“Members overwhelming voted for what they thought was a ‘unity candidate’ to lead the party. Unity is surely what most members still want. We must not allow our party to fall prey to the bullying impulses of a hard-right minority.“Save Our Socialists
By the Save Our Socialists Team
The rounds of expulsions and suspensions witnessed in the days leading up to or even during Labour conferences, national and regional, have come as little surprise. The latest string of high-profile expulsions involved conference delegates in the Northern region. Meanwhile, the delay in holding the Yorkshire and the Humber conference may relate to the screening of delegates with a view to removing enough to sway votes in favour of the right of the party.
Aside from this use of the disciplinary system to affect conference outcomes, relatively few non-delegates have faced expulsion. But among those who have, it is active members, playing leadership roles in their CLPs, who have been the frequent targets. Certain constituencies have had large chunks stripped from their local Labour leadership teams, causing CLPs to collapse. An influx of pro-Starmer members to replace them has rarely materialised.
But some constituencies have not had a single suspension, expulsion or candidate removed. Some areas have remained almost untouched. There is little doubt that this stems from the fact that it is a small minority of people in the party who are pursuing these attacks. These individuals seem to come from the inner circles of a few high-profile right wingers calling themselves ‘moderates’ and they tend to target people they know in their own CLPs.
There is of course absolutely nothing moderate about violations of privacy, kangaroo courts and institutional bullying. These attacks leave a far wider group of members feeling demoralised and withdrawing from activity in the party, with some leaving altogether. This is precisely the outcome the small minority want. The collective (and individual) psychological burden of this kind of abuse has a very detrimental effect. For the individual on the receiving end, it can be personally devastating, causing extreme stress and triggering mental illness, for the other members who know them it can mean feelings of fear, despair and despondency.
The removal and marginalisation can have a catastrophic effect on local campaigning. This bullying culture turns people across the party off doorknocking, organic social media support for the party and donating. And good candidates from all sides, who are often largely aligned on matters of local politics, are not getting the support they need.
Candidates affected do not live in a bubble. They are often well-known and admired local campaigners with influence in their areas. We have seen several candidates removed at the last possible moment, their images already on the literature delivered to thousands of households. Removing them from the party, or stripping them of party endorsements, can dent community support for Labour. What do such manoeuvres do to public confidence in our party? Do factional attacks on individuals really enhance Labour’s electoral prospects?
It is time for decent people across the party to say, ‘Not in my name’ and marginalise those who are engaged in this abuse of power and influence. Unfortunately, there appears to be a large crossover between paid party officials and the small groups incessantly trawling social media. Those making it onto slates are also more likely to be involved in these factional abuses. There is a role then for the party’s decent ‘moderates’ in removing their support from these individuals, and instead promote those genuinely committed to building coalitions on the left to effectively oppose and ultimately defeat this Tory government.
Members overwhelming voted for what they thought was a “unity candidate” to lead the party. Unity is surely what most members still want. We should not and must not allow our party to fall prey to the bullying impulses of a hard-right minority.
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