The Socialist Health Association is a Labour-affiliated, at least theoretically ‘socialist society’. SHA West Midlands – like much of Labour in the West Midlands – is dominated by the Labour right and is holding its annual general meeting (AGM) this evening.
That meeting includes the delightful Ian Austin – or, as he styles himself in the Zoom meeting, ‘Lord Austin of Dudley’:
Readers will make what they will of the fact that Austin calls himself ‘Lord Austin of Dudley’ in an SHA Zoom call.
But they might be perturbed to see that a man made a peer by the Tories after campaigning against Labour in the 2019 general election – both in a Tory-paid letter campaign and via his bizarre and misnamed ‘Mainstream’ group – is welcomed by the Labour right in the AGM of a Labour-affiliated ‘socialist’ group. He is there as a voting member, since AGMs typically do not allow anyone to attend who is not entitled to vote.
As well as being a Tory campaigner, Austin has also:
- been called a ‘disgrace’ – by another ‘centrist’ MP
- was called ‘thuggish‘ by an SNP MP and an ‘unpleasant bully’ by others
- received a formal reprimand and a warning about his future conduct from Labour after a complaint from then-party chair Ian Lavery and
- was accused by Jewish author Michael Rosen of launching a ‘full frontal attack’ on Rosen after Rosen dared to say something Austin disagreed with when Rosen was a guest of a parliamentary committee
As if his presence as a member of the SHA West Midlands AGM wasn’t illustrative enough, the meeting also includes among its many dire right-wingers one Gerard Coyne. Coyne dropped an unfair dismissal case against Unite after he was sacked for breaching data protection laws and election rules during his failed attempt to replace Len McCluskey as the union’s general secretary.
Coyne even admitted on national radio that he had used data that the data subjects had not given permission to use – and when he tried to challenge the election result legally, the retired judge adjudicating the case called Coyne’s behaviour ‘improper’, his evidence ‘unconvincing’ and said that Coyne had distributed untrue claims about his rival.
Labour’s rules for affiliated groups do not permit membership for people who would be ineligible for membership of the party itself. In at least Austin’s case – sorry, Lord Austin of Dudley – his campaigning against the party and accepting a Tory peerage would seem incompatible with Labour membership.
Or, in the Keir Starmer/David Evans left-purging party, perhaps not. But if there are complaints about SHA West Midlands’ affiliation, we might find out.
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