My letter to Labour over the corruption of the leadership contest

Pro-Corbyn members are protesting over the suspension of all constituency party meetings until the election for leader is over [Image: Rob Stothard/Getty Images].

Pro-Corbyn members are protesting over the suspension of all constituency party meetings until the election for leader is over [Image: Rob Stothard/Getty Images].

It is as though they actually want to wreck the Labour Party.

Decisions by Labour’s National Executive Committee this week have been viewed by the party as a whole as – with one notable exception – wrong.

Yes, Jeremy Corbyn gets to be on leadership election ballot paper, and members are grateful for that.

But they are scandalised by attempts to ensure that Mr Corbyn gets as few votes as possible, with measures put in place to limit the contribution of his supporters.

As a Labour branch secretary, I have been contacted by many members, all of whom have been deeply concerned by recent developments.

On their behalf, I have written the following letter to Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, and to NEC chair Paddy Lillis.

Dear Mr McNicol/Mr Lillis,

I am writing to express my deep concern over recent decisions taken by the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee, restricting the rights of members to vote in the forthcoming leadership election; and about other matters that have arisen around the election. One of these decisions seems actionable in law; others seem clearly intended to prevent people from voting for one of the candidates. These decisions therefore raise questions about whether the Labour Party currently has regard for democracy.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that the page on the Labour Party’s website encouraging people to join the party stated very clearly that new members would be entitled to take part in leadership elections, right up until the decision was made – on July 12 – to restrict the upcoming election so that only members who joined before January 12 could take part. It was only after the decision had been made that the site was changed to say new members could not take part in the current election.

If the NEC intends to go through with this decision, then more than 130,000 new members have been missold their memberships and the party has taken an alleged £4.5 million fraudulently.

My understanding is that the decision was made to lessen the administrative burden on the party, but let me ask you this: Which is the greater burden – accommodating new members who joined up to July 12, or defending the party against more than 130,000 legal cases for breach of contract and false advertising?

Perhaps worst of all is the breach of good faith with members. Many of these people will have joined in order to support Jeremy Corbyn and, notwithstanding any explanation you provide, they will only see this decision as an attempt to deny democracy and make it easier for his opponents to defeat him.

I understand that the decision was made after Jeremy Corbyn and two of his supporters on the NEC had left the meeting; that it was not on the agenda and that they therefore had no reason to believe any further business would be carried out behind their backs. In such circumstances, it seems to be that this decision has no validity at all. Were Mr Corbyn and the others told that this decision would be taken while they were away? If not, then, again, the NEC has put itself in a very actionable position.

It seems clear to me that the cut-off date for voting eligibility should have been July 12, the date when the decision was made. I would be interested to read your views on why it is better to face legal action from angry new members – and possibly even from the Labour leadership.

Are you hoping that most of them are too poor to take you to court? This would also raise serious concerns about the decision-making at the top of the party.

Members who were snubbed by the NEC’s decision on July 12 took heart when they were told that registered supporters could still vote in the election – but hopes were quickly dashed by the revelation that the fee attached to this status is rising by more than 700 per cent – from £3 to £25.

It seems clear that this is an attempt to price poorer members of the party – those more likely to support Mr Corbyn – out of being able to vote. Of course, richer members – those more likely to support the challengers – will have little difficulty stumping up the cash. This is clearly prejudicial and likely to skew the election result. Did the NEC not consider this? Or is it the aim?

Either way, you are selling votes – and that isn’t democracy.

Worse still is the fact that people have only a small window of opportunity to register to become supporters – between July 18 and 20. I have not seen details of how this will work – is it attached to a website, in which case those without the internet will be automatically barred (another blow against the poor), and the process will be subject to server overloads and breakdowns (as we witnessed with voter registration for the EU referendum)? How many obstacles will you put in the way of people who genuinely want the best for the Labour Party?

Considering all the reasons for objecting to the affiliation process as it has been changed by the NEC, do you not think it would be better at least to scrap the price hike before July 18? At least that way you will have gone some way towards fairness. Otherwise, I believe the result of this election may face legal challenge.

We also have the issue of membership of affiliated organisations – in which members who have been denied the vote by normal means may regain it by joining, say, Unite’s community programme. I understand the NEC’s procedures committee shut down this route yesterday (July 14), after many of the members who had been snubbed by the main NEC’s decision on July 12 had already joined. So your decisions have led these people to waste their money.

Not only that, but there is also a health issue here. An acquaintance of mine contacted me today as follows: “As someone who only joined in June I cannot vote. I also joined Unite – cannot vote.

“Rang CAB to complain told me to complain to NEC to put it in writing to them & send recorded delivery. CAB gave me a complaint number.

“I was elated JC got on ballot then hopes dashed that I can’t vote then hopes raised joined unite dashed again. I am only on a pension & feel ripped off.

“Hubby is full member & can vote he came home from work last night to me ranting & raving about how unfair it is & getting so worked up, caused me to have another TIA mini stroke. Hubby said he would pay the £25 as it meant so much to me.

“This is SO WRONG it is unbelievable.”

This person had a stroke because of your decision.

It is fortunate for you that a TIA – transient ischaemic attack, caused by a temporary disruption in the blood supply to part of the brain, is nothing like as serious as a full stroke. The effects often last only a few minutes and fully resolve within 24 hours.

However: That is just one person who happens to be an acquaintance of mine. How many more may have suffered more serious effects? And how do you justify what has happened to them?

This is a vitally important matter for hundreds of thousands of UK citizens. They know the future of their entire country – their very way of life – depends on the result of this election, but it seems the organisation running it is playing games.

Let’s discuss some more of these games: I am told that Brighton and Hove CLP has been suspended for holding a meeting at which members voted to support Jeremy Corbyn as leader – before the cut-off date for CLP meetings. In contrast, Owen Smith tells us that the officers of his CLP have supported his candidacy for the leadership, in a statement made after the cut-off date. As Pontypridd CLP’s officers met on a matter that is not exempt from the ban, why have they not been penalised and their decision voided? As Brighton and Hove met before the cut-off date, why has that CLP been penalised?

I am the secretary of one of the party’s branches. We had a special meeting last Sunday (July 10, before the cut-off date) at which an overwhelming majority (87 per cent) voted in support of Mr Corbyn’s leadership. We had hoped the CLP would support it as an emergency motion in our regular meeting tomorrow (at the time of writing; July 16) but then the moratorium on CLP meetings came down from the NEC so that can’t happen. My branch still wants its support to be registered. Can we not do so without triggering the wrath of the NEC?

And what of the suggestion that party officials are trawling through the social media, looking for the words “traitor”, “scab” and “scum” being used by members – and then banning those members from voting.

Why not “Trots”, “rabble” and “dogs”, to quote some well-publicised alternative? Perhaps because that would stop certain MPs from having their vote?

(Incidentally, isn’t it true that “Trots”, being a condensation of “Trotskyites”, is a reference to Communism? But aren’t the opponents of Mr Corbyn behaving more like Communists themselves, in wanting to restrict the members’ choice only to those candidates who have been – for want of a better word – approved?)

I sincerely hope that the NEC has not authorised any such activity. It is prejudicial and is almost certainly likely to lead to mistakes. I’m sure any investigators would not be going through every single comment on their own, but would be using software that doesn’t distinguish between innocent use of these words and otherwise. Banning somebody on such a flimsy pretext would again put the party on extremely uncertain ground.

In summary, it is clear that some of the decisions taken by the NEC over the last few days are not supportable. They undermine democracy and give richer members who are likely to vote for candidates opposing Jeremy Corbyn precedence over the others.

I am very interested to read your reasons for the actions I have listed above. How do you justify these things?

May I appeal to you, also, to reverse these decisions and replace them with options that are sensible and democratic; and may I prevail on you not to resort to such underhand tactics as making decisions when some of the decision-makers are out of the room!

With regards,

Mike Sivier.

Labour grassroots members are in open revolt over a series of restrictions imposed by the party’s ruling national executive over the leadership contest – with some branches holding unofficial meetings in defiance of a ban imposed nationally earlier this week.

Labour branches in London, the Midlands, Liverpool and elsewhere all defied the order and organised impromptu events, reflecting unhappiness in some parts of the party’s membership at the decision taken at the same meeting that confirmed that Jeremy Corbyn would be on the leadership ballot.

After Corbyn’s candidacy was validated, the NEC ruled that only those who had been members for more than six months would be allowed to vote, while new supporters wishing to cast their vote would be given two days to sign up as registered supporters. They will have to pay £25, far more than the £3 many Corbyn-backers paid in the contest last year.

Pro-Corbyn members are also protesting over the suspension of all constituency party meetings until the election for leader is over at the end of September. In Wallasey, the Merseyside constituency of Angela Eagle – one of the two challengers to Corbyn – members booked a hall for a meeting of the New Brighton branch on Wednesday night. It went ahead as an informal meeting of Labour members rather than an official event.

At the end of the two-hour meeting, a vote of no confidence in Eagle was passed by 54 to nine. In a second vote, they unanimously rejected the £25 membership fee, which one of those in the hall denounced as “a surcharge on democracy”.

Source: Labour grassroots rebel against NEC restrictions on leadership contest | Politics | The Guardian


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40 thoughts on “My letter to Labour over the corruption of the leadership contest

  1. Leo Keely

    We could perhaps find a lawyer to take forward or threaten to take forward a class action potentially costing us a few pence each

  2. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    Thank you Mike,

    I only wish I had your expertise in letter writing. So many including myself do not, and I am truly grateful to you for setting out your objections to these unreasonable exclusions so clearly.

    1. Andrew Lea

      He has a party – to coin a phrase trumpeted by the Brexiteers, ‘we need to take back control’.

  3. Sean

    Labour website still said new membership entitled you to vote in leadership elections at 10:33 am 13th July 2016 I have a screenshot

  4. Nick

    My view is that only those registered to vote were members before the 12th of july to keep the vote as accurate as possible
    Anyone since the 12th should not be allowed to vote in case they are people from other parties that are out to corrupt the vote total
    The membership fee has nothing to do with it you need to make sure the vote is watertight and therefore as i say only those members registered to vote before the 12th should be allowed to do so

  5. jeffrey davies

    tony bloody blair his arm is long his dirty deeds many but these people now if jc wins through then a cleaR out of the party and nec needs to be done but going quietly the blairites will cause has much damage has they can greed cause many ailments amongst these peoples

  6. Malcolm J Bannister

    Good post.

    I’ve already sent an email to the national office saying much the same thing but not, perhaps, as eloquently.

  7. mohandeer

    Excellent letter and with some adaptations to represent my own words can be used as a template for a letter of my own devising with which to berate the NEC and the PLP. Have already been in touch with Unite to try and find out what if any challenge is being made to the shenanigans the Right Wing elitists have managed to pass through the NEC. Unite are challenging the NEC to re-introduce the rule on mandatory reselection and perhaps if enough people write to them we can get more leverage.
    Why haven’t you started a petition to the LP and NEC using something similar, I’m sure it would receive a lot of signatures? 38 degrees would certainly reach a lot of F/B and tweeters.

  8. Lee

    Here was mine!

    As a new member of both Labour and Unite, I have been frustrated from voting in the leadership contest, the rules of which you have retroactively changed to skew in favour of the coup, and is thus nothing short of a blatant conspiracy!

    May I remind you that when I signed up before this disgusting NEC ruling, I contracted with you under the terms of the old rules where I had entitlement to vote! By retroactively denying my right to vote, you are in breach of contract and I demand you give me my contractual right to vote before you face a very damaging legal challenge.

    I have paid my dues as did new members last year, and you cannot deny my legal right under the rules I agreed to when YOU took my membership money.

    I have paid for my right to vote, so I expect you to honour the contract before you find yourself in a mass litigation that will ruin this party.

    How can the Labour Party claim to be a party of equality when you have created a schism within it by denying new members the right to vote, and then by charging new members £25 to vote, which immediately disenfranchises those unable to pay.

    I fought the DWP in the High Court over the benefit capping for carers and I won. I will have no problem doing the same with you.

    ‘A fairer country’ you proclaim, then I demand you honour that.

    This NEC ruling is neither lawful nor honourable and I urge you, né, DEMAND that you repel this ruling with immediate effect.

    I have still not even received my membership card or number, which is a DISGRACE in itself and shows the UTTER disregard for your membership. Your phone number does not even work anymore and you have buried your heads in the sand. You trot out tearful NEC members for being so badly treated, yet will not acknowledge the damage and hurt you have administered across the engaged new party members through your actions.

    You are deluded if you think for one second that by preventing new members this time, we will not remember this and if you control this narrative in a bid to successfully oust the membership in its entirety’s preferred candidate, we will, as, a movement, come for whoever you shoe-in.

    If you have any integrity you will move aside and allow Labour to return to its roots. Blair is GONE. It’s OVER. It’s our time now.

    We will remember.

  9. bevchat

    Excellent letter Mike….well done and yes some of those who joined that are less well off than those to which I suspect the Blairites want to attract back into the Labour Party the wealthier middle class, it is unfair it creates more divisions in society, it is elitism…and goes against open democracy… !

  10. hippyim1

    If (God forbid)Jeremy Corbyn is ousted by the Bliarites then would’nt a “Revolution” of true Labour supporters be the only option,to form their own party in aliiance with the Trade Union Soclalist Coalition party.Because if Corbyn is ousted then the Labour Party is but a name for another wing of The Conservative Party and will therefore be just another move to the reinforcement of a Tory/Capitalist ditatorship of British politics and government and effectively kill the Labour movement and democracy in this country to a Government of and for the 1%?

    1. Florence

      A very generous offer but TUSC has no role in the Labour party future. The members are not going to back down. They will not resign or give up their memberships, they will stay until they have regained the apparatus of the party. The members already have the heart and soul, which is why they will not fail. The grubby gravy train riders will eventually run out of flim flam and manoeuvres and deceit and…….well you get my drift.

    2. Andrew Lea

      No, we stay and fight – shape the NEC in our image, push through mandatory reselection, put forward parliamentary candidates who represent our views and then form a government,

  11. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady

    Excellent letter Mike, sets out the issues intelligently.
    I have written to the Electoral Commission about my concerns surrounding this matter.
    Your comment about the estimated 4.5 million in subscriptions is interesting. Subscriptions are liable to VAT. The organisation can claim output tax (relief) on the subscriptions. The organisations VAT quarters (when they have to submit the VAT return and claim/pay any VAT) will vary according to when the organisation became registered for VAT and when their accounting period ended.
    Now it is entirely possible, that because of the retrospection, the period around say Jan 2016 to March 2016 will fall into the previous year and of course, they will have already claimed relief on that periods VAT return. If the goods and or services (the subscriptions) are not as described, then the organisation could be deemed to have secured a pecuniary advantage to which they are not entitled. Just to make sure that hasn’t happened, I have advised HMRC of the potential VAT fraud that may have been committed. The organisation, if fraud is proven, will have to repay the output tax to HMRC, there will probably be interest charged (to compensate HMRC for the loss of the use of the monies – HMRC official rate of interest is currently around 5%) and a penalty may be imposed, the amount of which is dependent upon the “behaviour” of the organisation in making the decision they did, be that careless, deliberate and not concealed or deliberate and concealed. The penalty increases depending upon the seriousness of he behaviour leading to the error/omission but could be as much as 70% of the amount under declared.

    I think Iain McNicol is going to be a busy man over the next few months.

  12. Martin

    A perfect letter. I was invited to Sunday’s meeting as I’ve just signed up in full (previously a union affiliated supporter) but was out of town so couldn’t make it. I’m glad to hear that Jeremy got such an overwhelming level of support. Once the NEC get their act together I look forward to attending the next one.

  13. Janet McGorman

    Well done!! Brilliant letter! Surely there’s enough reason to take Legal action on the NEC for implementing these decisions AFTER people have signed up on the understanding that they would have a vote on the leadership!?!?

  14. Jane

    Totally agree with this. Is there any way this letter can be made more public? BBC etc never seem to report anything to do with Corbyn properly – why can’t they get McNicol on News night and get him to explain?

  15. Andrew Lea

    Eloquently put Mike, and all points covered. I shall keep it by me for inspiration when penning my missive to Mr. McNicol.

  16. random bloke

    So disillusioned with so called democratic process in this country knowing in 2016 this sort of thing is aloud to happen and nobody seems to batter an eye lid
    Little to no coverage in the MSM as to be expected and you try talking about the topic rationally with anyone you get looked at like you are mentally unstable (the whole “that doesn’t happen here” reaction)

  17. Zippi

    I, too, wrote an e.mail in response to that which I had received from [email protected], in which I asked for the reason for the retrospective rule changes and questioned its legality. I also expressed my dismay at the behaviour of certain members of the Parliamentary £abour Party and stated what is obvious to all with eyes to see and has been since Mr. Corbyn was nominated. I can post a copy, if you like (complete, sadly, with spelling errors). I talked about teamwork and trusting your leader, even if you don’t agree with them, or think that they are wrong. In my business, we do not direct by committee. I fear for democracy and our entire political system.

      1. Zippi

        Here ’tis:
        Thank you, for the e.mail.
        I have to ask why the N.E.C. has made the decision to exclude certain members retrospectively and question the legality of this move. Also, I have to express my utter dismay at the behaviour of certain members of the Parliamentary £abour Party. It is obvious to anybody with eyes to see, who hasn’t been living on another planet, that there has been mass opposition to our democratically elected leader, ever since he was nominated and that not only has there been a concerted effort to get rid of him but that he has been undermined at every possible opportunity. This is not helpful for us as a party, for us as working persons, for the country, because this behaviour has weakened our Opposition and it treats the party membership with utter contempt. Jeremy Corbyn was not my first choice; I joined the party in order to fulfill a promise to Any Burnham, however, I have warmed to Mr. Corbyn. I like his way of doing things, his engagement, his making us feel that we matter that we have a voice that counts, that we can be heard and that we can effect change, that our politicians actually listen to us and work for and serve us, rather than themselves, which is something that members of the Parliamentary £abour Party seems to be doing, pleasing themselves.
        We are a democracy and that MUST be respected, else what do we have? Anarchy? Despotism? Fascism? A Dictatorship? Jeremy Corbyn is NOT politics as usual and that is what makes him popular, however, from what I can see, he has NEVER had the support of his M.P.s and this is a disgrace. How can he be an effective leader, if those who were elected to support actively undermine him, instead of supporting him? They are not serving us, nor are they serving the party. We all have to work with people whom we do not like and with whom we disagree but we must think of the bigger picture. I am an actor so, I am used to working as part of a team under the leadership of a director with whom I might disagree, however, I am not privy to the director’s vision and cannot appreciate what it is that they see, I merely have to trust them. Even when the show is put before an audience and we do not get the response that we expect, I still have to trust the director, because my outlook is limited; I cannot see from the house what us happening on stage, because I am on stage so I must trust the director, even if and when I think that he is wrong. Sometimes, the director is wrong but more often than not, they are right but even when they are wrong, they are still in charge of the ship, it is for them to set the course. We do not direct by committee. The teacher is in charge of the pupils; the parent is in charge of their children. Out politicians would so well to remember that and respect our leader’s position. The timing of this mutiny was most inopportune and one must ask one’s self why, at a time when we had no government, our Opposition chose to dismantle itself and so publicly, blaming our leader for something that was neither his fault, nor within his control.
        Our last Prime Minister gave us the referendum on our membership of the institution that is the European Union, nobody else. The buck stops with him. He brought forward the date of the referendum TWICE and failed to give us the information that we actually required, in order for us to make a meaningful decision. The decision that we, as individuals made was not done on party lines, for it was not party political. It was about our membership of the E.U. There was no manifesto, we were not voting for people, or a party but membership of what has become a political institution. I, like many people, was undecided but I did my best to learn as much as I could about the E.U. and it was on this that I made my decision, NOT on what any politician told me, given that, almost without exception, they knew about as much as I did. My decision was MY decision and mine alone. It was MY name on the ballot paper and I who put my cross in the box. My vote was MY responsibility and I can neither blame, nor thank anybody for it. When you go skydiving, it is your responsibility to check your kit, BEFORE you jump. If, when you jump, your parachute doesn’t deploy, it is you and you alone who will die; you can’t get back into the plane so, you must be sure, BEFORE you jump. We needed to have known what we were voting for; the E.U. If we did not, we have but ourselves to blame and it is for the government to deal with, not campaigners. It short, whether the vote was to remain, or to leave the E.U., Jeremy Corbyn cannot be held responsible and for our M.P.s to blame him and use this as an excuse to depose him stinks, quite frankly and makes no logical sense, other than as a continuum of the efforts to remove him that have been in operation since last Summer and it must STOP! If £abour continues along this disgusting undemocratic path, it will be the destruction of the party. I will leave and I know of many other who will do the same. This is not a threat, this is a very real concern that we have, that democracy does not count, that we don’t count and that the politics that we rejected will be forced upon us.
        I never thought it possible that I could be this ashamed of our M.P.s.
        Please, take note. Our entire political system is at stake.

      2. Nick

        Yoy are indeed correct’ all is not well not only here in the uk but also across the EU. And as we have just seen in turkey where power is welded just for those that have a reliable income with complete disregard for those that live on the margins of life

  18. John Wilton

    In fact the phrase “You’ll be eligible to vote in leadership elections” was still being stated on the Lanour Party website at 0.07 hours on Wednesday morning (13th July 2016) and without any pre-conditions regarding six months membership previously,; i.e the restriction the NEC subsequently imposed. I took a screenshot of it at the time and can forward it to you if you let me know how and where to

    1. John Wilton

      Forgot to add that I also forwarded it to the Advertising Standards Authority and lodged a complaint with them

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