Labour Party

Restore the Whip to Jeremy Corbyn

Rachel Garnham, of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, calls for accountability of the PLP to Labour Party Conference.

Recent elections provide all the evidence needed that Keir Starmer and his acolytes need to urgently change course. Disastrous results, backed up by terrible polling for Starmer which also shows that Labour is, predictably, losing huge swathes of votes, particularly amongst young people; but that Labour can win where it can energise and inspire a broad coalition, such as in Wales, and demonstrate that it is standing up to the Westminster government.

A real dive in Starmer’s poll rating began in autumn 2020, coinciding with the unprecedented and deeply factional decision to remove the Whip from Labour’s former Leader who had inspired a generation and achieved Labour’s highest number of votes this century.

With disciplinary procedures concluded and with mass support in both the Party and his constituency, Jeremy Corbyn is a member of the Labour Party and a Member of Parliament, yet is still without the Labour Whip and Labour is haemorrhaging votes.

This is wrong. It is time to bring this sort of decision-making under the control of our sovereign body – Annual Conference. The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) is seeking a change to Labour’s Rule Book which will bring greater democracy to the decisions currently taken unaccountably and seemingly without due process behind closed doors. We need to ensure our grassroots members and trade unionists are empowered to hold these rulings to account so that decisions are made openly and democratically in the interests of the wider movement.

Currently the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) is not required to be accountable to the party. It does not even submit a written report to Labour’s Annual Conference. The conference receives no detailed account of the work the PLP has been carrying out to advance the Labour Party’s policy or programme, nor any information on any PLP disciplinary action taken against Labour MPs. Neither the NEC Report nor the Leader’s Speech to Annual Conference go into such matters.

CLPD’s rule change would add an item to the agenda of Labour’s Annual Conference, obliging the PLP to make a proper report, including on discipline. This would enable Conference to express its view on some of the decisions taken, if that was deemed necessary.

The rule change relates to the Parliamentary Labour Party, not the Party’s own disciplinary processes, so scare-mongering of the sort we have seen only demonstrates the barrels that are being scraped to oppose this rule change. It is the same type of argument we heard repeatedly over Open Selections – essentially grassroots members and trade unions can’t be trusted and MPs know best.

Too many Labour MPs seem completely out of touch, still obsessed with fighting Jeremy Corbyn, not recognising they need to train their fire on the Tories. Many lives are still being devastated in this pandemic and living standards are being significantly reduced. Hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs, and half of all workers have already experienced a real pay cut. The Party’s response in Parliament does not adequately address the scale of problems people are going through.

To reverse the decline and start rebuilding Labour support we need the PLP to change its orientation and provide an opposition to the government and put the Party back in touch with members and voters. It is a long-standing flaw in the party’s internal democracy that makes it too easy for MPs to be detached from the challenges faced outside the privileged circles of Parliament. Instituting a report to CLPs and affiliates at every conference would be a step in the right direction.

The entirely necessary first step along this path is to make the PLP accountable to the party at this year’s conference. CLPD’s rule change would introduce such democracy. If reports in the press are correct this could also see the whip restored to Jeremy Corbyn.

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