The West Midlands have long been a bastion of the least pleasant face of right-wing Labour. Birmingham’s nominally-Labour council has been at the heart of the ongoing dispute over the city’s refuse collections, having made a deal with its workers to then renege on it, threaten them with redundancy and lose its court battle humiliatingly in an attempt to block a union injunction.
Birmingham Labour board tried hard to exploit the rules to prevent the city’s new, pro-Corbyn membership majority having a vote in the selection of council candidates for 2018, until it was effectively overruled by Jeremy Corbyn – and even then it slipped through a measure to block an extra six months’ worth of members.
Birmingham Labour MPs formed a core of the ‘chicken coup’, with many publicly calling on Corbyn to resign after the referendum and claiming he was ‘leading the party into oblivion’ – which, after the General Election and the continuing ‘Corbyn surge’, shows how out of touch they were, not only with Labour members but with the electorate.
It hasn’t been a warm and welcoming environment for the influx of new members inspired by Jeremy Corbyn, to say the least.
But things may be turning.
Hodge Hill is the constituency represented by Labour MP Liam Byrne. Byrne is now back on Labour’s front benches, but was, according to the Huffington Post, among the MPs who participated in last year’s shameful post-referendum meeting of the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party), when MPs attacked Corbyn and, in the words of his ally Diane Abbott, tried “to break him as a man”.
Last night’s meeting of Hodge Hill CLP (constituency Labour party) didn’t go well for Byrne, with members going against his pleas on a number of issues.
First, a motion was proposed by Corbyn-supporting councillor to nominate the 3 ‘left-slate’ candidates for Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC). Byrne apparently opposed it, saying it could be done at the next monthly meeting – but nominations close before the next meeting.
Byrne then objected saying there was not enough information insisted on a vote being held on whether a vote would be held – and lost that convincingly.
Mr Byrne then said he would speak on the nominations, asking members to vote for the slate of Eddie Izzard, Johanna Baxter and Gurinder Singh, who are supported by the right-wing Labour First on the grounds of unity.
Bu when a vote was taken on the nominations, all but a handful of members voted for the left slate, with a few others abstaining.
Next up was the matter of accepting union affiliations to the CLP – left-wing CLP members were wanted to stand as union delegates. Byrne had previously proposed having the Fabian Society affiliate, which was rejected by the CLP. The union affiliation passed.
After that, there was a motion to support the Royal Mail workers. This passed unanimously and a photo taken of members supporting the CWU workers. Members now expect Mr Byrne to make a public statement in support of the strikes.
The Chair of the CLP (right wing), who is the father of Shabana Mahmood – who was one of the MPs calling on Corbyn to resign – confirmed he was moving and would step down. He was asked if he was going to the Birmingham Board on behalf of Hodge Hill CLP and immediately stepped down. The CLP now has a left-wing Deputy Chair representing it.
The CLP was also told it would come out of ‘special measures’ in a few days’ time – after over twenty years. Local members allege that Byrne had been using his influence to stop it. He was described as looking ‘worried’ when questions were asked about the process and the communications that had been sent to the NEC about the special measures – questions which went unanswered.
According to local members, this is the first time in a very long time that left candidates have been nominated in Hodge Hill CLP. With Hall Green also said to be moving left, there will be some consternation among the city’s right-wing die-hards/blowhards.
About time, too.
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