Defend Democracy! By Islington Friends of Jeremy Corbyn


“At a time when the government is attacking our rights to strike, protest & vote, the Labour leadership should be defending democracy. Instead, it is debasing it.”

Jeremy Corbyn

Islington Friends of Jeremy Corbyn write on why we must defend democracy in Islington North CLP and the Labour Party

Democracy is contingent upon those holding power agreeing to abide by the rules and to accept results they don’t like. By blocking Jeremy Corbyn from standing for selection in Islington North, the Labour Party leadership has jettisoned these principles and abandoned any pretence of member democracy in the party.

This move has stripped the CLP of its democratic right to select its candidate and undermines its efforts to defeat the Conservatives, support its Labour council and work with the local community for real change. While it is a grossly unfair personal attack on Jeremy Corbyn, the wider significance of this move is the intention to silence one of the few voices in Parliament standing up to austerity and the neoliberal political and economic consensus that drives it.

In response to the NEC decision, the CLP issued a statement rejecting the “undue interference in Islington North, which undermines our goal of defeating the Conservatives and working with our communities for social justice”. Instead, the CLP gave its fully support to Keir Starmer’s February 2020 statement, “Local Party members should select their candidates for every election.” This principled response is indicative of the strength and clarity of purpose and vision that the CLP has been able to maintain, despite the current climate in the Labour Party.

Islington North CLP has deep roots in its communities and has retained its strong activist base and its tradition for enthusiastic engagement in local campaigning. This has made an enormous difference in Islington where, in 2022, CLP activists campaigned tirelessly alongside Jeremy Corbyn to achieve a Labour majority on the Council of 48 out of 51.

The idea that Islington North should not be allowed to select its own candidate on the grounds of electability is farcical. Islington North has had a Labour MP since 1935, and for the past almost 40 years that MP has been Jeremy Corbyn. In terms of Labour’s electability, Islington North has been getting it right for many decades.

In their assessment of blame for national electoral failures, the Labour leadership have conveniently ignored the fact that Labour’s vote share dramatically increased under Jeremy Corbyn and that the Labour right helped engineer the defeats in 2017 and 2019, preferring a Tory to a left Labour government. Other Labour leaders have lost elections and far more of the vote share than Jeremy Corbyn, but factional assailment, rather than defensible points of principle seem to be the order of the day in today’s Labour Party. With the state of the country and the Tory party – weakened by scandals and without the Brexit card to play – is it not possible for Labour to present a compelling enough vision to win without the theatrical bullying of Jeremy Corbyn? 

Of course, the abandonment of democracy in the Labour Party did not start with the NEC motion to block Jeremy Corbyn from standing in Islington North. While the CLP is currently in the spotlight, its treatment is a far from isolated incident in today’s Labour Party.

Up and down the country, selection committees have been disbanded and taken over by regional officers, trampling on the views of local CLP members (Camberwell and Peckham, Bolton East and Broxtowe to name a few). Candidates from the left of the Party, including Maurice Mcleod and former MP Emma Dent Coad, have been barred on factional grounds from selections.

Members have been suspended in unprecedented numbers, often due to tangential links to organisations banned by the Labour Party. Against all principles of natural justice, some of these suspension and expulsions have been for association prior to the banning. Newly elected NEC member Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi was suspended before she could take up her place on the NEC.

Serious matters including Party democracy, racism and financial probity have been documented in the Forde Report and the Al Jazeera Labour Files. These issues have not been addressed by the Party and have been almost completely ignored in the media.

Blocking Jeremy Corbyn from standing as a candidate in Islington North seemed like the nadir of Labour’s descent, but, as we see from the recent dog-whistle advert against Rishi Sunak, they will go lower. This is gutter politics based on fear and hatred rather than respect and hope, and we must be aware that unethical actions justified by electoral expediency are not the answer.

The move to stop Islington North CLP from selecting Jeremy Corbyn as its candidate is based on the conceit that anti-democratic tactics are necessary and warranted because the people who hold the democratic right to choose cannot be trusted to make the ‘right’ decision. This is a dangerous precedent for the future of democracy in the Party and the country as a whole. 

The Labour Party as a vehicle for real change is not dead, but it is in a critical condition. We need real change, and MPs and activists in the Party who are committed to the social and economic transformation that we can and must achieve. Like Jeremy Corbyn and Islington North CLP, we should not be intimidated into silence.

Reversing the descent of our party must include an end to this undue interference in Islington North’s selection process and a recommitment to member democracy across the party. As Jeremy Corbyn said: “At a time when the government is attacking our rights to strike, protest and vote, the Labour leadership should be defending democracy. Instead, it is debasing it.”

Please support democracy in Islington North CLP and our Labour Party by signing the Islington Friends of Jeremy Corbyn petition. The petition is intended to give people the opportunity to show they are unhappy with the NEC’s decision to bock Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy and to demonstrate their support for Islington North’s democratic right to choose their candidate.

  • Islington Friends of Jeremy Corbyn is a group of Islington North residents established to stand up for our democratic rights which are under threat from the actions of the national Labour Party. To find out more about us and to sign up for our newsletter, please go to their website.
  • This article was originally published on LabourHub here.
Image: Jeremy Corbyn. Source: Author: Chatham House, London, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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