A wave of expulsion, suspensions and voting bans is sweeping across the Labour Party as the Owen Smith-supporting party machine tries to shore up his support.
Members across the UK are receiving notifications that they will not be allowed to vote for Jeremy Corbyn because of perceived breaches of recently-imposed, highly-partisan rule changes that offer advantage to supporters of Mr Smith.
For example, members who have used the word “Blairite” on the social media – even if they used it accurately and not in a pejorative sense – will not be allowed to vote, even though no official announcement was made to members by the party’s leadership.
It is right that the leadership election should be conducted in an orderly manner and that disruptive elements should be banned.
So why has the Labour leadership not also purged members who refer to Corbyn supporters as “Trots” (short for Trotskyists or Trotskyites), “rabble”, “dogs”, “Nazis” or “Nazi Stormtroopers” (or German words for the same – “Sturm Abteilung”, anybody?), “racists”, “homophobes”, “misogynists”, “anti-Semites” or, indeed, “lunatics”.
Why are Smith supporters who threaten violence on others – like John McTernan – still able to vote?
And what, exactly, is the process in which people are divested of their democratic right? Has anybody – at all – been invited to provide their side of the story or is it a witch-hunt, and any Corbyn supporter may be banned simply for being accused?
How many have been deprived of their voice in this manner?
This is an abuse of process.
So – for example – John Dunn, the former miner and Labour Party member of 45 years’ standing, has been blocked from voting for Jeremy Corbyn because he challenged Owen Smith for exploiting the legacy of Orgreave for electoral purposes. On his Facebook page, Mr Dunn wrote that Mr Smith’s “actions in the PLP coup were no different to the UDM scabs who undermined our strike”.
It’s probably the word “scabs” – even though not directly applied to Mr Smith – that triggered the ban.
Then there’s Jonny Will Chambers, who tweeted, “I’ve been expelled from Labour,” this morning.
I know what you’re thinking: “Who?”
He’s a friend and colleague of John Prescott, for crying out loud! Prezza himself tweeted: “I find this remarkable. Jon helped me on my PCC campaign. Happy to support your appeal.”
[Apparently he’s also a Smith supporter, which shows, I guess, that the purge is a ‘scattershot’ approach that is catching some of his people as well as Corbyn supporters. The ‘Chicken Coup’ is turning out to be inept event now.]
The letters being sent out are extremely vague about the reasons for the bans/suspensions/expulsions. Here’s an example, courtesy of Chris Devismes, who has also been purged:
“You shared inappropriate content on Twitter on 27 July”.
“Inappropriate content?” Under what definition? Note that the “inappropriate content” is not quoted, making it that much harder to appeal against it – but there should be no ban at all, at this stage, because none of the members have been able to present their own case. They may have had perfectly good reasons for using such words, and it is unreasonable for them to be blocked without a chance to put their own side of the matter.
This Blog uses those words all the time – and entirely reasonably – in reporting the latest developments. That doesn’t mean This Writer should be deprived of his vote. I provide a valuable (I hope!) service.
Also grounds for a ban are any words of support for other parties, like the Greens – in whatever context.
There is already a backlash on Twitter (and, presumably, elsewhere in the social media). We have already heard from John Prescott. Here’s Rhea Wolfson, newly-elected to Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee, despite the best efforts of right-winger and Blairite (yes, I said it, because it’s what he is) Jim Murphy: “Hearing abt expulsions of members for supporting other parties before they joined Labour. Crime: not joining Labour before joining Labour.” She added: “Also hearing of expulsions of members frm across party w/ bad or unclear evidence. We need to show more respect to members fighting with us”.
This prompted Phillip Jones to ask her a reasonable question: “looking like the election has been manipulated so Owen Smith will win , will u refuse to accept the result if that’s the case?”
She is a member of the NEC now, and – even though it is not set to meet until later in the year – if there is a good reason to recall members and discuss a matter, it should be done. And this is an extremely good reason.
“So.” This was from ‘Susan’. “Tweet nice things about Tories & my Labour membership is safe. Agree with parties we need to work with like Greens/SNP & I’m out, right?”
Another Susan asked: “Anyone know of any Owen Smith supporters who have been suspended without a vote, no reason given? Labour machine in full authoritarian mode.”
Does anybody know? Anyone?
The notification letters contain information on how to appeal, but I would strongly suggest that anyone in such a situation should also contact Liz Davies here: http://www.whycantivote.com
She is a barrister who can advise members on what to do.
There is a clear stink of corruption about this purge. The aim is to prevent anybody who wants to change the current Labour status quo from ever being able to do anything about it. That is wrong.
One hopes those who still have a say in the ballot will take note of what is being done and use their votes accordingly – to restore a leader who will end the corruption, remove the people responsible and restore fairness to the Labour Party.
That’s Jeremy Corbyn, of course.
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