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:
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:
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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