Marxist activists expelled from Labour conference

Several backers of banned group Socialist Appeal were escorted off the premises by security guards, the group claims.

Several supporters of the Marxist group Socialist Appeal have been kicked out of Labour’s conference in Brighton.

Jonathan Lees, Labour conference delegate for Leeds Central CLP, was escorted by security guards off of the conference floor on Saturday, after the party became aware he was a supporter of Socialist Appeal. The group claims his name was taken by police. He has also been expelled from the party.

Two other activists for the Marxist group, Alex Charlton and Kate Osborne, tried to get into conference but was removed, despite being local party delegates.  

Several more conference delegates were reportedly suspended from the party on the eve of conference for membership of the group, which was banned from the Labour party in June, alongside three other organisations which were accused of promoting anti-Semitism. Socialist Appeal’s ban was arguably the most controversial of the proscriptions, triggering dissent from some left-wing Labour NEC members.  

Socialist Appeal says examples of the evidence used to justify the conference expulsions includes: membership of Facebook groups, being interviewed by Socialist Appeal, and wearing the group’s t-shirts.

Kate Osborne said in a statement: “The ongoing purge of Marxists, Socialists and many more, is designed to weaken the Left and to make safe the Labour Party from Socialism and return it to being a party of big business.” 

John McDonell MP defended some of the activists, writing before conference: “Reports coming in of several constituency delegates to conference receiving last minute notices from Labour HQ threatening disciplinary action & barring them attending Labour Party conference. It’s opening up the party bureaucracy to accusations of vote fixing. Beyond farce.”

Socialist Appeal calls itself the ‘Marxist voice of Labour and youth’, and is vehemently opposed to Keir Starmer’s leadership, pushing CLP motions calling for him to quit.

Writers for the Marxist group’s newspaper allege they were ‘banned’ from Labour conference. Socialist Appeal editorial board members Rob Sewell and Adam Booth applied for press access but this year were denied approval, due to being supporters of the group.

Both are registered members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Socialist Appeal says. The NUJ general secretary contacted Labour HQ, and was given the following reply:

“Rob Sewell and Adam Booth informed us that their work would be for Socialist Appeal. As you are probably aware, Labour’s NEC recently proscribed Socialist Appeal as a political organisation that does not share Labour’s aims and values.

“We are fully committed to supporting press freedom and we have accredited more than 1,200 UK and international staff and freelance journalists for this year’s conference, including some who work for politically aligned outlets. But we do not feel obligated to provide media passes for people working on behalf of a proscribed political group.”

Sewell, editor of Socialist Appeal, branded it “an attack on freedom of the press”.

A Labour party source said Socialist Appeal’s claims of victimisation were ‘f*cking bollocks’.

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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