The Labour Party issues a guide to officers and members on the party’s complaints procedure. It makes interesting reading.
Last year, thousands of members – seemingly almost all pro-Corbyn – were suspended on largely tenuous and spurious grounds relating to their social media activity. Famously, one was suspended for expressing her love for a rock band in raw terms.
The suspensions were used to bar members from voting in the leadership election – a move seen by most members as an attempt to reduce the number of pro-Corbyn voters by a party Establishment that had no policies or personalities to check the incumbent leader’s popularity.
But Labour’s rules say suspension does not prevent a member from voting:
Suspended members are still allowed to attend their local branch party meetings – though many CLPs (constituency Labour parties) are not organised on a branch-meeting basis.
Suspended members are not allowed to hold a branch or CLP office. They are not allowed to attend the main CLP meeting – unless it is to cast a vote where members must be physically in attendance to vote.
They are allowed to vote “in ballots of all individual members“.
A party leadership election is a “ballot of all individual members“.
So even suspended members are allowed to vote in leadership elections.
The procedure does give the NEC a get-out clause:
whether by the NEC in pursuance of 1 above or by the NCC in imposing a disciplinary penalty, unless otherwise defined by that decision
Allowing them to ‘define otherwise’ – but then why ‘define otherwise’ in the leadership election, if the suspension was not imposed specifically in order to prevent suspended members from voting? Nobody was in danger from a member attending a meeting where they might start an incident – votes were online and by post.
And the suspension was not even a ‘disciplinary penalty. Members had not been found guilty of anything – and almost all the suspensions were lifted following the leadership election.
Even if the NEC/NCC were technically allowed to act as they did, the fact that they did so points a finger at the motivation being purely to prevent members from voting, rather than the prevention being a side-effect of the suspension.
Which is what most members have believed all along.
The Labour Party was contacted about this issue. A spokesperson commented:
The NEC agreed special procedures for disciplinary cases during the Leadership election, and those subject of NEC decisions did not receive a vote in accordance with those procedures. Other members who were already in suspension outside of the leadership election and not subject to the NEC’s agreed procedures received a vote in accordance with the rule book.
This does not, of course, address the issue of why the NEC ‘agreed special procedures.. during the Leadership election‘ depriving members of a vote, when a ‘normal’ suspension – which might be for far more serious reasons than a contentious social media comment – were allowed to vote.
Which will do nothing to lessen the conviction of pro-Corbyn members that the ‘why’ was exactly in order to reduce the Corbyn vote.
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