***This is a saved document from June/July 2016 and edited in February 2017 for this blog. This is as cited and as objective as much as possible but is by and large an opinion piece- and as such the language may well be a little more intemperate than usual.***
The main reason for putting pen to paper in the first place, as it were, is because there needs to be a legal challenge on
- the NEC ‘ruling’ of a non tabled motion (policy is for the party is usually set at Conference after going through a set of procedures from BLP (local LP branch) upwards) and the lines of eligibility to vote for members old and new have correctly and legally been drawn. (Here is a ‘jargon buster’ from http://staffsmoorlandslabour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Membership-pack-Leek-branch.pdf for some of the terms and indeed the names of the organisations that have a say in LP policy:)
- The high-handed and suspect alleged actions of the NEC throughout 2015 and 2016 that has continued into 2017 towards certain CLPs.
- The refusal to reinstate members removed from the Party for invented and spurious reasons.
This NEC unilateral decision to deny new LP members a vote for the second leader election in 2016 on a date that preceded the announcement for the second leadership election is unethical and has done more damage to the LP in a couple of hours than the insidious drip of MSM and PLP poison against Corbyn has done in ten months. ‘Cut off dates’ for voting in LP elections are ALWAYS AFTER the announcement of a vote any any kind. Look here for how it was done in 2015, which would have followed LP rules. This also happened for the NEC elections themselves in 2016 so while it is not surprising they tried it again, even after High Court rulings that declared that some people deemed ineligible were allowed to vote under LP rules.
How did they manage this attack on social democracy? By changing the RULES on the website after the fact!
I have a screenshot of this- before and after- but it is currently lost in the bowels of my Mac, once I have found it I will add it here. Here are the new rules, terms and conditions, but the website used to say, “As a member, you’ll be a key part of the team. You’ll be eligible to vote in leadership elections” with no cut off at the time of joining right up to July 2016. And there have since been more than one petition and crowdfunder in protest of this. Attempts to find photos online today (27/02/17) of the old LP site screenshots with this on lead to broken links such as https://t.co/vEUvskHOSo pic.twitter.com/bbTKm8tKN4 posted Ridgway (@rid9way) 12 July 2016, and 404 errors, which could suggest they were ‘removed’- is it erroneous to wonder if this was at the behest of the NEC?
This move, which deliberately disenfranchises poorer and more vulnerable voters, for they joined the LP using money they could ill-afford, is against the most basic tenet of socialism. It is hard to credit that this move was not to try and get at Corbyn and reduce his potential voter base. Playground politics are especially inappropriate at this time.
But we need to avoid a knee jerk response to this. I am going to hold my horses and see how these cards fall. However, Nye Bevan was right. And the members of the NEC that did or condoned this are NOT any definition of socialist, not even what Bevan called the ‘right’ of the party.
What does appear to be clear is that within the LP we have overprivileged people riding sinecured gravy trains (whilst many of their electorate languish on zero hour contracts and are battered by DWP sanctions) pretending to be socialist trying to stuff it up for the Labour electorate. Thus the ‘purges’ that followed are even more reprehensible. Many people who tried to join did not get refunded. For more on this from a ‘left’ perspective see this link from the Morning Star. Some ‘right’ outlets actually paraded this ‘purging’ as a reactionary attack in 2016 to an assault from the hard left on Blairites in 2015! I would post a link to this, but it’s the Daily Mail and I can’t bring myself to do that.
I’m not a natural ‘joiner’- but I have always voted, since the age of 18, in every election available to me from local Council to MEP and everything in between, and paid my £3 last year  to support Corbyn. Post EU referendum, when the dirty tricks were exponentially notched up I decided to join as a full LP member in case they pulled shenanigans with supporter fees. Which they have not only done but disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of voters that for whatever reason- whether they feel they same as me about ‘joining’ things, or had lost conviction (and I can see why) or were too poor (say they’d lost a job, or been sanctioned, or lost their PIP etc) to join or rejoin before January 12th this year .
Partly my anger is that even my jaded and cynical self did not see them pulling move this dastardly. But all this running around on social media that followed- pants on head, crying ‘join this, then you can vote’ stuff- nope. While well meaning, it gave people hope they’d have a voice, only for ‘loophole’ after ‘loophole’ to be slammed in their faces as the NEC reacted. Nye Bevan News, a Facebook activism page, set up a fundraiser, to help, only to be told that this breaches LP rules (actually it did, you can’t pay for someone else’s membership and tbh I can see why, but time was of an essence in repsonse to the indecent rush the NEC put on this £25 fee ‘rule’) so it was amended to paying £25 to people for food, bills etc so it COULD free up the ‘spare cash’ to pay the £25 supporter vote fee, no matter how the MSM tried to spin it.
But the issues remained thus (before the website ‘magically’ changed anyway in July 2016)
- ‘We’ can vote WITHOUT having to pay the ‘extra’ £25 because we joined BEFORE any date for leader challenge was set.
- We can vote because the bl**dy website SAID we could vote on this issue when we joined up and before WE ticked the box for terms and conditions. Well T&Cs go BOTH ways. They don’t honour them? They seem to have committed fraud. And this is not the only time they could be deemed to have allegedly broken the Fraud Act. In the site here under the piece entitled ‘New Falkirk twist: Now Labour refuse to commit to pass evidence of law-breaking to the police’ we see more potential evidence from back in 2013 when the NEC seemed to want to bend the law.
- WE can vote if we join as a full member rather than a supporter TODAY because there is still [at the time of writing this in July 2016] no date announced for that.Anything else is anti-socialist and undemocratic. Have a look at the back of the LP membership card. This should never have happened.
By all means have a cut off for the day after the date of the leadership vote is set and officially announced- if that’s what they want. Best of all, have it say a week before the vote closes, giving LP HQ time to verify any new joiners. But this? Nope. Not having this.
This was just one of many dirty tricks yet to come- even as the ‘decision’ to keep Corbyn on the ballot (and so they bl**dy should!) was announced only after much contention. So I continued to watch this farce from afar, and made screenshots of this at the time from the Guardian on the matter.
The alleged 48 hour window was the 18th/19th July to lodge one’s supporter vote (I did mine at 5:30pm on 18th July, many people could not get on the site because it crashed due to people trying to use it at the same time yet 183,000 managed to register in that time frame), at a mere 700% increase in fee (illegal at worst and off-putting at best) and that for me is the mental cut off as to whether the NEC are flushing the LP down the toilet or not. I had to do this because I joined as a full member AFTER the January retroactive cut off. Miliband (Ed) brought in this £3 supporter fee in the first place and oh my did the MSM have a field day about it! Here is the BBC’s take, where despite having a huge popular vote at the time, worries about ‘abuses’ of the system quickly surfaced, from the ‘right’ of the party. And here is the view that the £3 One Man One Vote allowed the ‘hard left’ back into Labour from the Spectator, and these are some of the less hysterical articles. Increasing the £3 to £25 of course silences people than could NOT afford to pay twice, like I ended up doing. Here are the current LP membership fees. For a full schedule and some commentary of the leadership election as was see here.
At no point am I thinking this is a reflection on Corbyn. I look forward to any announcement he may make on this, but as they waited till he’d gone and rushed through a non-tabled motion, one can safely assume he does NOT condone it. Indeed, he made this statement in an interview with the Sunday Mirror: “I’m very concerned. We haven’t heard the end of this. A lot of people joined the party in the last six months and will be extremely annoyed. They joined because they want to be involved in the party and they’re not being allowed to.” I will find the URL for this quote asap.
There was this statement from Christine Shawcroft (NEC) : “Sorry about the 6 months freeze and the £25. We all voted against but some had had to leave the meeting by then, after 7 hours with only a cup of coffee, plus people had come back from their holidays all over the place and had to be off.I believe there will be ways round it so watch this space.” Now there is plenty to comment on from this statement but what were the NEC doing making people stay in a meeting this long? Such things, as rightly said by NEC Chair Glenis Willmott, should never happen again.
But these underhanded tactics are still happening.
- The NEC, despite a slight shift in the balance of power to the ‘left’ after the 2016 elections as mentioned above are still condoning and continuing the gagging of CLPs for spurious reasons, even when some have been cleared of all trumped up ‘charges’, and are taking their sweet time in reinstating members purged for ridiculous reasons.
- MacNicol is still sending out what look like form letters to LP members concerned about the interference of Blair and Mandelson in the recent Stoke Central and Copeland by-elections (where he opines that those individuals are not to be held accountable to the LP for their words, when last year Catherine Starr was ‘purged’ for posting in Twitter about the Foo Fighters, just to cite one example) as well as queried by said gagged CLP officials and purged members when they pretty much beg for more information on what the NEC have done to them.
- In November 2016 there was an entire conference devoted to the ‘purges’.
- Johanna Baxter was seen crying on TV, alleging bullying, threats and intimidation of NEC members by ‘the left’ via email and at the NEC meeting itself, but the police were not contacted, yet Angela Rayner on that same VT saw it as a general trend on misogynist trolling online whilst of course condemning it, and Corbyn is on record many times for not wanting any kind of abuse levelled at his members or MPs (depsite the stack of MSM articles insisting he has done no such thing), or for purges at any level for any reason, for example at the NEC 2016 Conference in September.
Perhaps it is his perceived leniency that has given the NEC some kind of bizarre permission to continue acting the way they have.
Perhaps it is time for an overhaul of LP structure itself, for the very measures that were put in place to stop abuses of power, position and of coups themselves have been the exact methods used to ensure they continue.