Three Labour members, Kate Townsend, Robert Park and Steve Williams, have been expelled from the party for a minimum of five years for voicing support for an ‘electoral pact’ designed to topple the worse-than-useless Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt from his Surrey constituency, the Guardian has reported.
The pact, which aims to harness anger over Tory damage to the NHS to maximise the chance of removing Hunt, would see Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens stand down in order to focus voter support behind NHA (National Health Action Party) candidate Dr Louise Irvine.
Highly qualified barrister Duncan Shipley-Dalton has contacted the SKWAWKBOX with his legal opinion that a 5-year ban is probably unlawful according to the Labour Party’s rules:
The story in the Guardian says they are to be banned for 5 years. I think the application of a 5 years ban is questionable.
I assume the expulsion would have been made under the rule in Chapter 2, Clause 1, Section 4 (B):
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.
This clause refers directly to Rule 6.1.2 below. This would I assume be Chapter 6, Clause I, section 2:
2. When a person applies for re-admission to the Party following an expulsion by the NCC on whatever basis or by automatic exclusion under Chapter 2 4.A above of the membership rules, the application shall be submitted to the NEC for consideration and decision. Such applications shall not normally be considered by the NEC until a minimum of five years has elapsed. The decision of the NEC shall be binding on the individual concerned and on the CLP relevant to the application.
The first question would be who made the expulsion. Did the NCC make the decision?
If not then the second part of the rule applies and this rule specifically states it covers an expulsion under Chapter 2. 4. A. (This misses out the Clause reference but I think it is reasonable to assume it means Chapter 2, Clause I, Section 4 (A).)
Therefore an expulsion made under Chapter 2, Clause I, Section 4 (B) is not covered by clause 6.1.2. So my interpretation is that the 5 year ban period under this clause can only legitimately be applied to those members who are excluded under Chapter 2. 4. (A) not under sub section (B). If the NEC has relied on this clause to justify a 5 year ban then I think it is capable of challenge.
I would caveat this by saying that the NEC may be relying on a different clause to justify a 5 year ban but I am not aware of another one in the rules but there may be additional internal guidelines published by the NEC that cover such situations.
The first step would be to check the details of the correspondence sent to the members in question and find out what rules were relied on to expel them and support a 5 year ban.
If as I suspect it is Chapter 2 1.4.(B) and Chapter 6.1.2 then a 5 year ban may be ultra vires. The practicalities of readmittance may be difficult because the General secretary does have a general power to refuse membership for whatever reason he/she sees fit under Appendix 2. B. X.
However a challenge may at least shorten the period of any ban down from 5 years which may be worthwhile.
Whatever your opinion of ‘electoral pacts’ in order to maximise the opportunity to prevent the election of Tory MPs, the SKWAWKBOX recommends that you do not put your support for them on the public record as right-wingers at Labour HQ are, as the SKWAWKBOX has already publicised, recording such instances for future suspensions or expulsions as part of any future attempt to seize power.
This is, of course, the height of hypocrisy when former PM and still Labour member Tony Blair has appeared in national media to tell people to vote for other parties and Michael Foster, who attempted to legally block Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy in the 2016 leadership election is actually standing against Labour as a ‘Labour for the Common Good’ candidate – an organisation that is definitely not ‘an official Labour group or other unit of the party’.
In any event, it would be hard to dispute that decades-long, hard-working members seeking to remove a disgraceful Tory MP have been harshly treated and this blog recommends that they seek legal advice with a view to challenging a decision that not only seems unfair but is potentially unlawful according to Labour’s rules.
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