“The Labour machine’s war on internal party democracy gathers pace with the imposition of a small clique of right wingers to run Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP.”
A Hackney North CLP member who has chosen to remain anonymous writes on how the London Region of the Labour Party has conducted a coup there, removing all the elected CLP Officers.
The Labour machine’s war on internal party democracy gathers pace with the imposition of a small clique of right wingers to run Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP.
The London Region of the Labour Party conducted a coup in Hackney North CLP on 7th September, removing all the elected, mainly left wing, CLP Officers and replacing them with three right wing stooges as ‘interim’ officers. None of the three impositions were previously CLP Officers and one of them doesn’t even currently live in the constituency. It was a right wing takeover by undemocratic methods.
The ‘interim’ officers appointed to run the CLP will now have sole control of convening party meetings with our elected Executive Committee forbidden to meet. The ‘interim’ officers will be in charge of organising branch AGMs which are expected in October and presumably the stooges will use the next month to alert their friends to the timetable with the rest of us given just seven days notice of fresh elections.
The pretext for the takeover was forthcoming party reorganisation for boundary changes. The real reason was that the London Region didn’t like Hackney North having a left wing leadership and they wanted to suppress discussion on the arrest and subsequent conviction of one of the main Labour to Win organisers in Hackney, Tom Dewey, on charges of possessing child pornography. Dewey was elected as a Labour councillor in May 2022 but resigned less than two weeks after his election. Very few party members knew of the arrest and the reason for Dewey’s resignation but, over a year later, the attempted cover up has seen Hackney’s Directly Elected Mayor suspended from the Labour Party and take a leave of absence from the Mayoralty. He is expected to resign from the role shortly.
Labour councillors in Hackney have been instructed not to discuss the Dewey case with party members and party members have been told there can be no discussion of the issue at party meetings. When concerned members raised the safeguarding implications at a CLP Executive on 13th July, London Regional Director, Pearleen Sangha, insisted the matter could not be discussed. When asked what party members should say to concerned residents on the doorsteps, Sangha suggested the only answer should be ‘no comment’. Sangha also stated that it was a party disciplinary matter and was therefore not ‘competent business’ – even though Dewey had resigned from the party over a year ago.
The day after the EC meeting, Sangha had Hackney North CLP’s access to the party’s Organise system blocked – thereby preventing us from convening branch or CLP meetings. By attempting to silence the concerns of local members, the attempted cover up has pushed the issue into the media and had led, in part, to the fall of the Borough’s Mayor.
Comrades in Hackney North CLP have responded by exposing the cover up, publicising the undemocratic takeover and mobilising our supporters. We have published the statement below anonymously to try to avoid victimisation by Labour’s machine but we expect suspensions or worse in the run up to the eventual AGMs. At a recent demonstration at Hackney Town Hall, the right wing were filming Labour Party members present. This is the situation in Starmer’s Labour Party.
Our longstanding and popular MP, Diane Abbott, has been suspended from the PLP since April and the right wing appear determined to keep her suspended for as long as possible to prevent her standing as Labour’s candidate in the next General Election. Diane was re-selected as Hackney North’s candidate in 2022 without a single party unit voting against her and so, again, the right wing resorts to underhand methods to get their way. The takeover in our CLP is part of easing the way for a right wing candidate to replace Diane.
While Labour’s unelected officials in regional offices continue to behave dishonestly and undemocratically there can be no confidence in them among party members. In this case their appalling behaviour has actually deepened the crisis they are attempting to manage as their dishonesty and control freakery has forced party members to raise the issues outside the party. Pearleen Sangha should now seriously consider whether she is fit to continue in post. In the longer term, party activists should be pushing for more accountability of party staff, perhaps the election of regional directors, perhaps a Party Ombudsman to investigate abuses of process. In the short term the three stooge ‘interim’ appointments in Hackney North should stand down and our elected CLP Officers should take us into fresh elections.
Two recent statements from activists in Hackney are reproduced for information purposes below.
Statement 1: Hackney Labour Left Statement on Tom Dewey matters
Left members in Hackney Labour Party were appalled and disgusted to learn of Tom Dewey’s crimes from newspaper reports on court proceedings over a year after his arrest on 29th April 2022 for making images of sexual abuse of children, including category A images which are graded the most serious. Tom Dewey carried on face to face campaigning after his arrest and remained a councillor for nearly two weeks. The news immediately raised questions about who in Hackney Labour leadership knew what and how the matter had been dealt with through to his resignation on 16th May 2022 and the announcement at Labour Group on 17th May that this was for “personal reasons”.
Safeguarding must be a priority as a matter of principle. It is not a “personal” matter. Safeguarding policies and procedures are put in place precisely to prevent abuse being prolonged as a result of people in a position to act knowing but covering up and sweeping it under the carpet for the sake of individual or organisational positions and reputations. The Labour Party, in common with organisations who come into contact with children and vulnerable adults, have a commitment to protecting those who may be at risk of abuse and promoting their welfare.
Conveying the impression that his resignation was of no concern to anyone else in the party was wrong. This message diminishes the impact his actions will have had on many and the fact that for years they took place whilst he had the authority of numerous roles within the Labour Party which gave him considerable standing and influence.
If this matter had been dealt with in an open, honest and transparent manner Hackney Labour Party would not be in the midst of a leadership crisis. Safeguarding and accountability must be placed ahead of politics. Discussing the implications of an arrest and safeguarding issues arising does not prejudice a case that is subjudice.
Philip Glanville’s position as Mayor is untenable after a fundamental breach of trust with Party members and the Hackney electorate. He should resign with immediate effect. Cllr Anntoinette Bramble should continue as a caretaker mayor with a by-election called on the same day as the Mayor of London’s election in 2024.
We call for :
1. Solid and caring support for the victims of Tom Dewey’s crimes and Hackney residents impacted.
2. An independent inquiry to establish the facts and failings in dealing with the Tom Dewey case in relation to his positions in the Labour Party (recognising that his crimes date back to at least January 2008).
This should include the circumstances of decision-making by the local Labour leadership and Council relating to the timeline of events from the NCA raid on his home, his election as a councillor and resignation less than 2 weeks later and the subsequent by-election.
3. Publication of recommendations to identify improvements needed in organisational systems and procedures, to demonstrate accountability, and to enable open discussion and learning.
4. A full review of all of Labour’s Safeguarding policies and procedures and a review of local and national Labour safeguarding practice to check whether relevant policy and procedures were fit for purpose and was actioned during Dewey’s time in the Labour Party.
Statement 2: Hackney North Labour Left Statement on the bureaucratic coup
We must also highlight and protest in the strongest terms at the London Regional Labour Party’s treatment of Hackney North & Stoke Newington Constituency Labour Party (CLP) against the backdrop of the Tom Dewey scandal.
After Executive Committee members raised safeguarding issues at the Executive Committee’s 13 July 2023 meeting, we were silenced by the London Regional Director, Pearleen Sangha, who suddenly joined the Zoom call. Within 24 hours she moved to “pause” the CLP’s access to Organise, the email network which facilitates communication with members. This move was a form of collective punishment for the CLP for raising entirely legitimate concerns.
The London Region restored partial access today (Thursday 7 September), but the three senior Hackney North CLP officers (chair, secretary and treasurer) have been ousted and replaced by three unelected individuals, one of whom is not currently a Hackney North member. This purports to be under the Labour Party guidance for boundary changes. However, this covers constituencies with a change of more than 15% in membership, which does not apply to Hackney North. This is blatant factionalism and outrageous. It is especially damaging at a time when we are working with grassroots members and Hackney residents and community organisations to reassure them that we take safeguarding with the utmost seriousness. Many CLPs around the country will recognise this total disregard of Labour Party rules and democratic processes both regionally and nationally.
We call on the National Executive Committee to act to reinstate the CLP’s democratically elected Hackney North officers until an Annual General Meeting and put a halt to such anti-democratic abuse of power, which can only serve to undermine the morale of many Party members, especially in the wake of the Dewey scandal and the revelations of the past fortnight regarding the elected Mayor’s dishonesty.