Caught up in the Corbynista cull
Freshly purged from Labour, CHARLEY ALLAN calls for unity and calm at this weekend’s party conference opening
SO, I’ve been purged. My services to the Labour Party are no longer required. To all intents and purposes, I am an ex-member.
In an email on Wednesday evening, general secretary Iain McNicol informed me that I was in administrative suspension because of “comments you have made on social media, including between 10 April and 8 July 2016.”
I had half expected this. After reading and writing about so many members who had fallen foul of Labour’s retrospective “rudeness rules,” I knew a few of my own tweets might be flagged up — not to mention my weekly column.
It’s surely no coincidence that my ballot was already over three weeks late, despite multiple assurances from Labour that this was due to “admin error” and not because I was on any potential purge list.
Ironically, my re-reissued vote finally arrived by email on Wednesday afternoon, less than three hours before I received my suspension — the democratic equivalent of being dumped by text message.
I quickly discovered online that this was happening to lots of people, in what looks like a last-minute mega-purge for the final week of voting.
Conspiracies sprung up that Electoral Reform Services, which is responsible for this election, was telling Labour how everyone had voted, but the firm denies this — and to be fair most people make it pretty clear who they support online.
But even without the whiff of ballot-fishing, there’s something plain wrong about taking away a vote once it’s already been cast.
Labour’s had plenty of time to decide whether I’m worthy of membership. Disenfranchising me 10 days before the result simply adds insult to injury.
Going from the dates provided, it appears that my crimes include pointing out that Tony Blair had “hijacked” Labour in the past, calling non-specific MPs “traitors” and referring to “apartheid Israel” in both a tweet on April 10 and this column the next day.
While in hindsight I might have overused the T-word, especially on June 28 — aka “Coupsday Tuesday” — my Twitter comrade Angela McEvoy wrote it just once and still found herself suspended at the weekend. And the MPs themselves had taunted us as “Trots, rabble, dogs” for daring to rally around Jeremy Corbyn.
On Israel, I should’ve listened to myself — the piece in question warns: “Maybe I’ll be kicked out of Labour for saying all this.”
But the party’s rulebook makes it clear that members can’t be disciplined for “the mere holding or expression of beliefs or opinions,” so what else is going on?
My offending tweet took issue with former donor Michael Foster’s column that day in the Mail on Sunday, in which he accused Corbyn’s brother Piers of being a racist.
Foster, who failed in his High Court bid to keep Corbyn off the leadership ballot and was recently suspended for his “nazi stormtroopers” attack, objected to Piers tweeting: “Zionists can’t cope with anyone supporting rights for Palestine.”
The former showbiz agent’s logic went: “Try replacing the words ‘Zionists’ and ‘Palestine’ with ‘Blacks’ and ‘White South Africa’.”
OK then — “Blacks can’t cope with anyone supporting rights for White South Africa.”
Apart from not making sense, this inverts the correct analogy. When Jimmy Carter talks about apartheid in the Occupied Territories, he means that Palestinians suffer intolerable institutional discrimination by Israelis, not the other way round.
“White South Africa can’t cope with anyone supporting rights for Blacks” is much closer to the truth, as illustrated by the iconic 1984 photograph of a newly elected Corbyn being arrested in Trafalgar Square.
Maybe it was my hashtag #AntizionismIsNotAntisemitic that caused offence, in which case the piece itself should see me banned for life. Even so, they’ve had five months to let me know I’m not welcome.
In truth, the purge is out of control, but it’s heartwarming to see local Labour comrades — including my MP and councillors — rally round, as well as lovely Corbynistas online, many of whom are victims of the mass cull themselves.
As in other cases, prominent Corbyn-sceptics have shown solidarity in public, putting pressure on Owen “big M” Smith to speak out against the suspensions.
But the man himself seems more interested in tacitly defending the purge by fuelling suspicions that Momentum would be banned under his leadership, despite previous pleas to address its rallies.
“There is nothing comradely about setting up a party within a party,” Smith declared on Friday night, ignoring the Pfizer-funded influence of Blairite faction Progress.
“Momentum in Brighton and Liverpool — some of them exactly the same people as were in Militant all those years ago — organising to deselect a Labour MP,” he complained.
Calling for deselection is the new master-crime, yet everyone conveniently forgets Blair’s “show trials” against sitting left Labour MPs who were replaced by high-profile Progress members.
On Thursday, author Paul Mason was accused of bullying Labour Co-operative MP for Redcar Anna Turley by tweeting “deselect asap” in response to her defence of Tory ex-minister Anna Soubry.
Turley was one of several Smith-supporting MPs who tweeted their glee at Soubry’s spiteful attack on Question Time fellow panelist John McDonnell.
Soubry claimed female Labour MPs were “so frightened, humiliated, almost terrorised by Mr McDonnell and his gang they will leave politics,” adding that the shadow chancellor himself was “a nasty piece of work.”
Turley, who called Unite leader Len McCluskey an “arsehole” on Twitter in July but still has her vote, said Soubry “spoke the truth tonight” — prompting Mason to call for her deselection.
That’s not bullying or abuse, it’s part of the democratic process. If local members want to be represented by a different candidate at the next election, they have every right to make that decision, as does Mason to express his opinion.
What’s happened to the Labour Party — when eye-rolling isn’t allowed during debates, there’s a blanket ban on branch meetings and whole districts are suspended on trumped-up charges?
Loyal lifelong Labour members and supporters have been brought to tears by the smears, while the right’s plan is clearer than ever — provoke chaos at this weekend’s party conference opening.
However the vote goes, Corbynistas have to keep calm on Saturday.
Let’s just say the purge works and Smith steals this election — we would need an instant injunction and then ultimately be at the mercy of the Supreme Court, which wouldn’t look too kindly on a riot.
It’s far more likely that Corbyn will triumph, but his supporters are still outnumbered at conference — and under no circumstances should they be goaded by any angry, bitter and possibly drunk Owenites who don’t care about party unity and are looking to cause trouble.
Any violence in Liverpool, no matter who’s behind it, will be blamed on Momentum — and the right will use this as a pretext to proscribe the group and all its members.
We must also watch out for provocateurs in our own ranks, because spy cops aren’t only interested in trade unionists and environmental activists.
The world is watching and we can’t let Corbyn down.
Chat to Charley on Twitter: @charleyallan.
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