“Several members have been ‘auto-excluded’ for social media posts that could not, by any rational person, be considered to indicate support for a political organisation other than Labour.”Rachel Garnham
Rachel Garnham, Vice-Chair, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy
In recent years we have sadly become accustomed to unfair expulsions and outrageous decisions made in Labour’s disciplinary processes. It has become unsurprising to hear that some complaints about deeply problematic behaviour and clear-cut rule breaches remain un-responded to after several years, while other members face immediate administrative suspension, outside of the clear parameters agreed by the NEC for the imposition of this measure, having done nothing other than facilitate discussion. One of the most worrying development is the increased use of the rule in Chapter 2 Clause 1 part 4B of the rulebook which states:
A member of the Party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a Party member, subject to the provisions of Chapter 6.I.2 below of the disciplinary rules.
In relation to the 6.1.2 clause mentioned, the Party advises ‘the NEC will only relax the “five year” exclusion period in what it deems to be exceptional circumstances.’
However several members have been ‘auto-excluded’ for social media posts that could not, by any rational person, be considered to indicate support for a political organisation other than Labour. The so-called ‘evidence’ produced by the Party includes a Facebook post expressing an interest in “Britain’s road to socialism” from the Communist Party, sharing an SNP post attacking Boris Johnson for a visit to Scotland during lockdown and a placard from the Socialist Workers’ Party appearing in a picture of a demonstration used as a Twitter header. Although parties other than Labour feature, there is no indication of actual political support for these parties – in reality we can just about remember that it is difficult to take a photo of a big demonstration without an SWP placard popping up somewhere! Equally concerning is that two of these examples appeared on private Facebook pages so members are not only left wondering which of their ‘friends’ has potentially shared the material, but also how these private posts could be construed as supporting an alternative political party.
Rather than support for political organisations other than Labour, what these excluded activists in truth all have in common was their demonstrable commitment and support for the Labour Party – holding positions within their branches, CLPs, Local Campaign Forums and in one case on a Regional Executive Committee, spending hours and hours building and campaigning for Labour and its candidates locally only to be mercilessly chucked out on these spurious grounds. The other thing they have in common was that they were supporters of Party democracy and of building a Party, a movement, and a country ‘for the many not the few’ – a view that seems increasingly unpopular in today’s upper echelons of Labour.
What is even more frustrating about these cases, and they are becoming ever more numerous, is that while there is a lot wrong with how disciplinary cases (as opposed to auto-exclusions) are handled, the vast majority are considered by panels of elected members of Labour’s National Executive Committee, supported by legal advice. While we would not all agree with all the decisions, there is that small element of democratic accountability in disciplinary cases. For rule 2.1.4, to which left activists appear to be increasingly falling victim, the decision is not made by elected representatives meaning there is no accountability and apparently no scrutiny.
As an NEC member, I first raised this issue with David Evans in September last year by email to which I received no response. It was flagged at subsequent meetings and on the day I stood down in November I sent a final email reminder on this issue. Still no response unsurprisingly, and several more similar cases have subsequently emerged. We really can’t let these cases to continue to go under the radar, when members with years and years of experience and hard work for our movement get unceremoniously binned without so much as an appeals panel.
I hope that current NEC members will continue to monitor and raise these abuses of our rulebook, calling for a review of all cases which were actioned without scrutiny or oversight, and for much greater transparency and accountability to be introduced. We must continue to draw attention to this and all the other attempts to purge the left at the current time, which will only damage the Party and its electoral prospects.