Unite’s unanimous decision to reject Starmer’s acting general sidekick and likely backing for a move to force right-wing MPs to answer for their conduct triggers all-out right-wing war on party democracy
Labour’s right-wing regime is mounting an all-out expulsion war on left delegates to the party’s annual conference later this month – and on even the notion of democracy in the party – in a desperate bid to save David Evans from an ignominious rejection as Labour’s acting general secretary – and to block a motion that would make MPs accountable to conference, instead of the current contemptuous autonomy they exploited to bring the party down under Jeremy Corbyn.
According to party insiders, the right has been spooked by giant union Unite’s recent unanimous decision not to confirm right-winger Evans to the permanent general secretary position and the likelihood of smaller left unions following suit. Unions hold 50% of voting rights at conference and a Unite block vote against Evans poses a serious threat to his chances of staying in post – all the more so as Labour cannot be certain about the intentions of GMB or even the right-managed Unison.
GMB’s new general secretary Gary Smith has already ordered a total review of the union’s donations to Labour on the grounds that GMB is not getting value for its money from the Starmer regime and the union has already ended funding to the London party over Labour’s treatment of employees.
Unison, meanwhile, has a newly left-run national executive and while they have not yet had chance to remake the union’s image at conference level because of an anti-democratic rearguard action by the union’s right-wing management, Labour is taking no chances and has decided to expel as many left delegates to conference as it can before the event takes place.
As delegates are directly elected by local parties, this represents a(nother) direct attack on members’ democratic rights – but this is of no importance to Starmer’s and Evans’s factions in the Labour staff machine. Despite months spent gerrymandering delegate selections as far as possible, the right cannot be sure that Unite’s declaration of intent does not put their hopes of cementing permanent control of the party – always their ultimate aim since Corbyn’s leadership election wins and his success in the 2017 general election terrified them, no matter what claims they make to the contrary – at risk.
Shift of focus
And so the ongoing purge has shifted focus onto conference delegates specifically. Skwawkbox has received reports from around the country of delegates receiving ‘auto-exclusion’ notices from the party at a rate many times higher than would be merited by the number of delegates compared to members.
In Liverpool, delegates have received auto-exclusion notices for innocuous reactions to comments on their Facebook profiles, while all three ‘CLPs’ in the London borough of Ealing have seen delegates told they will be summarily kicked out of the party before conference.
In the south-east, one delegate received an auto-expulsion notice from the party – even though her recent Twitter feed has been filled with tweets about the death of her husband and her recent cancer diagnosis. The party trawled through her feed to find an excuse to exclude her – and opted to ignore her obviously stressful circumstances and the threat to her mental and physical health that being not only expelled but prevented from attending conference and meeting friends and comrades there intrinsically entails. She contacted Pamela Fitzpatrick – also a target for auto-exclusion despite being a sitting councillor and a parliamentary candidate at the last general election, who commented on Twitter:
The dozens of reports of such conduct by the party appear to be just the tip of the iceberg – and party insiders warn that the only reason the assault has not been on an even greater scale so far is because the party does not have enough staff to get through more at a time. One told Skwawkbox:
They’re limited by how many staff they can throw at this, but they have no intention of stopping and we need to tell left-wingers to temporarily close down their Facebook accounts until this is sorted and lock down their Twitter or there will be hardly any left delegates at conference. They’ll stop at nothing to protect Evans and prevent right-wing MPs being answerable to conference for their behaviour.
Despite limitations on staff numbers, it’s clear that the expulsion operation is on an industrial scale. Some screenshots sent to victims of the purge have given away how many tabs an individual staffer has open, each showing a different member’s social media pages – details have of course been redacted – by Skwawkbox, not by Labour – in the example below to protect privacy:
Significantly, the ‘blitz’ on left delegates bears a strong similarity to the disgusting attack earlier this month on Young Labour chair Jess Barnard. Under threat from Barnard’s lawyers, Labour ‘rescinded’ the notice of investigation sent to her, claiming it had been sent in error – there was no error, but the party’s usual processes had been ignored and circumvented in a spiteful attack on Barnard by a ‘senior staffer’.
And many of the auto-exclusion letters also appear to have binned any notion of due process. Where they should be sent by ‘GLU’, the party’s ‘governance and legal unit’ that is supposed to manage any investigations and potential disciplinaries, they have been sent from the ‘assessments@’ email address – the unit which, as its name suggests, should be doing no more than a preliminary assessment of potential cases.
The Labour right is acting as judge, jury, police and executioner – and this purge comes on top of other measures that can be used to winnow out left delegates administratively.
Belt and braces
Where the party is unable to find an excuse to suspend or expel delegates, it is using its networks in CLPs – local parties – to prevent members from telling them how to vote on the confirmation of Starmer or the accountability of MPs. Just tonight, in one Liverpool constituency, members were prevented from voting on the following motion to ‘mandate’ delegates how to vote on those issues:
David Evans once wrote a report recommending that “representative democracy should as far as possible be abolished in the Party”. It seems his acolytes and sponsors are prepared to shred it entirely in order to protect him and the ability of right-wing MPs to destroy any notion of real change in the party’s outlook.
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