Labour Party groups across the country are being urged to ensure that their conference delegates will not endorse Keir Starmer’s choice of David Evans as general secretary.
The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) supported its call simply by referring to Evans’s record in office, since Starmer appointed him to the job last year:
Since the NEC appointed Evans to act as General Secretary in May 2020, various measures have been introduced to curtail the rights of Labour Party members. Unprecedented restrictions have been placed on discussions of party business, with around 70 local party officers suspended from party membership for defending local party democracy.[See Note 1] This has made local party meetings into unwelcoming spaces for many party members and as a result our membership has already suffered a large decline.
None of this has been of electoral benefit, as is evident from: Labour’s significant decline in opinion polls since the summer of 2020; the predominately poor local election results in May; and the appalling loss of Labour support in the Hartlepool and the Chesham and Amersham by-elections.
And recent reports in the media suggest that the party is considering giving the General Secretary new powers to appoint people to make decisions on disciplinary charges – matters that are currently determined by people who are elected. Evidently this would not make the complaints process independent, but instead increase the General Secretary’s role in the prosecution and judgement of complaints – contrary to natural justice.
The risks for the party, if it continues to attack its own members and not put up any serious opposition to the Tories, is that we will be seen as divided, and voters, the majority of whom are being harmed by this government, will continue to look elsewhere when they want to vote for an alternative to Tory policies.
Regrettably, the party has been deterring, not attracting, electoral support. Right-wing factionalism does not deliver victories for Labour. It undermines the party’s functioning, both internally and also in elections.
It has been a mistake, with damaging consequences, that the party recently abandoned its democratic traditions. It is a mistake that Annual Conference can help to correct.
The long standing custom and practice was that party members discussed and adopted positions on matters across the full range of party business and policy. The culture, of encouraging internal debate, helped our party became one of the largest political parties in Europe. It also assisted the leadership, keeping it in touch with our members, who form the backbone of our local campaigns.
Our members are important to our success. The stifling of internal democracy is unfortunately damaging the party and this is benefiting our electoral opponents.
We need a General Secretary who will prioritise uniting the party around an alternative agenda to that of the Tories, to aid Labour in making a much needed electoral advance. It is an important post in the party, which should not be used as a platform for divisive attacks on party members.
Annual Conference needs to shift the party’s focus on to fighting the Tories. Delegates can best assist the party in achieving such a re-orientation by rejecting the NEC’s recommendation on the General Secretary.
Sadly, though, Evans’s own diktats mean party members can’t pass resolutions on the matter or even discuss it at their meetings because – and this is damning – “the current regime in the party is intolerant of democratic discussion on these matters“.
The acting General Secretary has placed significant restrictions on what local parties can discuss in meetings. Misleadingly presented as ‘guidance’, in reality dictates were issued, as became evident when many local party officers were suspended from party membership accused of failing to follow the so called ‘guidance’.
The dictates have effectively proscribed local party meetings from discussing the situation arsing from the political attacks on Labour’s former Leader Jeremy Corbyn. Party members have been barred from discussing their opposition to these attacks and from expressing solidarity with Jeremy.
In addition, severe restrictions have been placed on discussing other important political areas of party business, such as: whether the IHRA definition informs the most effective way to combat antisemitism; the decision of the Labour Party to make substantial payments to former members of party staff who appeared on a BBC Panorama programme; the EHRC’s report on the Labour Party and the party’s response to it; and ‘matters relating to the internal processes of the PLP’.
Presumably Evans is hoping that his order denying party members the opportunity to discuss his election means delegates will do as they are told and obediently nod him in – so he can cause even more damage.
To This Writer’s way of thinking, this should be cause for him to be automatically barred – not just from any position of authority in the Labour Party, but from membership of the organisation in any way at all.
Repressing other members simply isn’t appropriate behaviour for a Labour Party representative.
Also to This Writer’s way of thinking, this should be cause for a vote of “no confidence” in Keir Starmer’s leadership.
Starmer appointed Evans and we must conclude that he not only supported all the anti-democratic restrictions Evans has imposed – he demanded them.
That is not appropriate behaviour for a Labour Party leader so Starmer should get the boot too.
So, Labour delegates – are you up for it? Will you fight for your rights? Or do you actually deserve everything Starmer, Evans, and indeed Boris Johnson are shovelling at you?
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