This Writer faced vocal opposition at the all-member meeting of Brecon and Radnorshire Constituency Labour Party on Saturday, just for mentioning his name.
I had tried to put forward a motion of ‘no confidence’ in Mr McNicol with regard to the purge of party members prior to the leadership election. The motion had been proposed by members of my Labour branch.
It pointed out that, as general secretary, Mr McNicol has legal responsibility for the Labour Party and must ensure that everything done by the party is legal – and he has not done so.
At the meeting, I pointed out that Mr McNicol had failed in his legal responsibility because the party has broken the Data Protection Act by using people’s social media messages without consent.
NEC member Ann Black, who was present, demanded to know what part of the DPA demanded this, and I was able to inform her it was Schedule 2.
Our secretary, who will go unnamed here, had previously emailed me to say he had sought guidance from Welsh Labour which stated that motions of ‘no confidence in staffing should not be discussed by CLPs.
The communication, published in the secretary’s report, read: “Staff are employed by the NEC and have the protection of a contract as any member of staff working for an organisation would. Staff don’t get the right to defend themselves and act to carry out the decisions of the NEC or through powers delegated to them by the NEC. I can of course understand that members would want to debate the validation process during the leadership election but would suggest that the debate could be had without reference to an individual member of staff. If people are unhappy with the process for dealing with complaints etc then this should be directed to the NEC as an organisational matter and not attack a member of staff, even if that person is the General Secretary.”
Any member reading that would have understood it to refer to Mr McNicol but when I spoke to point out that he had failed in his duty to ensure legal and constitutional propriety (which is a condition of his employment), and that he seemed perfectly capable of defending other employees in his speech at the party conference last month (so he was also capable of defending himself) the secretary tried to shout me down, repeating the claim that we should not be discussing a named staff member even though his own report clearly identified Mr McNicol.
Of course, CLP secretaries don’t have any power to stifle debate. While ours could advise us not to discuss Mr McNicol as he is a paid member of staff, he cannot overrule us if we wish to do so.
Mr McNicol has very clearly failed in his duties and is in breach of his contract. Is the Labour Party supposed to let that pass?
This gentleman is employed by the party – not by the NEC – and as such, members are entitled to demand action over his behaviour during the summer; behaviour such as the treatment of this party member:
And of course there’s the fact that Glynis Millward is taking Mr McNicol to court over her own suspension, and he is claiming to be acting on behalf of all party members in defending against her action. You can register your desire for him not to represent you on this site.
General secretary Iain McNicol still refuses to reveal how many people were unfairly robbed of their right to vote, on top of the 130,000-odd members disenfranchised just for joining after the retroactive January freeze date.
In August, the party admitted that 1 per cent of the eligible membership had already been purged and that this number was likely to rise, but some estimates put the final count at 5 or even 10 per cent — democratic decimation.
Shadow minister for diverse communities Dawn Butler told McNicol two weeks ago she was “increasingly concerned over reports that black and minority ethnic members of the Labour Party are being purged for dubious reasons,” demanding a breakdown of the numbers.
So far, she’s had no response — and neither has new national executive member Claudia Webbe, who has called for a “detailed inquiry into the Labour Party’s handling of suspensions, expulsions, special measures, etc and the perception that the rules applied are not consistent, fair, proportional or reasonable.”
Webbe warns McNicol of the “growing resentment of what some regard as mistreatment and abuse,” adding that long-standing members “feel particularly hurt, isolated and confused by the exclusion” and “fear the party has turned its back on them.”
This is certainly true from what I’ve seen online. Facebook groups are full of furious purgees wondering what to do, frustrated by the stonewalling they’ve received from the party bureaucracy and lack of public support from the leadership.
Bravely taking the initiative is Glynis Millward, a civil servant who was suspended in September for alleged “involvement in activity in breach of Labour’s rules regarding recruitment.”
Millward denies any such thing and in the absence of credible evidence is suing McNicol in Nottingham County Court for lost membership fees and “tangible recognition of the distress caused at being unable to vote in the leadership election.”
The distress in question goes far beyond disenfranchisement, though. In her official report, Shami Chakrabarti describes the “inevitable shame and opprobrium” that comes with suspension — and purged members are further punished by being firmly locked out of local party democracy for the foreseeable future.
Labour Against the Witch Hunts, which was set up over the summer by a wide spectrum of anti-purge party activists and has now morphed into the Campaign for Natural Justice, points out that Chakrabarti calls for a “moratorium on the retrospective trawling of members’ social media accounts and past comments” — the method by which most evidence was gathered.
The purge was dreamed up as a desperate dirty trick to steal the leadership election but the consequences of culling up to 10 per cent of the party — the most militant 10th in all likelihood — will be felt for a long time.
Local Labour parties will be left to deal with the fallout — the national executive is said to be sending out lists later today.
Claudia Webbe’s letter is worth reading. Here it is:
As the Morning Star article states, it seems CLPs are being asked to hold “hearings” in which officers will demand that members/applicants defend themselves against the allegations made by Mr McNicol’s sinister ‘compliance unit’.
A group of Labour supporters has organised a ‘McKenzie Friend’ system to provide people who are well versed in understanding the system, and who will be able to accompany suspended/excluded/expelled members to any investigation and ensure their case is fairly handled. The scheme requires donations to cover transport costs. You can read more about it, and take the opportunity to donate, at this website.
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