members of the labour movement we are taking immediate, collective action in solidarity with our comrades who have been unfairly punished.

“United we stand”

The notice doesn’t pull any punches. But it also is unrepentant – giving both Starmer and suspended members very little wriggle room. Thomas told The Canary:

I can see this dispute going two ways. One way is, our left wing activists will be picked off one by one. They will be expelled, cowed into silence or leave the party in disgust.

The other way is — we say this is our party and we aren’t going anywhere.

The future of our cause totally depends on the readiness of the members to fight for the Labour Party they believe in, for the socialist policies Jeremy Corbyn has championed. They can’t suspend or expel us all.

United we stand and if enough of us stand united we can’t lose.

The Labour machinery’s campaign against the left continues to intensify. So, what Thomas and LIEN have done may be a game-changer. Because as with everything the left wing does, organisation is crucial. But equally important are the notions of unity and solidarity. And LIEN is looking like it will have those in droves.

Featured image via LIEN and Sky News – YouTube

Get involved

  • Follow LIEN on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Register for its Zoom launch here.
  • Sign LIEN’s petition in support of its notice to Starmer.
  • If you’re a member of a CLP that has been suspended, contact us.
  • You can speak to Emma Guy on the Investigations Team by emailing emma.guy(at)thecanary.co
  • Alternatively, you can securely get in touch via our Tip Offs page here.
  • Bookmark our Investigations today, and never miss an exclusive.
  • Support The Canary to keep independent journalism alive.

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  • Show Comments
    1. “It’s important to note the aim of the group is not to form a new political party”

      Why not…? anything else is pretty pointless. The only way to change things is with representation in parliament. I’m sure Starmer’s Labour is absolutely fine with these ‘protest groups’

    2. We are reverting to the Labour Party as it was prior to the election of Corbyn as leader ie the ‘tail wagging the dog’ where the PLP and not the members decided how the party was run. With the ability to tightly control who stands and who is up for reselection, suspending people without giving reason and continuing to do what they did to Corbyn – hand stories that were manufactured/altered and simply lies to the press and to far right blogs and then have them picked up by the BBC. It took years for this to begin to work on Corbyn but work it did, although Starmer did have to act personally to ensure policy was changed in order to make Labour unelectable. This will continue and Labour will, once again be indistinguishable from the Tory wets.

      After 14 years in power, by the next GE, and having overseen austerity, Brexit and COVID (and the resulting financial problems from both) it’s likely that the voters will have Tory fatigue. They’d expect as much. Starmer thinks all he needs to do is turn up and weigh the votes. He may be in for a shock. Whilst I doubt that the average voter has the attention span to remember how he ruined Labour’s chances and acknowledge the Labour gets a lot of its votes due to ‘who else can I vote for’ I still think Labour will have great difficulty in getting a majority. They could even lose – again. Certainly he doesn’t deserve to win.

      The will of the Labour members is being ignored just as Starmer encouraged Labour to ignore the will of the people in the full knowledge it would lose the election for them. It would be one thing if this had been on conscience but it was only in order to gain the leadership..

    3. This is the time for a new party. If all the real Labor party members formed a new party with Corbyn and McDonald policies at ours heart, they would win an election. Zara will be Prime Minister. We need a Peace and Justice Party now…

    4. They’re doing with Starmer what they did with Blair, making him appear a viable opposition to the Tories while offering no opposition to neoliberalism at all. And probably like Blair he’ll introduce some very authoritarian measures. The big difference is since 1997 they no longer have to appeal to the masses to actually vote Starmer in; they now steal elections like they did from Corbyn.

      They’ll steal the election to put him in if the Tories become as despised as they did back then. They’ll have to steal it because Starmer is unpopular, and votes cast for assorted parties could lead to a hung parliament, and they won’t risk anything like that because that’d be similar to proportional representation.

    5. If Starmer feels annoyed or threatened by ‘Exile’, he has no moral right. In fact, I think that, logically, he should be welcoming it. He is after all the very person who is operating an apparent policy of rewarding, recognising or promoting those who are disloyal to Leadership and not releasing the Forde report about it into the bargain. He is digging his own grave through complete illogicality, imo; those who are siding against him are doing what he himself is holding up as being right. Do I want another tory government, I hear Starmerites ask? No, but it’s Starmer’s job to persuade me to put faith in him to prevent one. He is failing miserably. I wish ‘Exile’ every success in challenging him/those who appear to be working to take away the voice of his hard working members.

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