My [undelivered] email back to Christine Evangelou
This is my contribution to the depressing saga that is the slow death of the Labour Party. Or would have been, if the replies to campaign emails were actually monitored.
I received this email at some point on Saturday morning.
I’ll be honest. It really wound me up. Other than shouting into the void by replying to the generic candidates email address, I didn’t know what to do. So I shouted into the void anyway, and it was quite cathartic.
Then I thought that I had spent the best part of an afternoon shouting into the void, so I forwarded Nik my email and a title, and asked him if he could work some magic, with him being a Silicon Valley mage Grade IV these days. This is what he cast [text below in nice readable font size]:
Thank you for the unsolicited personal email received directly through the “Jeremy for Labour” address. I have, obviously, heard of you. This is because I am both a member of the Labour Party and someone who keeps at least vaguely abreast of current affairs. Unfortunately this summer these have included the existential crisis in the Labour Party. A party that is over 100 years old, formed to protect the interests of working people, and which has been the only effective means of securing sporadic bursts of justice for the millions of people shut out of life chances by all those decades of Tory rule.
I hope you won’t mind a direct response. The title of your email was “They stopped me voting for Jeremy”. If by “they”, you mean Lord Justice Beatson, Lady Justice Macur and Lord Justice Sales, comprising the Court of Appeal, then I am afraid that after having read every sentence of the fifty-six paragraphs in the appeal judgment, I already know very well that the Court did no such thing.
In the Court’s judgment, you are mentioned once by name. Mr Corbyn is mentioned not at all. The Court of Appeal’s judgment, as your crowdfunded lawyers will no doubt have explained, is only about whether or not the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party is allowed to set the rules for leadership elections, and whether it can impose freeze dates. It is entitled to do both of those things. As General Secretary of the Labour Party, Iain McNicol was obviously entitled to defend that principle by appealing against Mr Justice Hickinbottom’s judgment in the High Court. It’s more than that, though. It would have been a dereliction of his duty if he had not brought the appeal. So I cannot accept, as someone who has been in the Labour party for years, that “the NEC appealing against the High Court decision was hugely disrespectful to members.”
However, trying to be fair-minded, I have to say that you and your fellow claimants had every right to feel aggrieved by the administrative shambles of the Labour Party machine and the misleading wording of the website. You were led to believe, when you joined, that you would be able to vote, and when the retrospective decision was taken to exclude recent joiners from voting, I can understand there would be a real and genuine feeling of injustice. I know many people who joined after Brexit who wanted to vote for Owen Smith, and weren’t able to. One of my friends (like you) was not able to pay the £25 to become a registered supporter or did not do so on principle, and cannot vote at all. I don’t know whether you will agree, though, that it’s strange I haven’t received any unsolicited personal emails headed “They stopped me voting for Owen.” I suppose we will just have to speculate as to why that might be.
Finally, you ask me to use my vote to restore democracy to the party. You tell me that only by voting for Mr Corbyn will this aim be achieved. You say it was unfair and undemocratic that you were not allowed to vote without paying the £25 to become a registered supporter. I agree with you, given what was shown on Labour’s website, that it is unfair that you cannot vote in the leadership election. You were told you could, you joined believing you could, and then had that apparent right taken away by the NEC’s decision. It was unfair. But was it undemocratic?
Democracy. What does it mean, in this context? Why should there be an inalienable democratic right to vote in a party’s leadership election regardless of how long people have been members? I don’t mean to be disrespectful. I don’t doubt your obvious passion for fighting injustice. But the rules are there for a reason, and it is clear from the Court of Appeal’s reasoning that an acceptable justification for freeze dates is that “members should be able to show by the length of their membership that they have not joined the Party simply to select a candidate.” You asked me in your email to”use my vote to restore democracy to this party”. The party should not have acted in a way that was unfair. But the unfairness came from the misleading statement on the website.
Giving the NEC the power to set the rules for elections protects party democracy by enabling it to guard against mass entry. I am not saying that has happened here, and I am absolutely not for a second saying you are an entryist. My point is that freeze dates guard against entryism, to ensure the integrity of party democracy. I am sure you would not disagree that you (a) joined the party weeks ago, and (b) instigated expensive and damaging legal action of the highest profile against it. For that reason, I will not be following your instruction on how to vote.
The Labour Party is my party. I fear that it is dying. I urge you to look not only at Jeremy’s limitations as a speaker, chair, team player and captain. I urge you to look at the motivations of those behind him, what they stand for, and look at history to see where this sort of campaigning leads. Electoral destruction. And without a Labour Party that is a credible alternative government, it will be decades more of Tory rule.
Yours in hope,