At the time of writing, there are around 21 hours remaining in the 2016 Labour leadership contest. Last night, both Channel 4’s Dispatches programme and the BBC’s Panorama featured ‘exposés’ on supposed problems in the behaviour of Momentum, the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting movement that has become the latest target of wild accusations from some Labour MPs and the establishment media. Neither programme could find anything of substance to report, which begs the question of why they bothered broadcasting – but which, given that a Dispatches ‘reporter’ spent 6 months ‘undercover’ (secretly filming meetings that were almost all open to the public) also speaks volumes because of what they did not find.
However, the most glaring omission was the real, massive Labour scandal that both channels chose (since they can’t realistically be unaware) to ignore: that of the hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised members, particularly the unknown yet surely enormous numbers that have suffered arbitrary suspension or expulsion, thereby blocking them from a vote – an anti-democratic move by the Labour ‘machinery’ that has overwhelmingly affected Corbyn supporters.
Tom Watson, Iain McNicol and other representatives of the ‘Chicken Coup’ have been more than happy to paint those suspended as ‘hard-left entryists’ or perpetrators of ‘abuse’. But the reality is that the vast majority of those affected are ordinary, harmless members and supporters whose crime seems simply to be that of supporting a candidate the party Establishment would prefer to see lose. As a result, they are suffering a great injustice that can only be ‘corrected’ – if ever – after the election is over, because any appeal will not be considered until well after the result is announced. And at least one person will never have another opportunity to vote for a Labour leader.
Would you like to know some of them? Here are their stories.
James is a 71-year-old pensioner, a full Labour member of long standing who lives with his wife in the north-west of England. A few days ago, after chasing Labour HQ to find out why he hadn’t received his ballot, James received a letter advising him he had been suspended and would not be entitled to vote:
But James does not have any social media accounts and never has had. According to his wife, who does use social media, he is a technophobe who won’t even touch a computer or smartphone.
Clearly this suspension has no basis and is completely unjust. It’s just possible that the ‘Compliance Unit’ has looked at his wife’s accounts, although she is not a poster of offensive or inflammatory material either. But if that is the case, there has been a serious breach of the Data Protection Act, since any permission James might have given to use his data certainly does not extend to his wife or any other family members – nor is he responsible to the Labour party for anything posted by someone else.
The couple have been seriously distressed by the incident itself and its evident injustice. Doreen described them as feeling ‘helpless and alone and so sad about what’s being done to the Labour party’ until the SKWAWKBOX contacted her about their situation. While it helps that she now has an opportunity to tell their story, it in no way mitigates the wrong that has been done to them or the abuse of democracy that it represents.
Dylan is a performer by profession and a full Labour member. After numerous queries to the Labour party about the non-receipt of his ballot papers, on 17 September he finally received them – in the same post as a letter notifying him of his suspension:
Dylan described himself as mystified about the suspension, “I just have no idea why”. The letter refers to social media comments made 1 June 2016, but the most ‘extreme’ comment on that date refers to ‘Blairites’ – at a time well before that term was proscribed as too insulting (for all that says about Blair and those who adhere to his aims and methods).
But that won’t help his right to vote – for Corbyn, as his Twitter profile makes clear. Not only that, but Dylan knows of members of over 50 years’ standing who have been suspended for similarly tenuous reasons.
‘Cheryl’ is a pseudonym, as she asked to remain anonymous in the hope of a successful appeal – after the election. Her case is awful, because she has been not only suspended but expelled from the party. In her letter of complaint to Labour, she says:
On 17 September 2016, I received a letter from Iain McNicol dated 16 September 2016 which informed me of my expulsion from the Labour Party. To say I was surprised and dismayed by its contents would be an understatement. The letter stated that there was evidence that I had publicly supported The Green Party on social media, but gave no specific reference or date.
I do not support the Green Party. The letter said I could not apply to rejoin for 5 years, and that if I had already voted in the Leadership election, my vote would not be counted..
I have had no prior warning that I was being investigated, no sight of the allegation made against me, no sight of the evidence, no opportunity to be heard and apparently no right of appeal. This is against all principles of natural justice, principles which the Labour Party has fought for on behalf of working people since its inception.
“The right to a fair hearing requires that individuals should not be penalised by decisions affecting their rights or legitimate expectations unless they have been given prior notice of the case, a fair opportunity to answer it, and the opportunity to present their own case. The mere fact that a decision affects rights or interests is sufficient to subject the decision to the procedures required by natural justice. In Europe, the right to a fair hearing is guaranteed by Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is said to complement the common law rather than replace it.”..
I joined the Labour Party over a year ago, after more than 40 years as a Labour supporter and voter, but never having previously been a member. I joined around the time of the general election after I and other members of my family canvassed and leafletted in support of [our Labour General Election candidate]..
In conclusion, persons in The Labour Party/the NEC apparently failed to follow a fair process, made a decision on the basis of false evidence and propose to disenfranchise me by backdating my expulsion and interfering with a secret ballot. On these grounds I reject any and all allegations made against me, and would demand that this decision be rescinded, my membership reinstated and my vote in the Leadership election secured forthwith
Cheryl is clearly and justifiably deeply upset by this situation and is rightly seeking legal recourse. A 5-year suspension with no right of appeal nor sight of any evidence is clearly not only anti-democratic but unjust in the extreme.
‘G’ is a Labour member based in the north-west of England. She has been suspended from voting for emailing her MP. Either her MP passed on the email to the Compliance Unit for suspension, which is deeply craven and underhand, or the Compliance Unit obtained and used the email, which is a breach of confidentiality. Here is the email that she sent to her MP:
The email is very forthright, but cannot sensibly be called abusive. The only ‘threat’ it contains is the ‘threat’ to exercise her democratic right not to vote for her again. It contains the ‘t’-word, which was proscribed only after the date on which the email was sent – ludicrously so, since Labour’s party song asserts ‘When cowards flinch/And Traitors sneer/We’ll keep the red flag flying here’. Retrospective punishment can never be justice.
And now we come to the most tragic of our five tragic stories. Viv is terminally ill and may not have another chance to have her say in the selection of Labour’s leader, yet having read her social media feed (which I won’t publish here to protect her identity) she maintains a resolute cheerfulness – but is clearly badly affected by the blow dealt by the Labour bureaucracy, who informed her of a suspension because of alleged ‘abuse’ on social media. Here’s her situation in her own (slightly redacted) words:
I took part in last leadership election by paying the £3 to vote for Jeremy Corbyn who speaks for me and obviously many others as he had an outstanding win. Subsequently I joined the Labour Party and have just renewed my membership.
Indeed on 16th Sept. I received 2 emails from Iain McNichol – one thanking me for renewal (telling me that people like me are the heart and soul of the party) and barely hours later a letter telling me I had been suspended for ‘comments made on Social Media, including on 16th Sept 2015.’
Having done an advanced search I have read through all my tweets for Sept. 2015. True my tweets are forthright, sometimes cheeky, definitely show my support for Jeremy Corbyn and are dismissive of Blairites. However I am most definitely not racist or abusive and never use foul language as listed in their letter.
This suspension obviously bans me from having a vote in Leadership election. My first thought was to [fight] but I’m slowly recovering from an infection and I just couldn’t find the strength.
So much for ‘trots’, ‘rabble’, ‘dogs’, ‘entryists’, ‘thugs’ and all the other dismissive, condescending insults bandied about without thought or conscience by MPs and others who are equally quick to play the victim and whine about the idea that their local parties might wish to exercise their democratic right to replace their supposedly ‘loyal, hardworking’ MP with a more suitable candidate, or about the ‘abuse’ they receive that appears to be usually nothing more than irritated disagreement.
Insults and actions that damage and distress innocent people – and that even a halfwit would know will do so – potentially irrevocably.
In last night’s Panorama programme, Neil Kinnock – architect of two general election defeats and exemplar of the concept of ‘out of touch’ – bleated plaintively about the fact that he fears he might ‘never see another Labour government in my lifetime’. He will excuse my lack of sympathy – knowing what I do about the real anguish being inflicted on many tens of thousands of genuinely loyal Labour members. Members who are anything but the wild-eyed revolutionaries or cultists the ‘moderates’ slander them as.
Writing this post has left me both sad and incandescently angry – and I hope it does the same to you. If you have been unfairly suspended in this blatantly anti-democratic move, visit whycantivote.com to register your situation with barrister Liz Davies, which I hope will lead to a group action against those responsible.
And even if you haven’t been personally affected, get involved. If you’re not already a full member of the Labour party, join. Join Momentum and get involved with your local group. Meet with like-minded members of your constituency Labour party and, if your MP is one of those insulting the membership and slandering decent members and supporters, plan: find out what needs to be done to democratically remove your MP so a better candidate can take their place – it’s not bullying, it’s democracy. Bullying is what you see being inflicted on the people shown above and countless others.
If you still can, vote – and vote Corbyn, so the people responsible don’t achieve their aim.
And, right now, spread the word – share this article and other stories like it so that right-thinking people understand what’s going on even if they won’t see it in Dispatches, Panorama or other mainstream media and be outraged, then turn it into action.
Above all, don’t let the ******** grind you down into leaving Labour or failing to join, which is surely their aim just as much as trying to gerrymander the leadership ballot.
Get mad and get even.