Last month, the SKWAWKBOX published an outstanding letter from Weaver Vale CLP (constituency Labour party) in Cheshire to Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee) regarding ‘fake Labour groups’ and the activities of many of them against the Labour Party’s real ‘aims and values’.
The letter was sent three times over a period of months, but no response was received.
A response has finally been sent, by the ‘Head of Internal Governance’. But it’s barely worthy of the name. Emphases are by the SKWAWKBOX:
Thank you for your letter.
The Labour Party’s greatest asset is our members. We are made up of a wide variety of people across the country who believe in social democracy.
Local party members are able to join and/or support any organisation they choose to, provided it does not make them ineligible for membership of the Labour Party in accordance to the Labour Party rules. The Labour Party benefits, as you describe, from this “genuine debate within the party, as it is both healthy and is good for party democracy”. It is the role of Annual Conference to democratically bring the wide ranging ideas of our members together and set our policy agenda.
As you correctly identify, there are many organisations that individual Labour Party members are members of, that are not affiliated to the Labour Party. Independent organisations are not required to conform to Labour Party rules on affiliations. A full list of affiliated organisations can be found here: http://www.labour.org.uk/pages/affiliated-organisations
We would encourage role holders in local constituency parties to be the leaders in delivering Clause II 2. D in Chapter 7 of the Labour Party Rule Book (detailed below).
Rules for CLPs
Aims and values
D. To provide the opportunity for all individual
members of the Party within the constituency to
contribute to the development of the aims and
policies by ensuring that a full range of Party
activities are available to them, including local
policy forums, and that they may participate fully
in discussion to broaden the political education
of members of the Party and to increase their
influence over the formulation of the Party
Should you require any further assistance please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Claire-Frances Fuller (née Lennon)
Head of Internal Governance
The Labour Party
The letter addresses none of the concerns raised in the CLP’s letter but instead simply quotes rules without any recognition that the whole point of the original letter was that some of the organisations listed are emphatically not in accordance with the ‘aims and values’ of the Labour party.
The letter also implies that no action can be taken against the ‘independent organisations’, because they are, basically, free to do whatever they want.
Which is as it may be – but it ignores the fact that individual members make up these organisations and action can be taken against them where appropriate.
In short, it’s a condescending non-answer sent after multiple reminders and months of waiting.
The CLP sent back a prompt reply that bears reading in its entirety, as it highlights specific examples of behaviour on the part of two of the principal ‘fake Labour’ groups that cannot possibly be considered compatible with Labour’s ‘aims and values’. Again, emphases are the SKWAWKBOX’s:
Thank you for the reply, or should I say partial reply. You have only addressed one of the points raised and have ignored the rest of the letter. The one point you have addressed re status of groups and organisations within the party however, raises an additional issue.
Dealing with your reply:-
The first point about the status of groups and organisations operating within the labour party your answer is that “organisations are not required to conform to Labour Party rules”. This raises a more fundamental question. That is: do these organisations, which are composed purely of individual party members have a completely free hand in how they operate?
It has become obvious that several of these groups exist purely to undermine the leadership and party policies and the behaviour of certain individuals involved in some of these groups falls outside of the standards of behaviour expected from party members.
I refer to page 8 of the Labour party rule book ch 2 para. 4 B and Ch. 6A which gives the standards of behaviour expected of individual members, in particular the following section which sets out one of the exclusions to being a member of the party
“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“
Are Progress or Labour First etc official Labour Groups? If they are official groups, they why are they not affiliated to the Party? If these groups are not official groups then the individual members and especially the officers of these organisations must be subject to disciplinary action in the same manner as any other individual member.
The following statements or comments are taken from two of the principle officers of Progress and Labour First. For example, from articles by Richard Angell (Director Progress):
o “Corbyn seems to be favour of others uniting behind him but he providing nothing to unite behind. He thinks it is his internal critics and the mainstream media that are being unfair. In fact these are the actions of a failed first mover who still does not know how to lead. Or unite.”
o “The first victim of the bullying that surrounds the Jeremy Corbyn leadership personality cult”, “You are expected to leave your brain at the door to serve Corbyn”
o “If the party had added 300,000 new members and Corbyn’s vote only increased by two per cent, that means two things. First, we, the moderates through Saving Labour and the likes, recruited a good number to the party. And, second, we convinced many more that this experiment will be a disaster for our party. “
The following are examples from Luke Akehurst (Secretary Saving Labour):
o It turns out all the stuff about olive branches and party unity at conference was nonsense. This is a guy that wants to lead on his own terms, and given that he is completely disinterested in conventional electoral politics – who cares about winning MPs or councillors when you can build a social movement? -, is completely relaxed about the potential electoral destruction of the party.
o If MPs can be provoked into raging denunciation that suits Jeremy. It casts him as the victim.
o We need to develop a new policy agenda and new candidates which will inspire both existing party members and potential new recruits to believe that it is possible to be visionary and idealistic without embracing electorally suicidal politics.
o “Corbynites haven’t come to terms with fact they are the bad guys who through stupidity or malice will help Tories“, a statement which he (Luke Akehusrt) recognised as insulting but being insulting was justified because “I don’t respect people making Labour unelectable”.
o “BREAKING NEWS: JOHN MCDONNELL IS THE NEW LEADER OF THE LABOUR PARTY
LET’S START WITH AN APOLOGY FOR SCARING YOU AND A CONFESSION, JOHN MCDONNELL IS NOT LEADER OF THE LABOUR PARTY… NOT YET. BUT WITHOUT YOUR SUPPORT HE SOON COULD BE.
THE HARD LEFT ARE ORGANISING TO TAKE OVER OUR GREAT PARTY AND HIGH ON THEIR PRIORITY LIST IS FORCING THROUGH RULE CHANGES, INCLUDING THE ‘MCDONNELL AMENDMENT’; REDUCING THE NUMBER OF MPS REQUIRED TO GET ON THE LEADERSHIP BALLOT TO A LEVEL LOW ENOUGH TO GUARANTEE MCDONNELL GETS ON.
WE URGENTLY NEED TO RAISE £40,000 TO PAY FOR A FULL-TIME LABOUR FIRST ORGANISER TO STOP THEM. AND WE NEED THIS PERSON IN POST NOW BECAUSE CLPS START ELECTING CONFERENCE DELEGATES IN JANUARY.
SECRETARY, LABOUR FIRST
Both of these people are members of the party, yet as members of these organisations seem free to campaign negatively against the leadership and other party members without consequences.
If any other member of a CLP actively and continually campaigned online or went to press with similar derogatory statements questioning the intelligence and integrity of the Deputy Leader or other Party members they would be subject to disciplinary measures.
If as you say the party will not apply any sanction, then the party has put itself into a ridiculous position. The party is aware that Progress, Labour First, etc have individuals that are involved in a continuing campaign to undermine the leadership, weakening our position and bringing the party into disrepute, but because the party has no way of sanctioning groups, will not take any action to curb their behaviour as individuals.
In effect this means that the NEC and Iain McNicol are sympathetic to the stated aims of these groups and condones their conduct, even though their values are at odds with the leader and majority of the party members.
Page 4 clause 4 states that the Labour Party is a “democratic socialist party”. There is nothing democratic about ignoring the wishes of the majority of the members and allowing factions to jeopardise any prospect we may have in winning a Labour government come the next general election, just because it doesn’t fit the ideology of themselves.
You totally fail to answer the questions about:
o should these organisation be regarded as hostile to the party;
o whether Progress, being registered with the Electoral Commission, should be seen as a party within a party;
o If these groups actively work to subvert the internal democracy of the party (Labour First and it’s organiser);
o If these groups make inflammatory statements (Saving Labour), should there be any redress against them
o you fail to have any response to the question around Shai Masot, and his links with these groups, and especially Labour Friends of Israel (and the one million pound fund)
Also you fail to consider that the party should launch an investigation into these groups.
I find that your reply is both short on answers, ignores the most important sections of the letter, and is also patronising. Quoting the sections of the rule book that you do is insulting and has nothing to do with the point of the letter.
We are not raising any question about CLPs and how they operate, and I do not appreciate your attempt to deflect the focus away from the issues we raised and onto what CLPs should be doing. As officers of the party we are well aware of the need to show leadership in developing aims and policies. We do this through, Branch, CLP, LCF TULO, and other ad-hoc groupings. The difference between what we do and what these so called ‘independent’ organisations do, is that we operate fully within party structures and are fully accountable to the disciplinary procedures of the party if we step out of line.
The thrust of our letter is that these independent (your word not mine) organisations operate outside of the party rules, and are not subject to any discipline. No credible organisation would allow internal groups to undermine it unchallenged. Nor would it allow its members to campaign against its best interests.
The only inference I can draw from your response is that CLPs and their members can be disciplined if they undermine the party, but organisations such as Progress, Saving Labour, Labour First etc and their members can say and do what they like but there will be no actions taken against them, even though all their members are individual members of the Party. This is a ridiculous position which needs urgent attention and action taken, in the interests of party unity.
Therefore we ask, as concerned members, that you fully consider the letter and the implications of not taking appropriate action and give a full answer, not simply try and brush off our concerns with a superficial and patronising statement.
Finally we again, demand that the party investigates the actions of these organisations which are acting against the best interests of Labour.
In the opinion of this writer, the CLP’s response is a superb and pointed reply to a condescending, partial and insultingly vague answer from Labour HQ – and it puts to shame the obfuscation and, bluntly, dishonesty of a party ‘machine’ that appears more than ready to collude with parasitic organisations that are sapping the strength that Labour, with well over 500,000 members and a radical, authentic leader, should have.
The only thing of substance in the whole NEC response was the statement that the greatest asset of the Labour party is its members – and this exchange portrays the stark contrast between the nous, integrity and authenticity of grassroots members versus the ‘lack of moral fibre’ of party functionaries and the unprincipled, destructive nature of the ‘fake Labour’ groups that they are colluding with.
We wait with interest to see whether anything worthy of the name ‘response’ will come back. But we will not be holding our breath – it’s all too plain that Labour HQ contains people from Iain McNicol down that are unfit for their position and are not, themselves, aligned with the true ‘aims and values’ of the Labour Party.
Their removal becomes more urgent and essential with every day that passes.
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