John Stewart, Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP writes: The uproar continues in the Labour Party over the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn on 29th October and then, following his reinstatement to the Party on 17th November, the refusal of Keir Starmer to restore the Labour Whip in Parliament.
Corbyn’s legal team went to the High Court in mid-January for a pre-action disclosure hearing. The outcome of that hearing is unclear as Briefing goes to press, but the application for disclosure of documents will serve as a severe embarrassment to Starmer if the documents show, as expected, that his office agreed to full reinstatement if Corbyn apologised and then Starmer reneged. A pattern is beginning to emerge as a similar process took place with the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey in June 2020.
Within the Labour Party, hundreds of thousands of party members are opposed to the treatment of Corbyn and to the wider assault on the left and the ditching of Starmer’s leadership pledges. These include members who voted for Starmer as party leader.
Despite the many circulars issued by the General Secretary’s office instructing CLPs not to discuss Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension or to express solidarity with him, many CLPs have defied the threats and discussed the issue. By mid-January, 91 CLPs had passed a resolution either supporting Corbyn, opposing the clamp down on free speech or expressing no confidence in Keir Starmer or in David Evans.
Campaigners are aware of 29 of these CLPs having one or more of their senior officers suspended following their defiance of the General Secretary’s diktat (meaning 62 have, so far, suffered no repercussion). These comprised 51 individual CLP officers and 5 branch officers. There may well be other individuals affected as the communication from the Labour Party usually instructs the suspended member not to speak publicly about their case.
The highest number of suspensions, 20, was in South West region where the regional office seems to have a particular dislike of the left. Twelve CLP officers were suspended across London, 8 across Yorkshire, 3 in East Midlands and 3 in North West.
It’s rumoured that the party leadership has now realised how much opposition there is across the whole of the party to the treatment of CLP Officers who have simply done as instructed by their local members. Realising its heavy handed tactics are losing it support, the party machine is expected to lift many suspensions shortly.
Eight affiliated trade unions, out of twelve, have also called for the Whip to be restored to Jeremy Corbyn, as has Young Labour.
As well as campaigning for the full reinstatement of Corbyn and the suspended members, a number of campaigns have emerged, calling for the Labour Party Conference to be recalled, and for the Party Conference to exercise its right to refuse to endorse David Evans as General Secretary. Momentum and other groups have set up support units for suspended party members and to offer legal advice. Jewish Voice for Labour has launched legal action against the Labour Party challenging the General Secretary’s right to send threatening circulars to local parties.
It’s shocking that so many Labour activists have been threatened with disciplinary action for upholding the right of their members to discuss issues of vital importance to the future direction of the Labour Party. But it’s also inspiring that so many individual members and their CLPs refuse to be cowed into silence and continue to uphold basic values of solidarity and speaking truth to the powerful. Thousands of party members, enthused by the wave of hope that saw Jeremy Corbyn come to the party leadership, are now beginning to drop out of the party as they see the direction Starmer is trying to take it. But hundreds of thousands remain and they are the best hope of building socialist change in this country.