Numbers tight with reinstatement possible after Starmer welcomes Tory with open arms, but Unison’s right-wing reps may be bar
On Tuesday this week, Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) is set to vote on a motion by the NEC’s left-wing minority to restore the party whip to former leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn has sat as an independent MP since Keir Starmer broke Labour’s parliamentary rules and the EHRC’s strictures to withdraw the whip from Corbyn after even a right-dominated NEC panel had voted to reinstate Corbyn as a Labour member.
And contrary to what outside observers might expect given the right’s domination of the NEC under the new regime, the outcome is on a knife edge, with the result dependent on the swing votes of a handful of NEC members whose intentions are not easy to predict, even more so now after Keir Starmer threw his arms wide to welcome unrepentant Tory defector MP Christian Wakeford into the party.
Ian Murray, the Fire Brigade Union’s NEC representative, told Skwawkbox:
This week we have seen a right-wing Tory become a Labour MP while boasting that he has not changed his political views. Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour MP for 37 years, remains unjustly suspended. This is an insult to every Labour Party member.
Jeremy Corbyn went through the party’s discipline process and it was found that he’d breached no party rules: at the moment Corbyn has had the whip removed on the whim of the Chief Whip and Starmer, and they should respect the NEC’s disciplinary panel outcome and restore it so he is once again a sitting Labour MP, this motion seeks to address that.
Centre-left Ann Black is one member who might baulk at the idea of keeping Corbyn out while putting out the red carpet for Tories. Black has previously described the ‘impasse’ keeping Corbyn out of the parliamentary party as ‘regrettable’ but seems to support the idea that Corbyn owes some kind of apology for making comments about the EHRC report and the extent of antisemitism in Labour that even the EHRC report says he has a ‘protected’ human right to make.
Former Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones is still on the NEC as Welsh representative. A right-winger, Jones may be likely to side with Starmer but his views on the idea of keeping Corbyn off the Labour benches while welcoming a Tory defector with open arms are unknown.
The Unison union vote could in principle get the motion very close to the line, but even though Unison now has a left-wing president and a left-dominated NEC and left parity on its ‘Labour Link’ committee, this does not mean that the Unison reps on the NEC will vote in line with the expected wishes of the left majority as the reps on Labour’s NEC were appointed under the union’s right-wing management. A Unison insider told Skwawkbox:
The Labour NEC reps are constitutionally separated within UNISON’s Labour Link structures. In addition, technically the two reps Unison nominates to the Labour Party NEC are technically not even accountable to the Labour Link section – they are nominated as ‘trade union’ reps.
They would need to give due regard to Unison Labour Link policy but have a pretty free rein as Unison has no policy on Corbyn because Unison Labour Link structures have been dominated by the right and they use standing orders committees to block motions to discuss Corbyn’s suspension from the PLP.
Lastly, since Lilly Boulby was expelled from Labour just after being elected to the Labour Link, voting on the Unison national Labour Link committee is tied 11:11 Left v Right – but the chair with the casting vote is a right-winger – they were elected when Paul Holmes was suspended from Unison so the right won the vote for chair by one vote.
Key to the outcome of the motion on Tuesday, then, is the GMB union. The GMB has sided with the right when it suits the union’s perceived interests, but new general secretary Gary Smith has recently fired a number of warning shots across Keir Starmer’s bow, with GMB withdrawing funding from London Labour entirely and Smith promising a total review of all GMB’s donations to the party.
Tuesday’s vote is set to be a cliffhanger, but as long as the left holds its nerve it has a chance of getting the motion over the line and putting Keir Starmer in a tough position if he continues to keep Corbyn out of the ‘PLP’ in defiance of Labour’s rules, the EHRC and Labour’s own national executive. Readers who are members of union should make a point of contacting your union’s NEC representatives and asking them to vote for the obviously correct reinstatement of Corbyn as a Labour MP.
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