Sunday, August 23, 2015

Labour's new McCarthyism is already beyond a joke

MARK STEEL (second from left), canvassing for Labour.  But denied a vote in leadership contest.

 AS left-wing maverick Jeremy Corbyn continues his amazing race towards the Labour Party leadership, with the contest and his campaign particularly breathing new life into politics, bringing old members back as well as new members into the party, panic is setting in.

The contest is revealing a farcical underside, though those adversely affected might not see it as a joke.

Labour's Establishment and Blairite careerists view big public meetings cheering socialist policies with distaste.  Far from welcoming fresh young people coming to Labour with their hopes and enthusiasm, they view them with suspicion, as a threat.

Having changed the party's rules in the hope that left-wing activism and union influence could be swamped by having "supporters" register to vote in American-style primaries, where media-designed "personalities" would outweigh interest in making policies, they have sourly decided it did not work, and  are talking about having to change the rules again.

Meanwhile numerous reports are coming of people who applied to join the Labour Party, old members who rejoined, or those who registered as supporters, being told they are not acceptable, and will not be allowed to vote. Andy Burnham's campaign managers were telling reporters yesterday that he is concerned about Tories who might sneak in.  But there seems to be no evidence of this blue spectre, which some papers conjured up weeks ago, only to drop it. Whereas it is people with sound left-wing credentials and records of service to the labour movement who are being caught up in Labour's witch-hunt.

As with the original McCarthyism, this is hitting creative and well-liked people in entertainment, whom any Party in its right mind would be delighted to have on board. In a bit of name-dropping the other week I recalled standing in a bar queue with Jeremy Corbyn and comedian Jeremy Hardy during a benefit at the Red Rose Club in Finsbury Park some years back.

I hope it wasn't my doing, but Jeremy Hardy has reported this weekend that, having paid his £3 to the Labour Party, and stated that he supports Labour's aims and values, which should entitle him to vote, he has received a letter which said Labour had reason to believe that he "didn't support the aims and values" of the party.

Mark Steel, whose fast and funny performance delighted a packed audience at a Gaza benefit I attended during the Edinburgh Festival, had already received the same rejection notice from Labour. Mark's humorous take on topical subjects and willingness to travel brought him a loyal radio following. (The Mark Steel Solution, Mark Steel's in Town, BBC Radio Four). He used to be in the Socialist Workers Party, but packed them and their ways in years ago, without however ceasing to be a socialist, or a comedian with a conscience. I'd recommend his book "What's Going On?" (2008), as well as his witty column in the Independent.

At the last general election Mark Steel went out campaigning for the Labour Party. I don't know whether he got much publicity, but his help was appreciated and remembered by those who worked with him. Hearing that he had been denied a vote in the leadership contest, they started a petition       " We ask the NEC to re-consider this with a view to reinstating his full voting rights, as it is plain that Mark shares the values of the Labour party and is not in sympathy with any organisation that is against the said party.."

It isn't only the latecomers who are being turned away.
 Stephen Marsh
My wife has had her @UKLabour membership cancelled after 22 loyal years membership. She is v far from being an entryist #LabourPurge
And it isn't only people in the cultural fringe,like Mark,or film maker Ken Loach (who's another). Here's Mike Edwards, an engineering worker and trade unionist from Shropshire. 

Yesterday at 4.18am I received an email rejecting me as a Labour Party supporter and so making me ineligible to vote in the leadership elections.
After a long wait on the phone I finally spoke to a person from the Labour Party only to be told that they could not give me a reason why I had been rejected and that there is no right to appeal.
I said that I was willing to join the Labour Party today but was told that I would still be ineligible to vote. This is the Email I received from the Party

Dear Applicant,

Thank you for your recent application to become a Supporter of the Labour Party.
As part of the process to sign up as a Supporter all applicants are asked to confirm the following statement; I support the aims and values of the Labour Party, and I am not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it.
We have reason to believe that you do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party or you are a supporter of an organisation opposed to the Labour Party and therefore we are rejecting your application.
Although you may have received or may still receive a ballot paper, it will not work and if you do vote it will not be counted.
Should you wish to dispute rejection by the Labour Party you would have to submit and pursue an application to join Labour as a full member.

Kind Regards

The Labour Party

Sent by email from the Labour Party and promoted by Iain McNicol on behalf of The Labour Party, both at One Brewers Green, London SW1H 0RH.

A brief history of my involvement in the Labour movement.
• Joined the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers 1976
• Became a Union Representative 1978
• Union Branch Secretary 1987
• Labour Party Member 1984-1997
• Wellington (Shropshire) Branch Labour Party Chair
• Member of the Wrekin Labour Party General Management Committee
• Member of the Constituency Executive and Chair
• Stood as a Labour Party Candidate in Parish District and County Elections
• Delegate to Labour Party Conferences on many occasions.
• Married to Angela McClements (1979-97) currently Labour Party Councilor for Telford and Wrekin Council and formally Secretary to Bruce Grocott MP and Peter Bradley MP
• Currently Member of UCU
• Delegate to Telford and Shropshire Trades Council and executive member
• Employed as Senior Lecturer at Shrewsbury College of Arts and Technology in Trade Union Studies.
• I am not nor have I ever been a member of any other political party apart from the Labour Party.
At the recent General Election I supported and voted for the Labour Party candidate Katrina Gilman, one of my students. Delivered leaflets in support of Labours “aims and values” and helped organised 2 events in support of the Labour Party candidates in Shropshire.

I am disgusted but not surprised by the actions of the Labour Party to exclude me and many others from voting in the leadership election.Those in the Labour Party have initiated a witch-hunt among those who have signed up to vote and rejected their application need to look at themselves in the mirror and question if their actions are those of an individual or political party that truly believes in freedom, equality and democratic Socialism. I urge everyone to share my story on social media and those of you that have an opportunity to vote in the leadership election vote for Jeremy Corbin the only candidate that truly supports the aims of the Labour movement “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service”

In Solidarity Mike Edwards

Joan Twelves is a former Labour leader of Lambeth council, back in the days when it stood for something, opposing the Gulf War and the Poll Tax, and was regularly calumnied in the Tory press. Some will also know her as the widow of RMT militant Greg Tucker, also in his time a Labour councillor.  

Joan had this to say on Facebook
"I wrote this earlier today after walking round the neighbourhood and have hesitated about posting it as it will undoubtedly be used against me (I know how witch-hunts work....). However, I am still very very angry, so sod it -
Kennington - my patch, my manor - full of the expensive flipped flats of MPs and Lords (and those who aspire to those positions), financed and furnished by the taxpayer. Next door to council estates like mine where we live under the threat of market rents, bedroom taxes, benefit caps and 'regeneration'. I opposed the first Gulf War and was deemed to have brought the LP into disrepute; they waged the second Gulf War and have never been called to account. Some of them have stood and been elected as SDP/Lib Dems/Tories. I have never stood for any Party other than Labour. Their aims are personal enrichment and aggrandisement. Mine are to fight for the working class. They do not share Labour's values of equality, fairness, social justice, peace and solidarity; I do. They can vote for Anyone But Corbyn; but I am being banned from voting for my friend. I am very angry.

Credit should be given to MP Kate Hoey, not always in agreement with Joan Twelves, for speaking out against the exclusion and voting ban on her constituent.

Finally (for now), a word from Mike Cushman, a lecturer at the London School of Economics, whom I know as a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, and the British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), who went out to Gaza with books and equipment for universities when it was still possible to run the Israeli blockade. He's not the man to let things go.

Like many socialists I've been banned from the Labour election. The only way to support labour party values in the recent period hss been to support parties other than labour. Now there's a chance the party will move closer to the values that many of us believe in we are being proscribed without appeal.

I'm going to submit a DPA request for the information they hold on me so I can see the basis for their decision.

I encourage all the other banned people to do the same. 

DPA is the Data Protection Act, the same law under which the Consulting Association, gathering blacklists on building workers and others, was raided. And whether or not Mike or anybody else is able to get anywhere challenging Labour's blacklist this way, I'm sure with experience of industrial blacklisting will see the connection.

BTW, if anyone still wants to look into the issue of "infiltration" or entryism in Labour, here's something looking at this in another aspect:

And a taste of Mark Steel on the subject:

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