Labour member Rick Burgess rejoined the party at the beginning of 2016, inspired by the party’s vision under its leader Jeremy Corbyn – and just missed the retrospective cut-off date imposed by the Labour National Executive Committee (NEC) to be able to vote in the 2016 leadership contest. So he paid the supporter’s fee £25 (increased controversially from the £3 fee the previous year) to be able to vote.
This was no small step – and no small sum – for Rick, who is disabled and also cares for his mum, who suffers from Alzheimers and vascular dementia. Rick himself has been ‘through the mill’ of multiple and punitive disability assessments.
The Labour and social justice movements owe a lot to Rick. He co-founded the WOW Petition which, led by comedian Francesca Martinez, was signed by over 104,000 people and made history by being the first motion brought to the main chamber of the British parliament by disabled people. Despite winning the vote the current government still refuses to abide by the motion.
Rick built on the success of the petition to co-found ‘New Approach’, which laid out a practical path for the government to abolish the widely-condemned ‘work capability assessment’ and co-founded Manchester Disabled People’s Assembly.
He was then summarily expelled from the Labour Party during last year’s second ‘purge‘ of pro-Corbyn members – even though Labour General Secretary Iain McNicol has since told Labour employees that trawling social media for disciplinary reasons is a breach of the Data Protection Act – for a tweet quoting words from a serious article by a former UK ambassador:
Rick wasn’t calling anyone vermin, or even Blairite – the article and the tweet about it referred to the words on a t-shirt worn by an elderly man at a rally. The SKWAWKBOX also published an article on this man and the reality was nothing like the ‘moderates’ portrayed it.
When Rick’s appeal and explanations were ignored, he decided to go to small claims court to try to retrieve his £25 supporter fee – since it cost him £25 to do so this was about the principle, not about the money. Here’s what happened next, in his own words:
I wrote to the Party asking for an appeal, no response ever came. So I lodged a small claim to recover the £25 the party took from me yet denied me a vote. Lodging the claim cost £25 so this not about money but principle.
The claim was put on the mediation track which I agreed to but at the last moment Mr McNicol refused to attend mediation.
The claim then was examined by District Judge Mauger who referred the matter back to another attempt at mediation which again I agree to. I wrote to Iain McNicol and his solicitors showing my willingness to mediate. There has been no reply.
I hope by writing this open letter that Mr McNicol responds by attending mediation. However a court date in London for Friday 28th July has been set by District Judge Mauger should mediation fail (costing another £25 court fee, I am a disabled carer on a fixed low income).
So I am appealing to any readers with legal expertise to contact me through the blog if they fancy lending a hand, in case the offer of mediation is refused.
If you’re in a position to offer help with Rick’s fight to force Labour’s bureaucracy to be accountable for its behaviour, please contact him via his website. You might just open a door for tens of thousands of unfairly-treated members to get some kind of justice and recompense as well.
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