A couple of months ago, the Labour Party expelled a 70-year-old disabled member. That member, Clare Ayton-Edwards has appealed to the SKWAWKBOX to publicise her case in spite of its delicate nature, both in the hope of gaining justice for herself and in order to help others in similar circumstances.
Clare is housebound, suffers from depression and has been diagnosed as bipolar for many years.
The Labour Party’s rules state that if a member shows support for a candidate standing against a Labour candidate, that is grounds for expulsion. Clare fell foul of this rule during the recent General Election campaign by tweeting support for George Galloway when he stood in the Manchester constituency of Gorton against Labour candidate Afzal Khan. As a result, she was expelled from the party for a minimum of 5 years.
Clare wrote a heart-wrending email to Labour HQ explaining her circumstances and making clear that her tweet of support was online only for a very short time during an exacerbation of her mental health issues and pleading with the party to show compassion and make allowances for that:
However, it seems certain that the rule was unlawfully applied in at least Clare’s case. Labour issues notes to new members who identify as disabled, about the obligations the party – locally and nationally – has toward disabled members:
Labour’s own document admits that the party will not disadvantage a person because of their disability. But perhaps that applies only to physical disabilities? No:
Perhaps it does not apply to the party’s national officers? Clearly not:
As the quotation above makes clear, Labour has a legal duty to make any ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate a member’s disability – including, of course, mental health issues.
But surely that applies only to physical adjustments, such as ramps for wheelchair users? Not at all – it includes policies and procedures, too:
In her email, Clare begs Labour to make a legally-mandated ‘reasonable adjustment’ – to the policies and procedures specifically include by law – by taking into account the fact that she tweeted support for Galloway during a mental health episode and that she deleted it as soon as she was well. She asks for a full response to her request.
Six weeks later she has received none – in spite of her obvious distress, in spite of numerous emails and phone calls to plead for a response and in spite of her notification to the party that she has previously attempted suicide when depressed.
The party HQ has refused even to put Clare out of her misery by confirming that it has no intention of replying. Instead, she is left dangling.
It is highly likely that Labour’s HQ has acted unlawfully in ignoring Clare Ayton-Edwards’ cry for help and her request for a ‘reasonable adjustment’ in view of her mental health issues.
But whatever the finer legal points, Labour HQ has unquestionably acted without compassion or humanity.
In light of her mental health troubles, the SKWAWKBOX was extremely reluctant to publish full details of Clare’s case, in case it caused her any additional distress. But she wrote back urging us to publicise it:
PLEASE TELL THE WHOLE WORLD – IN MY NAME – what can they do to me that is worse than 5 year expulsion ??? Life-long expulsion ??? 5 years might be “life-long” at my age !!! ANY & all help accepted with DEEP gratitude.
That was an appeal we could not ignore. If only Labour’s Southside HQ could say the same.
This gross injustice needs to be rectified without delay – and the party’s disciplinary rules need a full review to ensure that they are not discriminating against people suffering mental or physical health problem.
We urge Jeremy Corbyn and Katy Clark to include these matters in the recently-announced ‘democracy review‘ – and we call on the party to immediately reverse the expulsion for the sake of justice, while Clare Ayton-Edwards is around to benefit from the restoration of her long Labour membership.
Please share this information to raise awareness – and if you can think of a way to help Clare, get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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