Should you stay or should you go

Alastair Campbell, Blair’s Director of Communications has been expelled (or auto-excluded) from the Labour Party probably under rule 4.I.2.B. He stated that he voted for the Lib Dems in the European Parliamentary elections. This was done as per the rule, with no right of defence, no hearing and no right of appeal.

The rule states,

2.I.4.B A member of the Party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a Party member, subject to the provisions of Chapter 6.I.2 below of the disciplinary rules.

The rule is in three parts, the first is about “political organisations” and the second about behaviour during elections, the third governs the exclusion & readmission process.

As Shami Chakrabarti points out, we cannot expel or in anyway sanction people for the way they vote, but it seems the NEC are having second thoughts; we’ll see what happens, but whatever they do, they need to recognise that the no defence, no appeal part of this rule put it in contravention of the rules of natural justice. If they let Campbell off, as they did with Andrew Fisher, this will be rightly seen as one rule for the powerful and one for the rest of us.

The rule should be re-written to add clarity as to which organisations or class of organisations lead to sanctions; I would argue this should be limited to fascist organisations or borrow from the NUS no-platform policy and add to that all other political parties. The rule should be rewritten to have a right of defence, and right of appeal although I recognise in some cases there is a need for velocity. (Or maybe just abolish it and define campaigning for another party as “conduct prejudicial” and dealt with by the NCC processes which are in need of reform themselves.)

I argue that all 4.I.2.B auto-excluded should be given amnesty as not only is the rule contrary to natural justice it was applied factionally and in bad faith.

It should be noted that the Labour Party has other rules to protect itself, it can refuse to allow people to join or it can sanction them under its Chapter 6 processes if actions are prejudicial or grossly detrimental. …

And the rest of the rule changes

On Tuesday, we considered the remaining rule changes, which originally will have been passed by their proposing CLPs in 2017, over 18 months ago. This article summarises the debate, looking at rule changes designed to improve the auto-exclusion process and to allow CLPs to ask for permission not to run a candidate. It should be noted that rule changes to remove the “contemporary” constraint on motions at conference and to ensure that CLP rule changes re debated at the conference following their submission were passed.

Two rule changes proposed changes to Rule 2.I.4.B, the rule under which many members have been expelled/auto-excluded, two rule changes on the Deputy Leadership, (one proposing a 2nd Deputy, who must be female), a rule proposing Conference Standing orders, a rule proposing the abolition of the one year waiting period for CLP rule changes, a rule change proposing that motions need not be contemporary and a rule change proposing that CLPs could ask the NEC for permission not to run a candidate in parliamentary elections. The final rule change proposed was to change back from small, councillor dominated Local Campaign Forum’s to broader and more representative Local Government Committees; this is an issue that the NEC want’s to think about and recommended remission, which is what the CLP did.

The NEC makes recommendations on what to do, i.e. for, against or remit and rarely loses. The same was the case today. Our delegation voted with the NEC with one exception, which was the first.

The rule change proposing a change to Rule 4.I.2.B proposed changes in two way. Firstly it proposed qualifying the type of organisation that might lead to expulsion as one that conflicted with Labour’s aims and values and secondly, placed the process by which such exclusion would be undertaken under auspices of the disciplinary process. (I have written a lot on the weaknesses of the Party’s disciplinary processes much of this in this blog.) The current rule allows a secret decision and no appeal. The disciplinary process is marginally more visible than that. We have debated these rules and exclusions in our CLP and believe them to be factionally motivated and contrary to the rules of natural justice. Interestingly the CLP had allowed the rule change to be called, “Membership of other parties” which isn’t what the rule is about; it’s current words make “support for organisations other than official Labour organisations” an act that renders one liable for exclusion.

This rule is usually used against small groups in the party which leads one to ask, why not Progress, Labour First or Momentum. It was also used against three long term activists in NW Surrey who had wanted to explore running a “progressive alliance” candidate against Jeremy Hunt. It was also used against Moishe Machover although the decision was revoked as it was considered that writing an article for a newspaper couldn’t be considered “support for an organisation other than …”. This shows one of the problems with the rule; there is no certainty.

I note that if a Councillor or an MP and you wish to “cross the floor” we greet you with alacrity. We should welcome all new members with a campaigning records.

This was defeated.

The rule change on a second deputy leader was withdrawn despite NEC backing. Skwawkbox explains why!

Richmond Park, the CLP for Zac Goldsmith’s seat proposed that CLPs should be able to ask the NEC for permission not to stand a candidate. When Goldsmith forced his vanity bye-election, I suspect that the CLP considered not running a candidate and even when they did, the unfortunate Christian Woolmar, received less votes than there are members of the local Party and the LibDem’s Sarah Olney won by 1,872 votes, removing a racist, arch-brexiteer, silver spoon Tory from Parliament although Olney was a flag bearer for the orange book and it must be recognised that joining the coalition led nearly all those supporters of the social democratic tradition not in Parliament to leave. This now makes the LibDems unattractive allies in an anti-tory alliance.

We should also consider the events in North West Surrey CLP where leading activists considered supporting the National Health Action Party if the Lib Dems withdrew against Jeremy Hunt and were expelled. In NW Surrey, they donated their campaign funds and campaigners to the nearest marginal (which they should do help anyway, but it was quite a journey.) For all the virtue expressed, the Labour Party has on occasion, not run candidates in seats, in Tatton in 1997 where we supported Martin Bell as an independent and in Heltemprice & Howton (2008), we did not run a candidate in David Davies’s vanity bye-election and hinted at the Liberal there. The danger is that people get used to and like voting for a party other than Labour, and some will feel let down by not having a candidate. There were just under 1,500 who couldn’t support Olney in Richmond Park. I didn’t know about the Davies case during the delegation meeting where we voted to oppose the amendment and Conference agreed with us. …

Amnesty

As you may know, I am a supporter of Stop the Purge campaign as the rule under which these exclusions have been taken taken offends the principles of natural justice. After the election last year, the CLP Chair, in a speech to the General Committee observed that we had all worked well together during the election and wouldn’t it be great if this could continue. I agreed, and so I wrote the following motion as several people, that I know of, who joined the CLP have been excluded.

It calls for the lifting of all exclusion decisions taken under this Rule.

The motion was carried at my branch meeting last night.

All supporters of Labour Party welcome in Labour Party

This meeting notes

The Labour Party Rule Book 2017, Chapter 2 Membership rules, Clause I Conditions of membership, sub clause 4 Exclusions, (B) reads as follows:

‘A member of the Party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a Party member, subject to the provisions of Chapter 6.I.2 below of the disciplinary rules.’

This rule has been used to exclude LP members with no defence, no appeal and no public review of the evidence.

This meeting believes

  1. Labour’s membership should be open to all who share our values and support Labour’s election campaigns.
  2. In the spirit of post-election unity, this branch calls for the reinstatement of automatically excluded members.

This meeting calls/GC instructs on the CLP Secretary to write to the General Secretary and the NEC calling for the reinstatement of those auto-excluded under Rule 4.I.2.B

This meeting instructs the branch secretary to submit this motion to the CLP Secretary for consideration at the next GC .

So now it goes to the General Committee.

ooOOOoo

There were two points raised which are interesting and deserve reply.

The first is that if we delete the rule, how can we defend ourselves against electoral opponents, The answer to that is simple, there are plenty of other rules that define that offence, but even then such actions should be considered under a process that includes a defence, and right of appeal.

The motion is not a rule change, its an appeal for amnesty but I have written about what I’d like the rule to look like elsewhere on this blog. …

Scope Creep

At LP Conference, Moshé Machover published an article in the Labour Party Marxists freesheet for which he was expelled under Rule 2.I.4.B. The rule is a disgrace, but the expulsion letter also accused Machover of anti-semitic speech. This would have been a scope creep permitting the expulsion of an anti-Zionist for his views, without public evidence, without a hearing and without an appeal. This is almost certainly the motivation for the expulsion, to avoid a Chapter 6 process.

Machover has been reinstated. He is now, rightly, waiting for an apology.  Expulsion/exclusion would have been a disgrace, as it is for all those expulsions under this rule. …

Godalming Three

I have now spoken to one of the Guildford Three. They were expelled for organising a public meeting to explore a common/shared candidate. The General Committee had voted to explore the possibility of a “Progressive Alliance” candidate. A public meeting was organised, the three Labour organisers were expelled. A candidate was imposed. In response, the General Committee voted a zero budget for the SW Surrey Campaign and donated what they would have spent to their nearest marginal, Ealing Central. Most of SW Surrey CLP’s leadership travelled to support Labour candidates in other seats.

Steve Williams, after his expulsion, nominated Louise Irving, the NHAP candidate. As he says, once expelled the rules have no power.

The three people expelled are all Corbyn supporters, of course, and leading activists in the CLP.

On one hand, you can see how a beleaguered head office, gearing up for an election they expected to be smashed in, would have had little time to deal with this in a sensitive fashion, but they are so used to getting away with it, that they roll out the old rule 2.I.4.B again. …

Stop the Purge

Stop the Purge

I dropped into the “Stop the Purge” meeting earlier tonight, in time to hear Graham Hadfield from Brighton and Alan Runswick from Wallasey tell their stories. Their stories can be found elsewhere on the web. Both CLPs were suspended, and Brighton broken up. Individuals have been suspended or expelled. The expulsions have been under Rule 2.i.4.B. Pam Fitzpatrick from Harrow spoke about the witch-hunt of her son, a supporter of Socialist Appeal, who was suspended, reinstated, then expelled. He actually went to court to get a restraining injunction and that failed; he has been unable to raise the  money to take it further through the courts. Tony Greenstein, still suspended and claiming to be the longest suspended member spoke of the anti-antisemitism campaign and the consequent suspensions. I also spoke.  …

Fairness

I want to propose a change to Labour’s Rules to ensure that a due process is defined for any expulsions for “supporting” the wrong people. To me, the critical weaknesses of the current rule, apart from its potential for corrupt usage is the chilling effect that banning the support of “political organisations” will have and the lack of due process in evaluating if someone has actually “supported” a political organisation other than Labour. The rest of this article illustrates a possible change and asks advice whether to amend Rule 2.I.4.B or to delete it; I plan to take one of these options to the CLPD AGM to seek support. …