Labour member is denied vote in leader election – then Owen Smith txts to ask for support

This is incredible. Of course, as it relates to the Labour leadership election, it must be true.

A member of the Labour Party received notification that they would not be allowed to vote in the leadership election – according to the entirely arbitrary rules of the current Labour Purge.

“May be a good idea if Owen Smith stops sending texts to ppl who have been denied a vote, insult to injury, on behalf of a friend,” tweeted Isabel Waby, a friend of This Blog, yesterday.

“My friend rang me up at 9am this morning relating to the tweet which arrived in the middle of the night.. this is wrong,” she added when I questioned her about it.

Bizarre stories about the ongoing purge are ricocheting around the Twittersphere at the moment.

A favourite concerns Catherine Starr, who was denied full membership for “sharing inappropriate content”. This being a tweet that was entirely unconnected with the Labour Party, as follows:

160827 Catherine Starr Foo Fighters

I’ve tweeted Dave Grohl, asking for a comment. It seemed appropriate to do it on Twitter.

Mrs Starr, who would have supported Jeremy Corbyn, shared only two other tweets that day – a friend’s inoffensive poster about animal free cosmetics and a cartoon about veganism.

Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon has responded to the ban with an implied challenge to the NEC to ban his vote as well: “Foo Fighters aren’t heavy enough for my liking. I prefer Motorhead. But no need for punishment by suspension for liking them.”

Of course, that’s not going to happen. For one thing, he’s already a full member of the party, and an MP to boot.

Down among the rank and file, we have this response from Chris Nolan (not the film director): “Wherever you stand on Jeremy Corbyn, Owen Smith or Labour in general, this, by any measure, is an absolute disgrace.”

And it is.

Jeremy Corbyn, who is defending his leadership against challenger Owen Smith, tweeted his own disapproval: “I’m very concerned that some people seem to have been unfairly removed from the ability to vote in this election. I’ve written to Labour’s General Secretary to raise concerns about members being suspended from voting in the leadership contest often without knowing why, being given an option to challenge or appeal.”

He has received flippant responses, including this from a Scottish Labour councillor called Stephen McCabe: “Show some faith in our Party staff and NEC Jeremy. You are the Leader after all…”

He knows perfectly well that Mr Corbyn can contribute to NEC decision-making but is not responsible for the resulting decisions, and this matter is nothing to do with him for the obvious reason (conflict of interest).

The one-sidedness of the purge – the vast majority of those targeted are supporters of Mr Corbyn – has attracted many comments, some of them extremely pointed, such as this from J Simpkin, which references the kind of language used by Owen Smith: “It’s like someone beating their partner for leaving them.”

Mr Smith has not yet lost his vote, nor has he been ejected from Labour membership for the “inappropriate content” of his verbal utterances.

Also among those who have been cut off is Ronnie Draper, General Secretary of the Labour Affiliated Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, who received a letter on August 25, telling him he had been suspended. The Mirror quotes him as follows: “The only explanation I have been given is that this is something to do with an unidentified tweet I have posted. I have not been given the opportunity to refute any allegations, or a date for any hearing.

“I feel this flies in the face of natural justice. I intend to challenge my suspension robustly and am currently taking legal advice.”

Meanwhile Lord Sainsbury, who has donated millions to the Liberal Democrats but does not support Mr Corbyn, may still vote.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has responded furiously: “We will not accept what appears to be a rigged purge of Corbyn supporters,” he tweeted, adding:

160827 McDonnell on Labour Purge

Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, took the unusual step of responding to Mr McDonnell via Twitter: “John, just to clarify you say ‘party officials’. Decisions are made by elected NEC members, and not party staff.”

But aren’t NEC members acting as party officials? Isn’t that what they are elected to do?

It has now been alleged that 200,000 people have been denied a vote in the leadership election, due to the actions of a mostly Corbyn-opposing NEC (its composition has since been changed, after an election of its own).

Apparently the purge is being overseen by Johanna Baxter, even though she is no longer a member of the National Executive Committee and therefore has no right or responsibility to do so.

She tweeted: “FYI there are 2 vetting panels – both made up of 3 NEC mbs & incl JC & OS supporters. Decisions are made by majority, not individual NEC mbs.” But she has not provided details of the criteria by which members and registered supporters are being judged.*

So far, it seems you get the boot for comments made at any time since you joined social media – no matter how long ago and never mind whether you have changed your mind since. Use of profanities at any time means you’re out – if you’re a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. Tweeting support for a point of view put forward by another political party – out. Publicly disagreeing with Owen Smith – out.

It is hard to tell the criteria by which supporters of Mr Smith are likely to be removed from the voting register. Does anybody know?

ADDITIONAL: This just in, from a Vox Political reader: “Any member who is suspended and intends to appeal the decision should throw in a ‘Subject Access Request in accordance with the Data Protection Act’ for ALL data that the Labour Party hold on them. The Labour Party are Data Controllers and therefore have to, by law, provide you with all material/information they hold on you.”

I recommend that everybody affected by the Labour Purge follows this advice.

*Ms Baxter was roundly criticised for complaining about abuse sent to her before the NEC voted on whether Mr Corbyn should even appear on the Labour leadership ballot paper – because she had published her contact details in a call for comments. Her Twitter feed now features a running commentary on abusive messages she has been receiving. There is no way to tell whether they are from disgruntled supporters of Mr Corbyn or ‘false flag’ attacks. Obviously, if Corbyn supporters are sending abuse to Smith supporters, it hugely weakens their position. This Blog has carried criticism of many Labour members and representatives but all has been presented in a reasonable way and supported with factual information. It is only by behaving in a reasonable manner that supporters of the Labour movement can move forward in a meaningful way.


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23 thoughts on “Labour member is denied vote in leader election – then Owen Smith txts to ask for support

    1. Pablo N

      That’s an outrageous position to take. Do you mean to say that someone should not be able to vote in a so-called ‘democratic’ election if they’ve ever used a naughty swear word?

      One couldn’t make this up – it’s pure ‘thought police’ stuff.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        I don’t mean to say it, but it seems the members of Labour’s NEC carrying out the ‘Purge’ do.
        I agree.

  1. Dave

    The next general election will be controlled in the same way, if you don’t follow the conservatives you won’t be allowed to vote. 1984, what?

  2. Ultraviolet

    I’ve not seen much written about the trick they used against me. I have a vote through my union membership. I got an e-mail saying that my electoral register details did not match my entry on their records, despite the fact that neither have changed by so much as a single letter since I voted for Corbyn last year.

    The e-mail gave me five days to reply, on pain of losing my vote. It arrived on the first day of my seven day holiday abroad.

    So I lost my vote because I didn’t reply to a fake problem that I knew nothing about within their ridiculously short deadline.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Get in touch with them and tell them the situation.
      They need to be reasonable about such matters.
      You’re not the only one who was told there was a problem with electoral register details. Most were resolved by the Labour Party so you should definitely contact them.

  3. hilary772013

    Mike need advice. Hubby joined labour Nov 2015 so he has a vote . I joined June 2016 & paid £25 to vote.
    April this year we moved to a new address so I am registered with labour at new home. When I realised a leadership election was imminent I rang the labour line could not get through so I emailed labour membership of change of address for my hubby three times and never got any confirmation.
    I received my vote by email on Wednesday but still not got anything for hubby. I used my email address to sign hubby up last Nov and I used same addy to register to vote. I started to panic thinking email may be a problem so rang labour on Thursday and hubby is still registered at old address , she said a lot of people use same email so shouldn’t be a problem she also said she would change the records.
    Checking my emails today I noticed one from Labour informing of the rules for the election which in the header says My Name but in the main body says helio Thomas you are elegible to vote in upcoming leadership contest etc.
    As of today hubby still hasn’t received his email and the postal vote most likely has been sent to old address and I am getting worried because I paid £25 so we could have two votes.
    The email I received did say my full name both header & in main body.
    I don’t know how the labour system for voting works and hope I am just being paranoid, so any help or advice will be most welcome.
    I would have thought the voting email would include a membership number?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The voting email has a two-part validation code, which will be different for your husband.
      If you get two voting emails, obviously one is for him.
      If you signed him up using your email, then logically one going to your email address but addressing him by name will be for him.
      So it might be okay.
      I’d wait until September 1, when everyone is supposed to have had their voting emails/letters. If you’ve had nothing by then, get back in touch.

      1. hilary772013

        Thanks Mike I got my voting email and voted JC on Wednesday. It is getting ridiculous I have been called a troll on a JC page on facebook for replying to a post and saying for goodness sake which apparently is a phrase trolls use. For goodness sake!!

  4. Jsteel

    I have seen a 100,000 figure, which is obvious nonsense. If we assume that it started two weeks ago (cannot be much earlier as it would have come out before yesterday), then each committee would deal with 50,000, that is each committee 5.000 a day, Calculating with 8 hours without break the two committees deal with 625 an hour, 10.5 a minute. So, it did not happen. Probably (as last year a few thousand (5,000 maximum).

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      CLPs have been receiving lists of names to vet since mid-July. The 130,000 banned because they joined after January 12 are probably included in the figure (although I can’t say I agree with that as many will have signed up as registered supporters and will have gone through the vetting process again).

  5. Fine Withme

    She has a right to privacy, NEC officials have broken the law, they are also required to have a Data Protection Officer, I do hope they have one and was present when the discovery and data was being used.

  6. mohandeer

    Sorry if I seem a bit behind the times, but the biggest purge was made before the new NEC panel were elected, so Baxter was already a part of that as was the previous NEC panel, all under the fatherly hand of McNicol. Why is Baxter involved at all now?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I’m being told that the new NEC won’t take office until after the Party Conference, meaning the current membership still have power.
      In the current circumstances, this seems a disastrous idea – giving people who have just been told they’re no longer wanted a chance to get their own back on the Corbyn-supporting electors who voted them out.
      Can nobody see the conflict of interest here?

  7. John

    Didn’t know “for goodness sake!” was something trolls used?
    Thanks for the info though, will have to remember that one for MY trolling activities! 🙂

  8. Roy Beiley

    I think Kim Jong Un would feel well at home if he was a member of the PLP! Or perhaps he is their political”adviser” now. If it gets any more surreal perhaps the new name for the proposed Labour Tomorrow Party should instead be called the “Stalin Revisited Party”. They are certainly a bunch of PoliticalRetros.

Comments are closed.