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Sep
2016
Monday 12th
posted by Morning Star in Features

The party machinery refuses to tell thousands of members why they’re frozen out, writes CHARLEY ALLAN


IAM still trapped in “purge-atory” — neither banned from voting in the Labour leadership election nor given a ballot paper, allegedly because of admin error.

And I’m not alone. Although Labour has rubbished online claims of up to 100,000 missing ballots, it refuses to reveal the real number.

Why not? It knows exactly how many people are in my position — we’ve been calling, emailing and filling out forms enough, asking what’s happened to our votes.

Why weren’t our details given to Electoral Reform Services, which is running the election, in the first place?

How many names were originally sent to the company? How many members have asked for their ballots to be reissued? How many have actually received reissued ballots?

A panel report presented to Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) on Wednesday doesn’t answer any of these questions, but claims that 3,107 “rule-breakers” have so far been purged.

Its numbers don’t really add up but the party refuses to discuss them directly — instead referring me to the Press Association’s summary which gives the same total.

When I asked the press office how many people were still waiting for a vote, it said it wouldn’t provide a “running commentary” on the election — then hung up when I suggested it was already doing so by releasing these figures in the first place.

The reports claim that the NEC is still considering another 1,616 cases.

But thousands more have simply slipped through the cracks, we’re led to believe, and members must ask for a reissue — which may or may not arrive in time.

I never had a chance to ask Labour my other questions, such as why hasn’t the full purge list — with names and reasons — been given to Jeremy Corbyn or the NEC, as requested?

And who selectively leaked the most “extreme” cases of social-media rudeness, much of which hardly qualifies as abuse?

How can the party retrospectively proscribe words such as “traitor” when Corbyn opponents including former Blair official John McTernan and Portsmouth councillor John Ferrett have called their leader the same on Twitter without losing their right to vote?

Why isn’t the NEC following Shami Chakrabarti’s advice to “uphold the strongest principles of natural justice” by giving purged members full reasons for their disenfranchisement — plus the right to a speedy appeal?

What’s the logic behind expelling members for year-old retweets in support of another party’s policy while letting a Labour lord get away with giving millions to the Lib Dems?

Does the published purge figure include members who have cast a ballot only to see it taken away for unspecified “comments made on social media” — as experienced by Isle of Wight pensioner and life-long Labour voter Jacqui Bartram this weekend?

How did the six-month retrospective membership freeze date discourage “entryists” — as claimed in court — when the door was wide open to anyone who could afford £25 for a vote?

And on the subject of entryism, when will Ashfield MP Gloria de Piero be sanctioned for encouraging Sun readers to sign up to the anti-Corbyn struggle?

Meanwhile, some good news. Michael Foster, the party donor who called Corbynistas “nazi stormtroopers,” has finally been suspended for abuse — though he’s comically complaining that “the rule of law is being ignored” — while two high-profile members have had their votes returned.

Ronnie Draper, general secretary of the BFAWU bakers’ union, and Harrow councillor Pamela Fitzpatrick have both had their suspensions lifted without any appeal hearing. And some Scottish Labour members have been saved by the grace of their own general secretary, who hasn’t taken kindly to London’s heavy-handed approach to this “autonomous” party.

But what about members without as much clout? Draper advises them to write directly to general secretary Iain McNicol and the party’s Compliance Unit — the beefed-up band of “witch-hunters” who are still advertising for more staff.

McNicol has staked all his political capital on this corridor coup — and the left’s clean sweep in recent NEC delegate elections means his position is even more precarious post-party conference later this month.
His most recent show of contempt for members involves giving the green light to conference’s official brochure, which features three photos of deputy leader Tom Watson but none of Corbyn.

This pathetic picture-purge sparked the inspired #JezSelfie hashtag, which soon started trending on social media.

Many of the wonderful snaps on display seem to be shot while the credits rolled on Thursday night’s BBC Question Time, as mobile-brandishing members mobbed the stage to thank Corbyn while giving Owen “no mates” Smith the cold shoulder.

The hustings in Oldham saw the best performance yet from Corbyn, who looks more like a PM in waiting than ever.

He nailed the regular referendum accusation against him with: “If we’d simply said everything in the European Union was perfect, I suspect we’d have got less votes to remain.”

But Smith provoked groans by claiming his “integrity” prevented him returning to Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.

There was loud applause for a member of the audience who pointed out: “If he was a true Labour member he would serve under any Labour leader” — before joking that this must mean Smith was “in the wrong party.”
Smith complained this was “abuse” because “it’s implying that I’m not Labour. I’ve always been Labour and I will always be Labour.”

But his silence over the purge of party members speaks louder than any hollow claims of loyalty.

And his string of “Owen goals” betray a latent misogyny at odds with modern Labour values.

Last week he told the Mirror about meeting his wife at school: “1,200 boys, three girls and I pulled Liz. So I must have something going on — that must be leadership.”

The Labour right is already washing its hands, admitting that Smith is just meant to weaken Corbyn ahead of next year’s challenge by David Miliband, who looks like he plans to parachute into Jo Cox’s Batley & Spen seat.

But if the best the centre-left can come up with is someone who sees women as prizes, boasts about his sexual prowess and excuses casual sexism as “banter,” then it should throw its weight behind pioneering equalities campaigner Corbyn as quickly as possible. Whatever happens at conference after the result, unity will be the only game in town for true Labour — let the rest go purge themselves.

You can chat to Charley on Twitter: @charleyallan




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