The SKWAWKBOX has covered at length the mass suspension of members – apparently overwhelmingly pro-Corbyn members – by the Labour party during the recent leadership election.
This blog has corresponded with many people wrongly suspended or expelled, for example (in this writer’s own circle of personal acquaintances) one member suspended for discussing the word ‘scum’ as used by a Tory toward a homeless person.
Until now, there has been no sign of a single apology – on the contrary, all the letters sent out lifting suspensions appear to use a single template, which includes a threat of future expulsion if the member offends again. A ‘sword of Damocles’, so to speak, hanging over members who did nothing untoward in the first place – apart from support the leader of the party.
Now, at last, the SKWAWKBOX has received a copy of what hitherto seemed as rare as rocking-horse cack – an apology to a wrongly-excluded member. But while the mere fact of an apology is remarkable enough, of greater importance is what the apology, and the exclusion that led to it, reveal.
Here is an anonymised copy of the apology email:
As you can see, it took many weeks for the error to be corrected – far too long for the affected person to be able to exercise their democratic right to vote for their preferred leader.
But was it really an error? That seems extremely questionable at best.
Why? Because the member in question had already been blocked from voting for the exact same reason a year earlier – which was then investigated and overturned to allow them to become a full party member.
The exclusion was only overturned after the member submitted an official SAR (subject access request) under the Data Protection Act, requiring the disclosure of all information held by a ‘data processor’ about an individual – Labour did not respond for many weeks until this was submitted.
That SAR led to the disclosure of details not only of the supposed offence, but the other information pertaining to it – and that information is extremely telling.
An ‘auto-exclusion’, according to section 2.4 of Labour’s 2016 rulebook, can only be applied for one of four very specific offences:
- standing against the party in an election (or helping someone to do so)
- being a member of, or supporting, another political party
- a serious criminal offence
- being endorsed as a Labour candidate and then switching parties without giving Labour enough notice to allow them to select another candidate.
In this case, the member was suspected – in 2015 – of having been a member of TUSC, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, a rival party set up out of disillusionment with Labour’s direction under Tony Blair.
That allegation was investigation and overturned in 2015, after resulting in the inability of the member to vote in that year’s leadership election.
And then the party’s HQ decided to recycle it:
Note that this was not an accidental re-use of an old allegation. The notes released state that the 2016 exclusion was specifically based on the previous rejection ‘last year’.
What does this all tell us? There has been much outrage at the apparently arbitrary nature of suspensions that seemed designed to prevent as many Corbyn supporters from voting as possible – but this takes the matter beyond suspicion into fact.
If Labour’s ‘compliance unit’ was prepared to knowingly rehash old and already-disproven allegations in order to exclude a member from this year’s election, then that can only mean that they were seeking to cast the net as widely as possible, rather than with any concern for correctness – and of course they’ll be prepared to deprive members of their vote on even the most spurious reason.
Whoever signed off on this approach – up to and including General Secretary Iain McNicol and deputy leader Tom Watson – has no place in any Labour party worthy of the name. If they won’t resign, they must be removed – and, commensurate to the penalty they were happy to impose wrongly on others, not allowed even a chance of re-entry to the party for at least five years.