All but one officers quit over ‘factionalist’ expulsion of members including County Councillor – and over Labour right’s racism, misogyny and homophobia
Almost the entire elected executive of Penrith and the Border constituency Labour party (CLP) has resigned in protest at the party’s ‘toxic’ and factional abuse of disciplinary processes to wage war on left-wing members.
Ten out of eleven CLP officers quit their positions in disgust at the regime’s conduct, as they explained in detail in their letter to the party and others about their decision:
To Whom It May Concern,
It is with great disappointment that Penrith and the Border Constituency Party has learned of the expulsion from the Labour Party, of long-standing member, activist, and Cumbria County councillor, Alan McGuckin. This expulsion, among the recommencement of factionalist exclusion of members, is demonstrative of an unnecessary recommitment to the “toxic culture” described within the findings of the Forde Report (referred to herewith as ‘FR’) (C1.35). At a time when the working class is bearing the brunt of a deepening cost-of-living crisis, when Labour – a democratic socialist party by definition – must embody the most steadfast opposition to the violence of the Tory Party, we find that resources of the Party are being utilised frivolously to exclude experienced, hard-working councillors and members instead (Sec. E, p.101). These expressed concerns are entirely warranted and are supported by the Labour Party Rule Book and by the findings of the Forde Report, commissioned by the Party, that remains unacknowledged, unaddressed, and unacceptably, unacted upon.
The FR has revealed the intensification of a hostile “mono culture” within the Party, wherein deeply entrenched factionalism (p.101) created a toxic atmosphere that actively harmed the Party. Left members and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership were treated with suspicion, deep animosity and profound disrespect by senior role holders, through factional resource allocation and strategy, pages of documented vitriol, and by the disciplinary procedure, that was found to be “not fit for purpose”(C1.9, p.29; p.35; p.7, C4.23, p.92). Party staff, who have an obligation within their roles to maintain “perfect neutrality” (C1.8) steadily and flagrantly departed this requirement for the disseminated belief that the Party needed to be ‘saved’ from the Left (C2.26, p.44). Left MPs were not afforded technical assistance for online abuse directed towards them, as centre and Right MPs were. Members and potential selection candidates were subjected to a search tool ‘validation process’ whereby the report found factional decisions made by GLU staff played a substantial role in implementing the objective which was of the direct intent to “remove ballots from individuals who would otherwise have voted for Jeremy Corbyn” (C2.25). Further, the report stated it does not seem “credible to suggest that the exercise (in particular the social media component) was not targeted at applicants and members on the Left” (C2.25). The FR, agreeing with Kerslake Review, stated that a “culture of factionalism and bad behaviour has become embedded in the organization” (p.5 quoted in FR, E3.4, p.104). The NEC Codes of Conduct explicitly states that all codes of conduct and NEC statements form part of the “agreed relationship between individual Labour Party members”, which would also include those in positions of power (LPRB, p.124). Labour, as a broad church, requires a genuine mutual endeavour relationship – and that requires a foundation of respect – this, as the FR states, was found “lacking” (C1.36).
Meanwhile, complaints ranging from homophobia and discrimination to sexism/misogyny, anti-disability as well as many forms of racism(s) (p.81) from staff were left unaddressed and allowed to “fester”. This contributed to the feeling that specific problems were only dealt with when it was “politically expedient and/or essential” (C6.9, p.82). We note in particular in the findings of the FR that,
“Working for the Party, with the aims and values to which it lays claim, should be a collective endeavour; there will always be disagreements about policy or strategy, but we would have expected them to be dealt with in a comradely – or at least respectful – manner and in an environment which permitted healthy debate. Instead – in a period we are considering – we have been shocked to find the existence of a toxic atmosphere, which appears to have been fueled by an entrenched factionalism, but also by some worrying discriminatory attitudes including racism and sexism exhibited amongst some senior staff” (p.101).
Members’ complaints, filed within the Party procedure at a regional level, have gone unanswered e.g. most recently a point of order raised at North East Regional Conference 2022 regarding the treatment of the BAME network. A quantitative examination should be utilised to determine the extent and consequence of staff hours which were drawn away from attending to complaints of protected equalities, and redirected to target the Left.
Additionally, it cannot be ignored that AM raised a point of order at the same Regional Conference, specifically speaking against factionalist behaviour regarding ballots for the Regional Executive Committee elections. The timing of AM’s investigation, incl. the inconsistency of reasons for being investigated, is notable.
We have considered the timings of AM’s investigations in the light of comments in the FR regarding implications for individual members of the Rules approved at the 2021 National Conference, in relation to the Proscribed Acts and Prohibited Acts,
“…We do have continuing concerns – in particular, in relation to the use of lengthy administrative suspensions and sanctions on individual members deemed to have supported newly proscribed organisations” (p.92).
With regards to the NEC, the FR conceded the committee’s ability to utilise its “absolute discretion” to designate an organisation at odds with the aims and values of the Party, and maintains the power to terminate membership of those who support any such organisation. However, the FR points out how “support” is also freely able to be defined by the NEC, in its ‘absolute discretion’, pressing that the criteria “and process for so designating organisations (sic), along with the boundaries of the definition of ‘support’ must be fair and transparent (D2.44, p.98).
“Our investigations reveal that not only were successive systems unfit for purpose and susceptible to factional interference, and manipulation, but that the importance of a transparent, consistent and fair disciplinary process was not regarded as fundamental to the effective management of the Party and its membership, as it should have been” (D2.39, p.98-D2.46, p.99). These systems must operate transparently, within “published guidelines”, and “neutrally” (sic) (C2.28).
It is logical and absolutely within our rights as members to scrutinize and compare the findings of the FR to the current events taking place. It would be unethical, immoral, and additionally harmful to the Party and our fellow members to disregard the evidence for the ways in which this toxic culture has been allowed to continue in such a manner, as investigated within the FR. These events are not isolated, nor unrelated and will only be dealt with by graceful recognition, reflection, and accountability. This sentiment is echoed many a time over within the report in its recommendations: “Cultural growth, including the skill of deep listening, acceptance of differing traditions with the Party as legitimate, and compassion, need to be led and demonstrated by the leadership of the Party.” (p. 102).
“For a Party which seeks to be a standard bearer of progressive politics, equality, and workers’ rights, this is an untenable situation. The Party must live by its values and lead by example” (p. 81).
Factionalist expulsions are detrimental to comradery of the membership, to the vitality of the campaign efforts, and to the entirety of trust of the Party. These will only serve to further disengage members, and undoubtedly, many more will leave the Party. We, within Penrith and the Border CLP, are committed socialists to the cause of Labour and have demonstrated that time over by the contribution of time, labour, energy, support efforts and finances – not only to our CLP but to the surrounding CLPs and across the North as a whole. Consequently, this has damaged the reputation of a long-standing socialist, AM – and therefore has damaged the trust of the members listed here below.
It is with immediate effect that the following officers from the executive at Penrith and the Border CLP resign our posts and withdraw our labour in protest of the reprehensible treatment of AM on such unsubstantiated and capricious grounds. We send solidarity to AM and to the others treated in the same manner by their own party.
We request that you examine the case of AM and support his appeal against this expulsion, for the reasons detailed above.
Jamie Penquite-Green, former Chair, and LGBTQ Co-ordinator
Danny Smith, former Secretary and IT Co-ordinator
Nicola Hawkins, former Vice Chair
Hilary Barker, former Vice Chair (Membership) and Disabilities Co-ordinator
Karen Lockney, former Political Education Officer, Cumbria County Councillor
Hilary Snell, former Women’s Officer
Dave Knaggs, former Communication and Social Media Officer
Jonny Alvarez-Buylla, former Youth Co-ordinator
Peter Doyle, former Policy Officer
Chris Coulthard, former Auditor
The group’s press release, in full, reads:
Labour CLP Executive – mass resignation
The vast majority of the executive committee of Penrith and the Border Constituency Labour Party have resigned from their posts, in protest at the expulsion from the party of long standing member Alan McGuckin.
10 of the 11 executive committee post holders have signed a letter to the Labour Party Northern Region office and the National Executive Committee, expressing their disappointment at learning of the expulsion of Alan McGuckin, and offering their resignation as a show of solidarity.
They have raised concerns about the ‘toxic culture’ within the Labour Party, as outlined in the recently published Forde Report, the investigative report commissioned by the Party to look into a previous leaked report and the circumstances around the leaking.
Their letter details the ways in which they believe Alan McGuckin’s expulsion must be viewed in the context of the findings of the Report, which showed that there was deeply entrenched factionalism within the Party where supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership were treated with suspicion and disrespect by senior role holders, and that Party resources were used factionally. In addition, the Report also finds that the Party was, ‘operating a hierarchy of racism and discrimination’.
Jamie Penquite-Green, former Chair of the CLP, said, ‘We have been shocked and saddened by the sudden expulsion of Alan, without any substantial dialogue with us as members or executive role holders. Had Alan not chosen to publicise his experience, any number of conclusions about his expulsion and reputation as a councillor could have been drawn. Members work extremely hard to campaign and elect solid councillors like Alan and it is disappointing to see that asset needlessly lost. It is only right to withhold our labour within these roles under these circumstances.’
Karen Lockney, former Political Education Officer, and a fellow County Councillor said, ‘It should not be a crime to express socialist views within a party that came out of the trade union movement and which is a voice for working people. We need people with Alan’s experience and insight in the Labour Party more than ever as we face the cost of living crisis.’
The outgoing executive members are not resigning their membership of the Party and former branch secretary, Danny Smith, said, ‘We will continue our campaigning and grass roots work to support our local community, and to speak out against the direction of travel the Tories are taking us in. We are still here for our community.’
The now-former executive members have not yet resigned their party memberships.
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