Move on Lawson shows Starmer’s purge & stitch-up culture is out of control


“Kicking out Neal & anyone who is prepared to think independently of the most hard-line right-wing faction in the party does not bode well.”

Jon Cruddas MP

By Logan Williams, Arise Festival volunteer

Last week, news emerged that the Labour NEC has begun to investigate Director of Compass, Neal Lawson, allegedly due to a tweet from two years ago. Lawson’s announcement in the Guardian has provoked the normal chorus of triumphant tweeting from right-wingers within the party that cheerleads and defends every expulsion.

Following the news, there has been an outbreak of public support from the across Labour party and movement in support of Lawson, with growing calls to protect him from any attempts to expel him and to protect the ideas of pluralism and democracy within the party.

These included John McDonnell, who argued that “if the extent of intolerance has reached the shores of Compass, there really is no limit to the ambitions of those controlling the party mechanisms to eliminate any display of independent thought”.

John was joined by fellow MP Clive Lewis who argued that the decision was “FUBAR” and would go on to ask Luke Akehurst, Labour First Secretary, to confirm whether “this expulsion 100% has nothing to do with a small faction being out of control, expelling anyone they think a threat to their TOTAL control of the party? Expulsions which now include the soft-left”.

Lawson’s right to remain a member of the party was also supported beyond the Left, with Jon Cruddas MP arguing in the Guardian that the decision to pursue Lawson was “stupid, counterproductive and reveals a lack of self-confidence. To endure in government Labour will need to build alliances and coalitions – and reach out beyond the stale undemocratic faction that now runs the party. Kicking out Neal and anyone who is prepared to think independently of the most hard-line right-wing faction in the party does not bode well.”

The support for Neal Lawson is not limited to only elected representatives, his battle to remain a Labour member has been supported by grassroots organisations and campaigners such as the Campaign for Socialism in Scotland who argued “The decision to expel Neil Lawson follows on from the blocking of experienced councillors former MPs and committed activists standing for selection as MPs/MSPs. Starmer appears to lack a political Compass but could find one if he listened to members rather than expelling them”.

A Labour Assembly Against Austerity spokesperson said, “This is yet another unpopular attack on pluralism – Starmer and co. should concentrate on fighting the Tories and their never-ending austerity agenda, rather than gutting Labour of democracy.” And Lawson has also been supported by Momentum, who condemned an “anti-democratic party culture.”

Lawson’s battle has also been supported by Labour activist – and former advisor to both Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer – Simon Fletcher who argued that “trying to take out Neal Lawson is a decapitation strategy – removing a leading voice of a current that takes a different view to that of the leadership”.

We must continue to oppose the politics of control freakery which currently dominates the Labour Party and will stop Labour being a vehicle capable of transforming our country. This means fighting back against Starmer and co’s attacks, seeking to unite all voices across the party that are speaking out – and will speak out – against these continuous attacks on pluralism and party democracy.

  • Join the chorus of voices speaking up for Labour Party Democracy, add your name to the “Let the members decide – for Labour party democracy” statement here.
  • A model motion can also be viewed and circulated here.
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Featured image: Labour Leader Keir Starmer speaking at the What Next For Britain event at Chatham House on March 27th, 2017. Photo credit: Chatham House under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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