A group of Labour members is planning on not campaigning for the party in the upcoming local elections. But the problem for Keir Starmer is that this isn’t the first group saying it will ‘down tools’ for Labour. And it only adds to his woes.
There’s been an ongoing ‘purge‘ of left-wing members from the Labour Party. The party has been removing, among others, Constituency Labour Party (CLP) committee members. This is because of them allowing motions in support of Jeremy Corbyn. So, as The Canary previously reported, some members are taking action.
Labour members: ‘exiled’
Suspended chair of South Thanet CLP Norman Thomas helped co-found a new group. It’s called Labour in Exile Network (LIEN). As SKWAWKBOX reported, Thomas co-founded it in December 2020, along with several other suspended/expelled members. The group already had around 500 people in it as of 13 January. But the aim of the group is not to form a new political party. Thomas previously told The Canary:
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. Previously, it put Starmer ‘on notice‘. LIEN had said it would ask its members and supporters not to cooperate with the party. But now, it’s taken the action one step further.
Boycotting local elections
In a press release, the group said it was planning “strike action”:
Under the plan members [of LIEN] will only campaign for Labour Party candidates prepared to condemn the suspensions.
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So, the group will debate and vote on this at its 27 February conference. If members pass the plan, it will issue a set of demands. These will be for all Labour election candidates. They are:
- “Restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn”.
- “Reinstate all Labour Party members wrongly suspended or expelled since the election of Keir Starmer”
- “Commission an independent review of all previous suspensions and expulsions imposed during the previous leadership”.
- “Radically reform the complaints and disciplinary processes of the party”.
- “Immediately restore the right of constituency parties and members to freely discuss and pass motions on any political issues that they see fit”.
It’s also asking members to:
Put these policies to their local candidates and organise local hustings events. Campaign only for candidates who commit themselves to the above and to give no support to those who don’t.
“What could be more natural?”
Christine Tongue is the former secretary and disability officer of South Thanet CLP. The party suspended her in September 2020 for allegedly “wishing good luck” to former Labour MP Chris Williamson. She said of LIEN’s plans:
I know it seems extraordinary that we’re planning to effectively go on strike against our own party — but this is how bad things have got. What could be more natural than for members of the labour movement to take collective action?
I am one of three secretaries of our local party who have been sacked in succession. And hundreds of members across the country have been expelled since Starmer became leader. We cannot support any candidate who isn’t prepared to speak out against this outrageous purge.
And for Starmer, this could be a bit of a headache. Because LIEN’s plans also echo the activity of another Labour-supporting group.
Grassroots Black Left (GBL) is a Labour-supporting campaign group that formed in 2017. GBL says it consists of “African, Caribbean and Asian socialist Labour Party supporters from all around Britain”. And it too is calling for a boycott of local election campaigning. The GBL says this is because the party’s leadership has “ignored” Black members and treated them “with contempt”. You can read more on GBL’s concerns here.
The disquiet in some areas of the Labour Party is growing louder, and it’s potentially problematic for Starmer. Not least because in the elections, local support will be important to canvass voters. But ultimately, if you make your bed in a way that pisses off countless members, you have to lie in it.
Featured image via the Telegraph – YouTube
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