The SKWAWKBOX has been covering a series of emails between Weaver Vale CLP (constituency Labour party) and Labour’s General Secretary, Iain McNicol, on the subject of damaging right-wing groups like Progress, Labour First, Saving Labour and others – and why their members are not expelled from the party.
In the most recent, dated the 13th of last month, McNicol attempted to avoid responsibility for taking action against those groups, who have relentlessly undermined the party and its leader, by claiming that the fact that they do not stand candidates against Labour, they were not in breach of the party’s rules.
The patent nonsense of that argument was pointed out brilliantly by Weaver Vale. But now new information has emerged that shows not only that McNicol’s argument is nonsense – but that at the same time, Labour was using the exact opposite argument in a court of law to expel a Labour member.
The case in question was heard in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court on 20 Feb – only one week after McNicol’s letter to Weaver Vale. The case reference was Jack Halinski-Fitzpatrick v Iain McNicol in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Claim No HQ17X00488.
Mr Halinski had been notified of his expulsion from the Labour Party because of his membership of the group ‘Socialist Appeal’ and took the Party to court to try to overturn the decision.
The Labour Party’s evidence to the court was presented by Labour Investigations Officer Benjamin Westerman, who made it clear to the court that he was speaking on behalf of the Party and not as an individual:
Mr Westerman then goes on to state the Labour Party’s case for the expulsion and to attack his grounds for claim. He begins by quoting the same rule that Weaver Vale CLP and McNicol had discussed. Remember that McNicol had insisted that the rule meant no action could be taken against Progress et al because they did not stand candidates against Labour, while Weaver Value pointed out the the ‘or’ between the clauses meant any of those conditions were grounds for expulsion, not that all of them were required:
Mr Westerman, speaking with the authorisation of the Labour Party, then states:
Westerman could not be more emphatic:
- support for any political organisation other than Labour or an ‘official unit’ (e.g. an affiliated organisation such as the Socialist Health Association) renders the member automatically ineligible to remain a member
- this rule has been in place and is well understood to mean what it means
- it does not matter whether an organisation is ‘proscribed’ (banned) – ‘that is to misread the rule‘ – support for it is enough to ‘warrant expulsion‘
Just in case that last point is not quite clear, Westerman repeats it later in his evidence:
Westerman rounds off his evidence by emphasising the significance of the rules and how they free the Labour Party to act:
Labour, in other words – according to its own rules, which have the force of law – is free, on the basis of the rule concerning support for another political organisation, to expel members. and it is free, if the case is clear, to do that without formal disciplinary procedures.
In other words, McNicol’s attempt to wash his hands of responsibility for dealing with the right-wing groups who are damaging the Labour Party is hogwash not only according to Weaver Vale CLP = but according to the Labour Party’s own rules that it relied on in court.
Labour won its case and the expulsion of Mr Halinski stands.
The significance of this case was noticed by a member of the same CLP as Mr Halinski when he heard about the Weaver Vale correspondence. This Labour member wrote yesterday to Iain McNicol, pointing out the significance of the legal precedent that Labour’s own court statement had set for the Party properly dealing with Progress, Labour First and similar groups.
The full letter to McNicol – along with the complete court statement by Benjamin Westerman – is available as a PDF at the end of this article. But he points out emphatically that Labour’s own legal statement agrees not with Iain McNicol but with Weaver Vale:
then accuses McNicol of falsehood and asks him to take the action that Labour’s own legal action has demonstrated must be taken:
Iain McNicol tried to be clever in his response to Weaver Vale CLP. He attempted to exploit and twist the rules – a classic right-wing tactic – to let right-wing ‘cuckoo in the nest’ groups off the hook.
He tried. He failed. And in the attempt he demonstrated that he is incompetent and unprincipled.
Not only must Labour members now demand that the requisite action under the rules be taken immediately against the groups that are trying to take Labour back to obsolete and bankrupt Blairism – they must also demand the immediate resignation or dismissal of a General Secretary who, in this issue and many others, has shown himself to be completely unfit for the position.
And if their demands are not answered, they have a clear basis for legal action.
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