Labour MP Stella Creasy was in the headlines recently regarding her amendment to the Queen’s Speech calling for equal abortion rights for women in Northern Ireland. The government, knowing it was likely to lose a vote on the amendment, caved in and offered to pay for Northern Irish women needing abortions to have them in England free of charge, where before they had to pay around £1,500. The SKWAWKBOX congratulated Ms Creasy on forcing the government to back down.
This blog was subsequently contacted by Labour members in Ms Creasy’s Walthamstow constituency, who wanted to draw attention to what they describe as a campaign by their MP and her allies to maintain an iron grip on the CLP (constituency Labour party), even to the point of blocking speakers that have been formally invited to speak to one of its three branches and briefing to the press to undermine opponents. A visit by former Labour front-bencher and Corbyn-supporting MP Clive Lewis had recently been cancelled under contentious circumstances.
After conversations with local members, an initial query was sent to Ms Creasy about allegations by members of her local party:
This blog received a response from the CLP Chair, rather than the exec, which he asked to have printed in full in response to the allegations by members:
This is an untrue, inaccurate, and frankly quite silly, list of allegations which Walthamstow CLP refutes in their entirety. We are saddened that Skwawkbox has been misled by someone about both the work and conduct of our local party, which tonight will be celebrating our role in securing progress on women’s rights in Northern Ireland and discussing how we can get on with the job of showing Labour is not just the opposition, but an alternative Government in waiting for Britain.
The SKWAWKBOX pointed out to the Chair that Mr Lewis himself had confirmed the invitation and subsequent cancellation of his visit to this blog and that therefore at least one of the points listed had substance. We asked whether he wished to amend the statement, but he wished to let it stand unchanged:
I have no problem whatsoever saying that the statements that you put forth below in relation to a discussed Clive Lewis visit are simply not true.
It was impossible to reconcile the claims made by each side, so we went back to Walthamstow members with it – and in response received a further set of allegations and additional detail.
This led to a further email from the SKWAWKBOX to Ms Creasy’s office last week:
Further to our emails earlier in the week, additional comments from sources below. I’ve also had some interesting comments from Clive about not one but two abortive visits. Please provide any comments you wish to make.
- I’ve had information indicating that former Walthamstow CLP fundraiser [redacted] stood against your mum and won – and that you were furious with him at the AGM. Just after this, he began to receive online abuse for alleged antisemitism and was suspended from the Party. You also made criticisms in the public press.
Last August he eventually had a hearing with the Regional Director – and no charges were presented. I understand that to date no charges or formal allegations have ever been made against him and at no time has the Labour Party accused him of antisemitism.
Mr [redacted] has claimed to have received anonymous threats of violence at the Walthamstow CLP offices as result of press attacks.
Several local branches condemned this and called for his reinstatement but the motions were ruled out of order by [the Chair].
- A curry event was held with John McDonnell on 29th January 2016 – this had been by the Walthamstow CLP Executive, which was held Monday December 21st and attended by you.
The event was sponsored by the FBU. What you might think would be a straightforward CLP fundraiser ended up with this:
You were also, I understand, notified by the CLP Fundraising officer on 28th December and invited to participate.
Everything was apparently organised at CLP level and arranged appropriately.
Then on 15th January the then CLP Fundraiser (who is still suspended from the party) was contacted by the Evening Standard’s Joe Watts:
“Stella says: “Unfortunately, this event was arranged without involving many members of the local party team or my office in planning it. “We were not aware of it until the dates were set and the publicity sent out, and so we are now working with John’s office to try to ensure it can raise as much money as possible for the campaigns Labour is running in Walthamstow.” Do you still stand by your original comment? Many thanks J”
This is in clear contradiction to assertions from my sources that the CLP Executive and others coordinated. Apparently efforts were made to get you to agree a date you could attend with everyone else. but failed. The event went ahead and was apparently a huge success.
- Grunwick Anniversary Event
Another event that seems to have sparked problems was the Grunwick Anniversary event, organised again in a decision of the CLP Executive Committee – this time by the then TULO Chris Ford.
This was also another CLP EC decision made at a meeting you apparently attended. You were also invited to speak alongside the key speaker Naz Shah MP.
However, sources within your local party allege that inaccurate information on the nature of the event was provided in an effort to deter Ms Shah from attending and Ms Shah was told that you would arrange an alternative date for her to come to Walthamstow. Subsequently Clive Lewis stepped in to replace her.
Overall, if the allegations are true, it appears that there has been an pattern, since Corbyn’s election as leader, of withdrawing co-operation from, or even actively working against, left-wing activists. People feel sidelined and undermined – a very different story from the unity the party is supposed to aim for. More an expectation of conformity – with punishment if not.
There also appears to have been a narrative of a grand conspiracy to de-select you, but your members insist there is no evidence to substantiate it. It might, however, serve a political purpose to confuse or divide members and discredit Corbyn supporters.
I understand that despite all this, Walthamstow CLP voted twice – and overwhelmingly – to support Corbyn’s leadership candidacy, in spite of your statement that you have no confidence in him.
Comments by return please.
A reminder was sent this morning with a request to respond no later than noon today so any comments could be included in this article, but so far none has been received.
If the claims of some of Ms Creasy’s members are true, Walthamstow CLP may be run with what one member called ‘Sopranos socialism’, speakers who might challenge the ‘moderate’ narrative are being blocked and new members, who are likely to be Corbyn supporters, are being frozen out rather than welcomed into local party life.
If the claims are not true, then a cadre of left-wing members are apparently trying to undermine the MP by creating false stories about her.
Either is a serious and worrying situation.
Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, whose cancelled visits brought the Walthamstow dispute to the attention of the SKWAWKBOX, was due to speak this evening at a Momentum meeting in Walthamstow:
The meeting has had to be postponed because Mr Lewis has to attend a ‘three-line whip’ vote in Parliament. However, before the postponement, Lewis spoke to the SKWAWKBOX about the situation in Walthamstow and said:
This is the second time I’ve experienced difficulty speaking to Party members in Walthamstow.
The first was when invited last year to speak, as a black MP, at an event marking the 40th anniversary of the Grunwick strike. This time I’ve had problems after being invited to speak to members of a local branch about ‘where now for Labour’.
On both occasions I’ve paid the local MP the courtesy of politely informing them I’d be speaking at an event in their constituency. Hell, I’d even be happy to do a joint event with them.
In my own constituency other MPs have spoken at events that I’ve not been present at. Some MPs have informed me of their visit, others, as far as I’m aware, have not. Either way I have never attempted to stop another PLP member speaking in Norwich, so it all seems like a bit of a storm in a teacup.
If I had a problem with an MP speaking I’d contact them and explain why their presence could be a problem etc and attempt to work out a compromise. Clearly, if someone was coming up to say something controversial, I’d at the very least seek the right to be present and respond.
That clearly isn’t the case here and as such I find it pretty amazing that in the 21st Century, Party members can be stopped, at a whim, from inviting other MPs to address them. It feels almost feudal in nature and certainly not the actions of a mature, open and democratic organisation. The whole silly saga has left me not angry but saddened and disappointed, especially for the members affected.
Either way I look forward to speaking to members of Momentum and I’m sure we’ll have a lively and interesting debate on the current and future political situation.
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