With their crackdown on party democracy, Labour’s reformers have become entrenched

If members cannot sit in the same room with each other without resorting to violence then the party is finished anyway

Image: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

As the opposing sides in the Labour Leadership battle settle down into an increasingly hostile verbal face off,  a brick through the window of Angela Eagle’s Wallasey constituency office has only increased the tension once more.

The fury of the response it’s triggered suggests that at this rate we’ll surely reach JEZCON1 on the finger-pointing escalation scale long before the leadership campaign ends in around 10 weeks time.

Though Jeremy Corbyn condemned all acts of violence and threats and called on members and supporters to ‘act with calm and treat each other with respect’, the next day his critics insisted that wasn’t enough.

Angela Eagle said he needed to get control of his supporters to make it stop. The implication isn’t just that Corbyn’s supporters are responsible, but that to be able to control them he must have knowledge or a way of finding out who has committed these crimes.

Ben Bradshaw went further, not even bothering with implications but directly accusing the people around Corbyn of controlling the ‘Momentum thugs he seemed sure were the culprits.

Of course Corbyn’s opponents are suffering abuse. Where the people responsible can be identified, perhaps by tracing the sender of a tweet for instance, they should be considered for expulsion from the party and criminal charges where it’s appropriate.

John McDonnell, Corbyn’s Shadow Chancellor was unwise to comment ‘as plotters, they were fucking useless about his fellow MPs. Not because he’s wrong but because it’s premature triumphalism, and mostly because his tone coarsens the level of the debate.

We certainly do need calming words from both sides right now.

Having said that, Corbyn’s statement mentioned he too has received death threats. The question arises, why if he is responsible for his supporters are Eagle et al not responsible for theirs?

There was no sense that Eagle felt she had to get control of her supporters and stop whatever excesses they were involved in. It’s clear Corbyn is expected to satisfy a more stringent standard of behaviour than the self-styled moderates are prepared to apply to themselves.

Similarly in the previous insistence he should resign because of his defeat in the PLP vote of no confidence, I don’t expect any of his opponents will feel duty-bound to resign their seats if their CLP pass a vote of no confidence in them either.

This last point has become a hypothetical one in the last couple of days. The NEC have of course now suspended CLP meetings until the campaign is over, ostensibly to ensure the safety of all concerned. I suspect there’s more to it.

For all the evident bad blood, if members cannot sit in the same room with each other without resorting to violence then the party is finished anyway.

It does have the happy side effect for some of guaranteeing none of the CLPs can vote no confidence in their MP.

The decision was taken in an NEC session which contained another vote Robert Peston compared to  ‘gerrymandering‘ by Corbyn’s opponents. That vote was not on the agenda and was taken after Corbyn and a couple of his supporters had left, resulting in party members who had joined in the last six months being ineligible to vote in the leadership election.

This is a clue to the attitudes of those insisting on the removal of Corbyn. It’s striking that those supporting the challenger MPs don’t view Corbyn supporters as real Labour at all.

New members, registered supporters and affiliates are commonly regarded as entryists, probably not acting in the interests of the party. Therefore it’s a good thing to exclude them from the vote.

Their enthusiasm and drive isn’t viewed as an opportunity to energise the party but as a threat, to be feared. Perhaps they may change the party’s focus, they might change its outlook.

Change is to be feared too, despite the increasingly thinner electoral gruel in recent years from sticking to the same old playbook, and here is the nub of it. This is about ownership.

Labour belongs to these people personally and more generally to the views they hold and policies they espouse. Their objection is that only they hold the route to victory. No other way can succeed.

Their old truths are unchangeable, even in a world changing so fast it’s currently impossible to predict what will happen even from one day to the next.

The modernisers have become the ones stuck in the past. The reformers have become entrenched.

Mark Brophy is a writer and blogger who lives in Newcastle upon Tyne

6 Responses to “With their crackdown on party democracy, Labour’s reformers have become entrenched”

  1. Paul Watson

    How ironic
    “Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) have ruled that all Constituency Labour Party (CLP) meetings are to be cancelled until after the leadership election.
    Check it out – Tolpuddle Martyrs/Unlawful Assembly/1834

  2. Barrie Thompson

    With over 60 years in the Labour and Cooperative movement together with over 40 years training volunteers in community organisations not only have I seen and combated entrists into the Labour Party from those wishing to control or do harm to my party and some of the methods used raising items demanding a vote that were not on the agenda was common when known opponents had left the meeting was common ruse in my view it is totally out order for the Chair of the meeting to even allow discussion let alone a vote therefore the decision not to allow those who were not full members until after January should and could be challenged. Even though I am not in favour of trying to attract members for a low fee just to elect a new leader only those who have paid the full membership whether that is £25 or a smaller fee based on age or employment which should have been endorsed by local branch.

  3. Steve Mizzy

    Corbyn needs to simply and very clearly state that ANY party member found to have committed acts beyond what is acceptable behaviour will be instantly expelled from the party. Its that simple. He needs to make it clear to all sides, that intimidation, threats, bullying and violence have no place in the party and that anyone found to have committed such acts will be removed.
    That’s leadership.
    Over to you, Jeremy…………

  4. David Lindsay

    Owen Pfizer is obviously a decoy to make even Angela Hawk appear at least relatively left-wing. But we are now living in an age when the private health industry, openly and without artifice, fields its own candidate for the office of Leader of the Labour Party. And no one in the official media considers that worth raising with him. It is just par for the course. As is the fact that NHS privatisation could never happen in Owen Smith’s own constituency, which is in Wales.

    Meanwhile, the man who is already privatising the English NHS in the interests of his and Smith’s past, present and future employers survives as Secretary of State for Health. Even while so many of his Cabinet colleagues are sacked that those now comprise the Government’s majority in the House of Commons. What a time to be alive.

  5. Richard Bridge

    Mr Mizzy – first, JC does not have that power, so your comment is foolish. Secondly, if it were possible so simply to expel members of the party, the 172 quislings should have gone long ago. I fear you must be a Bliarite.

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