John Dunn (pictured here confronting Owen Smith) was banned from voting in the Labour leadership election because he stood up for the Orgreave miners.

John Dunn (pictured here confronting Owen Smith) was banned from voting in the Labour leadership election because he stood up for the Orgreave miners.

This Blog has been graced with a visit by Ann Black, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee. She seems distressed at This Writer’s reporting of the ‘Labour purge’, in which many thousands of people were prevented from voting in the Labour leadership election over the summer.

She claims that fewer than 2,000 people were prevented from voting. I told her many people do not believe that figure.

Her response was: “If many people won’t believe party figures, little point in telling you what they are.”

I find that extremely offensive.

The reason people do not believe Labour’s National Executive Committee on this matter is its own behaviour – as Ms Black was told, extremely forcefully, by people other than myself at the Brecon and Radnorshire Labour Party meeting on Saturday.

Perhaps she has forgotten the member who told her in no uncertain terms that he thought the NEC had done everything it could to rig the leader election? I haven’t!

But, you know what? Maybe she is right and I’m wrong. Maybe Labour members – and let’s include the general public in this as well – don’t believe that the NEC acted in bad faith and betrayed the party membership by its actions.

Shall we test it?

It’s time for a couple of polls.

First, let’s examine the decision to exclude from the election anybody who joined Labour on or after January 12, 2016. When these people signed up, they were told explicitly that they would be able to take part in the election of the party’s leader, so there is a clear breach of contract. Some have argued that the decision was to exclude people who were joining the party simply to skew the election, but others say a cut-off date of June 24 would have achieved that. So, what do you think?

Next, we have the decision to increase the amount of money paid by people who wanted to vote as ‘registered supporters’ from £3 to £25, taken at the same meeting (on July 12) as that to exclude new members who joined on or after January 12 – and while Mr Corbyn was out of the room. Ms Black was reminded, at the meeting on Saturday, that this was seen as a way of pricing out those who wanted a vote but did not have enough money.

Finally, let’s look at the so-called ‘purge’ itself. The NEC quietly imposed highly-partisan rule changes regarding members conduct – retrospectively – and then trawled through members’ social media accounts (illegally*) looking for excuses to exclude them from the leadership vote. As a result, a wave of expulsions and suspensions swept through the party. People were suspended for retweets of other people’s comments, with no regard for whether they had shown approval or not; for using words like ‘Blairite’; for indicating support for policies put forward by other parties (never mind whether the policies were good or not). There were no set rules governing expulsions – it seems the NEC’s ‘compliance unit’ could target anybody, for anything they had ever said on the social media.

*This retrospective attack on Labour members, supporters and applicants via their social media accounts was against the law. Schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act shows that consent must be given before anybody’s data is used in any way by a data handler. No such consent has ever been given by members of the Labour Party.

The ‘purge’ kicked up a huge stink, with reports claiming that anything up to 50,000 members received letters from Labour’s general secretary Iain McNicol, saying they had been suspended or expelled from the party due to inoffensive comments or (in some cases) fabricated behaviour.

Ms Black claimed, at Saturday’s meeting, that only 3,000 people had been prevented from voting. In her comments today, she has revised that down to less than 2,000. If that is true, then those of us who have been following events could probably name everybody who had been targeted by the ‘compliance unit’.

And now, the big question:

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