Labouring the Point: The Purge Has Gone Too Far


Labour’s bizarre policing of their leadership election has been strikingly reminiscent of a certain Orwellian novel.

In a move that has angered many people, large numbers have been banned from voting in the ongoing Labour leadership election. Perhaps surprisingly, lifelong Labour activists who have been members of the party for many years have been included in the scandalous purge, which is seeing an ever-increasing number of voices muffled in the upcoming vote – with some even being expelled just for daring to have political convictions. MP Andrew MacKinlay has even gone as far to suggest that the purge wouldn’t be happening if Corbyn wasn’t appearing to be standing head and shoulders above the other candidates as the outright winner.

These fresh attacks shine a light on the obviously parlous state of the Labour Party’s internal democracy. You might as well not have a contest at all if party elites like Chuka Ummana and Tristram Hunt can conspire to stage a coup against an election result in the event that they don’t like the outcome. Moreover it reveals that magnates at Progress and their acolytes in control of the party in Westminster fear that grass-roots democracy has gone too far in propelling an unorthodox candidate – Jeremy Corbyn – to a platform where he can throw a spanner in the machine and spoil the show.

The tremendous organisational effort behind his campaign is a testament to the strength and vision of the party’s grassroots, and his classic left-of-centre, social democratic policies have inspired the biggest surge in membership anyone can remember. He has won massive support within the party for his no cuts, anti-austerity stand and amongst the general membership his message has thrived; but the robots in power will do anything to tear him down.

Most disturbingly, the reasoning that members and supporters can be denied voting rights because they ‘don’t support Labour values’ seems disturbingly consonant with the idea of  ‘thought-crime’. Punishing thought-crime was a strategy used by ‘the Party’ in George Orwell’s 1984 to persecute independent thinking and therefore maintain absolute political control, and to keep a steely grip on which ideas can be accepted. What the party really means to say when they accuse members of not supporting Labour values because they explicitly support Corbyn is simply that they are worried about their voting preference, giving lie to the illusion of internal democracy.

There is little to no logic in the claim that people with strong socialist values who support trade unions, who are against austerity, who oppose the transfer of public goods to private hands and who are opposed to involvement in foreign wars are incompatible with membership of the Labour Party. It shouldn’t seem divisive to claim that a movement founded by the combined struggle of socialist Kier Hardie and the burgeoning trade-union movement might need to be taken back out of the hands of an unjust, undemocratic, unaccountable cabal of careerists who attack working people’s rights, privatise the commons, and make war for profit.

I support Corbyn because his policies of free education, nationalisation and investment in public goods seem like the sorts of ideas that ought to be debated, and that’s what I think Corbyn would bring, a more balanced debate between left and right.

No politics, no campaign, however idealistic they may be, can entirely remove the threat of rank corruption and deception, but if Jeremy Corbyn is announced as a winner on September 12th his success will go some way to engendering real transformation, towards a politics which is founded on inclusion and debate, instead of exclusion, censorship and repression.


Discussion4 Comments

  1. avatar

    I’m afraid your opinion is littered with hyperbole. These large numbers of people who have been excluded from the leadership ballot are a very small 3,000 or so individuals. In an electorate of around 550,000 this makes up 0.5%. 0.5%, it’s almost statistically insignificant!

  2. avatar

    It’s an opinion peice I get that, but I believe the view you have put across is neither fair nor proportionate.

    “shine a light on the obviously parlous state of the Labour Party’s internal democracy”

    What is so obviously parlous about opening up the leadership election to hundreds of thousands of people who are not party members? In my view you have conveniently ignored the fact that nearly 300,000 non party members are having a vote in this election. That is evidence enough that in actual fact reforms to the internal party democracy have enfranchised more voters than any other party in the UK!

    “There is little to no logic in the claim that people with strong socialist values who support trade unions, who are against austerity, who oppose the transfer of public goods to private hands and who are opposed to involvement in foreign wars are incompatible with membership of the Labour Party”

    Who has made this claim? It’s not accurate! This sentence seems to indicate that the remaining individuals who haven’t been excluded to do not hold these values. You do a great disservice to those of us who have stayed in the Party to fight for change from within and have worked to win to improve people’s lives.

    My view is that you have come to this peice from the viewpoint of someone who just doesn’t like the Labour Party. Jeremy is a lot of things, and there are many people who don’t think he is good person to lead the Party, what I will say is that he has been Labour through and through all his life. Stuck with the party through thick and thin and in my view that is an admirable quality and not one that is shared with the individuals who have been excluded from the eleciton, and that exclusion is no bad thing.

  3. avatar

    Your view is wrong. I am not simply someone who just doesn’t like the Labour Party. I am aware of the efforts of Labour councillors and MPs and most of them seem to be passionate campaigners concerned by social justice. However I am frustrated by their record on voting for cuts. And that is fair enough.

    Also you’re missing the point that individuals who have been excluded from voting include people who have stuck with Labour through thick and thin, real deal activists who have never abandoned the party. How is it fair that they’ve been struck off?! And value pluralism is a good thing, you know.

    Admittedly you are right that opening up voting to non-party members broadens the franchise, but desperate attempt to strike off pro-corbyn voters are just that, desperate.

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