Letter to Iain McNicol: Why are ordinary Labour members suspended whilst high profile members are contravening your guidelines with impunity?
Wednesday 21st September 2016
Dear Mr McNicol,
I am a member of the Labour Party and so have a vested interest in ensuring that fair process is followed in this leadership election.
Although I have various reservations about the way you are pursuing members wishing to vote, I am limiting my concern here to the inconsistency in the way we are being treated. There is an imperative in a party which values democracy that the entire process should be open, transparent and fair for all. But this election appears to have lost respect for these basic principles.
Many members have not received ballot papers at all — without explanations and despite pressing for them. Many more have been suspended; again often without explanation. Those that have received an explanation seem to have been judged by different standards. Anecdotally those who support Corbyn appear more likely to be purged than a Smith supporter for a similar ‘offence’. And it appears also that a tougher standard is set for the ordinary voter than for their higher profile counterparts.
Looking at a number of the better-known party members — MPs, Peers and (ex) Labour Party employees — who have clearly contravened your own regulations, there appears to be no rhyme nor reason why they do so with impunity. Those with status within the party, who benefit financially and/or from the kudos of their positions, should, if anything, be more accountable. The fact that they are seen to get away with abuse that inevitably has a wider impact, whilst ordinary members lose their votes for the same or less, would be wrong in any party. In the Labour Party it is an anathema.
Apart from the Corbyn-supporting councillors in Bristol — few elected/selected representatives of the Labour Party appear to have been suspended; yet the high profile members I am asking you to consider, have unquestionably crossed the lines you have drawn:
Complaints re Specific High Profile Party Members
From the many insulting comments meted out on social media by MPs and the like, I have chosen a limited number to complain about: those that have a direct parallel with tweets that have resulted in suspension of ordinary members; those that have had a particularly wide impact; or those from individuals who are regularly abusive from an elevated position. They have been set out below and examined against the various guidelines you have issued both to party members and NEC panel members — in particular that conduct must be ‘calm’, ‘polite’ and ‘respectful’ and that there should be no ‘abuse’ of any kind, including ‘misogyny’ and ‘foul language’. I have also noted from the guidelines that the use of the word ‘traitor’ has led to automatic suspension. (Leadership Election 2016, Validation and Verification Process).
If the NEC finds that any of the comments below contravene your guidelines please either suspend those responsible from the party irrespective of their position within it, discounting any vote they may have made in the Leadership election ; or reinstate those other members who have been suspended from the party on equivalent grounds. If the NEC finds that the comments below do not contravene your guidelines, I request a full, detailed explanation from the relevant NEC panel as to how that decision has been reached.
(NB Screenshots of the tweets and relevant links can be provided if requested).
1. John McTernan MP — Tweet:
(Re Jeremy Corbyn) “ Do I need to actually say it. A traitor to our nations values will never ever be Prime Minister and is unfit to lead the Labour Party. “
2. Alastair Campbell ex Labour government employee — Tweet:
“Have you always been a twat or just since Corbyn…”
3. Tom Blenkinsop MP — Tweet
“Corbynites, momentum and the rest of the hard left get out of the peoples party”
4. Cllr John Ferrett — Tweet:
“Corbyn is the leader yet he’s prepared to put our national security at risk — that’s why he’s a traitor.”
5. Ian Austin MP — Westminster:
(i) “Shut up and sit down” (To Jeremy Corbyn MP in Parliament on Iraq casualties).
(ii) Ian Austin MP –Tweet:
“This row about Ken Livingstone and Hitler is unfair. One was a horrible extremist obsessed with Jews. The other was leader of Nazi Germany”
(I understand Austin has apologised to Ken Livingstone. Did he avoid suspension by apologising? If so, would an apology be enough reinstate other party members?)
6. Owen Smith MP
(i) Describing the 18,000 Labour members who have joined Momentum as parasitic, (Guardian Fri 16th Sept 2016):
“They are trying to use our movement as a host body, seeking to occupy it, hollow it out….when you throw it aside like a dead husk”
(ii) Speech in Rotherham 27/7/16 :
Smith explains that he wants to “smash her [Theresa May] back on her heels”
7. Jess Phillips MP
(i) In response to my own tweeted challenge to Jess Phillips in March 2016 re her antagonism towards Jeremy Corbyn over the legal position of prostitutes, she tweeted a blog by a sex-worker, headed: ‘Cunting Corbyn’. Phillips used the young woman’s anger to express and validate her own abusive opinion of Corbyn (and his supporters).
Tweet sent by Phillps: “ Cunting Corbyn “ Plus blog (rosaliehaynes.wordpress.com).
(ii) In her interview with Owen Jones: ‘ I won’t knife you (Jeremy Corbyn) in the back I’ll knife you in the front”. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TcLhDTUxVs
8. Baron Lewis Moonie — Labour Peer
“May I gently suggest that you learn a bit more about our rules before making a total arse of yourself?
“Learn the rules before insulting our intelligence . Oh and go fuck yourself. That polite enough for you?
I look forward to hearing from you.