2016 11 – Diary of a Corbyn foot soldier

Diary of a Corbyn foot soldier  (No 6)

A dictionary definition of “foot soldier”:  “…a dedicated low level follower…”

By Michael Murray

 In this month’s Diary :

Business as usual….

I wound up last month’s diary with this: “My next local party meeting is in the coming week; we haven’t met since last June – because of the “atmosphere” of intimidation in the party membership, as the NEC perceived it.  There are motions in on behalf of one expelled and one suspended member.  They are asking for re-admission.  Will “the slate be wiped clean” {as Jeremy had pleaded for in his re-election acceptance speech at Conference) ?

A month into Jeremy’s second elected leadership round, has anything changed, has a process of reconciliation between former pro and anti-Corbynites begun?  Have things changed within the much vaunted 600,000-odd “largest Democratic Socialist Party in Europe” – now led by Corbyn who gained an enhanced mandate despite all the obstacles raised internally within the party against his second leadership bid?  From the perspective of this footsoldier: No…and yes.

The monthly October meeting of my local branch, acrimoniously debated the motion to ask the Constituency Labour Party to seek the reinstatement of one of our most active and long serving members, expelled from the Party without due process, including the refusal of his right to appeal. The vote followed the predictable pre-Corbyn 2nd leadership election victory left-right split. No change there. But, what was different was that the movers of the re-instatement motion had brought along enough support from the otherwise dormant new members to swing the vote.  So the motion went through to the end of October Constituency Labour Party’s monthly meeting.

And there things were much the same as in the past. The Party right at CLP level is more organized in filling Party positions with “their” people, more tactical in voting than the left, even though, in the leadership election campaign a quorum of CLP delegates voted 2 to 1 in favour of Corbyn.  So, the oldest trick in the book was played : the most controversial motion, on the expulsions and suspensions – which by the night of the meeting had been, rightly, composited with similar motions from other branches, did not get discussed because of the weight of accumulated “other business” filling the time, including the extra time allowed under the traditional mechanism of “suspending standing orders,” and going on beyond the 10pm closure of the meeting stipulated in those Standing Orders.”

The less experienced left don’t know how to nail down the order of business and the fair allocation of time to process a meetings agenda, so that the important motions get dealt with before time runs out.  Am I out of order, saying it was a trick, a manoeuvre?   Well, maybe I am mistaken about that.  But whether it was a case of “conspiracy” or “cock-up” theory in action, the result was the same.  People will remain disenfranchised for the foreseeable future.  And: “Justice delayed, is justice refused.”  Another breach of Natural Justice.

By the way, here is an extract from the Composite Motion put together for the Hackney North Labour Party:

We express our concern at the suspension of party meetings over the summer, and the suspension of particular branches and CLPs followed by allegations of inappropriate behaviour – all of which had the effect of stifling internal debate at a crucial time (ref. to Leadership election. mjm.)

We believe the aims and values of the Labour Party, should inform and be reflected in its internal processes, and that those comrades who share its aims and values should be welcomed back  so that we can unite to defeat the Tories.

We therefore call on the NEC  (National Executive Committee) for:

  • A full investigation into all recent cases of expulsions and suspensions of individuals and sections of the Party such as Brighton.
  • All those who have been suspended or expelled have the right to a hearing and an appeal.
  • The reinstatement of all those who have been unfairly or wrongly excluded from the Party.
  • The immediate reinstatement of suspended branches.
  • The establishment of a procedure for suspensions and expulsions, based on the principles of natural justice, allowing the right to be informed of allegations, and the right of defence before judgement, and, if necessary, the right of appeal.

I’ve written a piece on the Principles of Natural Justice  and the Labour Party Rule Book (2016) in a previous issue of this magazine, and elsewhere. (Labour Review  (4) September, 2016) and had prepared a contribution to the CLP debate to support the Composite Motion above, drawing from that diary entry, and other background historical material. Ah, well. Tomorrow is another day.

A lingering after-taste of this first CLP meeting since the suspension of meetings was caused by a large clique of CLP delegates sneering their way through the scheduled MP’s Report. A couple of delegates even turned their backs on the top table, to talk to their obviously like-minded friends, showing their disrespect and outright contempt for Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Diane Abbott as she reported on her role in Parliament, and in the Shadow Cabinet.

I’m not naming names here, but I can. And I made sure to draw the attention of others near me to what was going on. The only thing that made me hesitate to make an issue of it was, as a new delegate, unknown to most, I couldn’t be sure what the reaction would be to an intervention, no matter how I made it.  To see one or two of them get elected to key positions at the higher levels in the party structure was no great consolation either.

Walking home after the meeting I caught up with a despondent fellow-branch member who has decided to call it a day with the Labour Party after what he had witnessed at the CLP meeting.  And that is on top of the suspended member of the Branch, mentioned in the opening paragraph, of whom I’d learned before the meeting, he was no longer interested in the Labour Party either, but would continue being active on “single issue” social and political campaigns instead.  “They” are winning, at least in my neck of the woods.  And I daren’t say who “they” are without incurring the attention of “The Compliance Unit.”

Meanwhile, there’s a council by-election going on in one of our constituency wards and a bit of door knocking to be done.