Thousands of Labour members and supporters are likely to be denied a vote in the current leadership election as a result of a new wave of suspensions and expulsions by the Party bureaucracy. Despite such manoeuvres and machinations, however, the latest polling figures indicate that Corbyn is set to gain an even bigger democratic mandate by achieving another landslide victory.
With voting in the latest Labour leadership contest currently in full-swing, thousands of Labour members and supporters are likely to be denied a vote in the election as a result of a new wave of suspensions and expulsions by the Party bureaucracy. This comes on the back of a series of appalling decisions by the right-wing Party machinery over the past couple of months, designed to disenfranchise new members – particularly Corbyn supporters.
Despite such manoeuvres and machinations, however, not to mention a barrage of attacks by Corbyn’s opponents in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and the right-wing press, the latest polling figures indicate that Corbyn is set to gain an even bigger democratic mandate by achieving another landslide victory.
From day one of the attempted coup against the Labour leader the Blairite wing of the Party in Westminster and the Labour HQ have shown themselves to be the most unscrupulous back-stabbers and bureaucrats, with scant regard for any democracy, inclusivity, and involvement in the Labour Party. Indeed, why would these ladies and gentlemen who believe that the Party is their own private property – a vehicle for their careers and privileges – have any desire to see hundreds of thousands of new members join and become active in what has now become Europe’s largest political party?
First came the co-ordinated but incompetent coup attempt itself, designed to forcibly remove Corbyn without a democratic contest, which quickly stalled in the face of a mass rebellion from the Labour grassroots. Next up were the enormous efforts by the right wing to prevent Corbyn, the incumbent, from standing in any new leadership election. An army of expensive lawyers were brought out to argue that 2+2=5 in a vain attempt to argue that the Labour leader would be required to gain the support of over 50 MPs in order to take part in the contest. But, again, democracy prevailed and the Labour National Executive Committee (NEC) ruled in favour of giving Corbyn a place on the ballot.
With their thirst for bureaucratic manoeuvres unsated by these failed bids to topple Corbyn, the Party hierarchy has taken on the Party’s rank-and-file. Unable to chop off the head of the movement, they have turned the aim of their attacks towards the body that supports it. 130,000 new members that have joined since January of this year were arbitrarily told that they would not be entitled to a vote in the latest leadership election. Despite these members successfully winning a legal challenge in the High Court, the Party Establishment went to great efforts to prove their bureaucratic credentials by later overturning this decision through the Court of Appeal.
On top of these remarkable endeavours to remove Corbyn and deny new – predominantly Corbyn-supporting – members a vote, every attempt has been made by the right wing to prevent thousands more from the Corbyn movement from having a say in the latest leadership election. In spite of the vastly inflated price-tag of £25, over 180,000 people signed up as registered supporters within just 48 hours in order to gain a vote in the new contest, many of them new members who had found themselves disenfranchised by the decision to exclude recent joiners. Again, the bureaucracy fought back, and 50,000 of these registered supporters were deemed ineligible; the majority on grounds that they were not on the electoral roll (despite a number of reported cases of people since proving that they are in fact on the electoral lists), but many due to ridiculous claims by Party apparatchiks that these new supporters are believed not to “support Labour’s aims and values”.
Such lamentable excuses and spurious accusations are now being trotted out again (no pun intended) as part of another wave of exclusions, with many left-wing Labour members finding not ballot papers in their mail boxes, but letters of suspension and expulsion, dearly addressed from Iain McNicol, the general secretary of the Labour Party.
Not only are members finding themselves “auto-excluded” on grounds that they have shown prior support – in some cases, in comments on social media from years ago – for other parties (God forbid anyone changes their political allegiance on the basis of events!), but many are falling victim to new rules banning certain words in debates and discussions. Rather than organising to fight the Tories, it seems the Labour Party right wing is more interested in utilising the resources of the Party to trawl through Facebook and Twitter searching for “inappropriate language”. Included in the list of unacceptable terms is the use of “traitors” or “scabs” in describing the treacherous and perfidious actions and behaviour of the careerist creatures in the PLP. Indeed, even the word Bl***ite has been banned!
Social media is already humming with weird and wonderful examples of Labour members being excluded for “bizarre reasons” – the most notable and ludicrous of which is the case of one women who has been denied a vote due to her enthusiastic proclamation on Facebook that she “f**king loves the Foo Fighters”, a fairly inoffensive and uncontroversial American rock-band (depending on your music tastes).
This is why I’ve been barred from the #Labour Party. #LabourPurge2 – incredible stuff pic.twitter.com/gfkMV7zPB0
— Ben (@Ben_Crawf) August 28, 2016
A number of Socialist Appeal supporters, alongside many other Corbyn supporters, have already been caught in this bureaucratic net, in a continuation of the McCarthyist witch-hunt that began last year and which intensified around May of this year with the expulsion of at least half-a-dozen Socialist Appeal activists.
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has come out firmly again such suspensions and expulsions, rightly calling them out for what they are: a “rigged purge of Jeremy Corbyn supporters”. Commenting on the recent suspension of Ronnie Draper, the general secretary of the (Corbyn-backing) bakers’ union and one of the most high-profile victims of #LabourPurge2, McDonnell correctly highlighted the extreme hypocrisy and double-standards being deployed by the Party machinery, with millionaire New Labour donors such as Lord Sainsbury being allowed to retain their membership, despite providing enormous sums to rival parties:
“While Ronnie, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, has been denied his say in Labour’s election, no action is being taken over the Labour peer, Lord Sainsbury, who has given more than £2 million to support the Liberal Democrats.”
The Labour leader himself has also raised criticisms of the opaque, Kafka-esque process by which members are being suspended – a process clearly designed to remove as many Corbyn supporters as possible from having a say in the future of the now over-500,000-strong Labour Party.
Victory in sight
Alas, it seems that such efforts by the Blairite bureaucracy to impede the Corbyn movement will ultimately be to no avail, with latest polling figures showing that the anti-austerity incumbent is on course to actually increase his percentage vote compared to last year. In the results of a survey released yesterday, polling firm YouGov predicting that Corbyn will receive 62% of the votes from Labour’s “selectorate” of members, affiliated trade unionists, and registered supporters – a rise on last summer’s landslide win with around 60%.
Added to this is the massive 84% of nominations that Corbyn has received from local Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs), not to mention the backing of important trade unions such as Unite and Unison.
According to the latest YouGov figures, Corbyn retains the backing of all sections of Labour members and supporters, with an estimated 52% of the membership’s vote, 54% of trade unionists’ votes, and a massive 70% of votes from registered supporters. Meanwhile, it seems that his only challenger, Owen Smith, barely has the confidence of his own supporters: whilst 56% of Corbyn supporters believe that he and his anti-austerity, anti-war programme can lead Labour to victory in the next general election, only 33% of Smith supporters believe that this “normal guy” can achieve the same with his programme of “radical” promises.
Corbyn’s estimated 24% lead over the Blairite-backed Smith means that even with the latest purge, victory seems all-but assured. As YouGov themselves admit, “whilst the effects and scale of Labour party membership suspensions also has the potential to make a difference…Nevertheless, Team Corbyn will be pleased by the security afforded by the double digit lead they are currently sitting on.” Indeed, with a total selectorate of well-over half-a-million, the magnitude of the purge would have to be in the order of tens-of-thousands to decisively prevent another crushing Corbyn win.
Whilst the potential for a Corbyn defeat on the basis of such large-scale gerrymandering and shenanigans cannot be ruled out, it does seem unlikely. More likely now is a desire amongst the Labour right wing to erode Corbyn’s lead through these manoeuvres, and thus pave the way for attacks against the Labour leader’s democratic mandate in the wake of the election. In this respect, the best the Blairites can hope for now is to strengthen their position and cause the upmost confusion amongst Labour members in advance of a right-wing Labour split.
Even if a full-on purge is capable of overthrowing Corbyn, an Owen Smith victory on this basis would leave the usurper with zero legitimacy in the eyes of the membership. Indeed, the YouGov figures indicate that whilst 172 Labour MPs have expressed no confidence in the current Labour leader, only 18% of rank-and-file members would be willing to split away and join a new New Labour – an SDP Mark II. This figure falls to only 6% amongst those who have joined in the past year, since Corbyn became leader. By contrast, only 42% of members said they would remain in a Labour Party led by Owen Smith, if Corbyn was bureaucratically denied victory, whilst 47% of new members would be willing to join a new Corbyn-led party.
Vote for Corbyn! Fight for Socialism!
Despite an endless campaign of smears and slanders by the billionaires, the bureaucrats, and the Blairites, therefore, Corbyn – and the Corbyn movement – has emerged strengthened from the turbulent events of the past couple of months. This crusade by the Establishment in the PLP and the press has gone from the farcical to the furious, with the mud-slinging of the so-called “TrainGate” fiasco and the latest desperate Labour purge only serving to increase the support for the Labour leader. For example, according to the latest YouGov data, 59% claimed they maintained a “positive view” of Jeremy Corbyn or had an even “more positive view” of him as a result of the recent attacks and accusations by Richard Branson, the knighted tax-dodging billionaire owner of the Virgin Group.
Elsewhere, the same figures show that Corbyn’s support as leader has increased throughout the last two months as he has weathered the storm of Blairite criticisms. After taking an initial fall in the immediate aftermath of Brexit and the attempted Blairite coup, the proportion who believe Corbyn is doing well as Labour leader has steadily risen, from 51% at the end of June, to 55% at the end of July and 57% in the latest survey results. Meanwhile, a firm majority of 52% of the Labour selectorate believe Corbyn should stay on to lead Labour into the next general election – a turnaround on previous figures.
At the same time, the scandalous behaviour of Labour’s right-wing MPs has put their own position under threat. The question of sweeping reforms to democratise the Labour Party and put power in the hands of ordinary members is now firmly back on the agenda. According to those surveyed by YouGov, the Labour selectorate supports the demand for mandatory reselection of MPs by 48% to 43%. This figure rises to a massive 65% in favour of reselection amongst those who have become members since Corbyn became leader, and still an impressive 52% amongst those who joined post-Miliband.
The Blairites, therefore, are preparing to jump before they are pushed. Paul Mason, the prominent left-wing journalist, has written an extensive piece detailing the evidence pointing towards the fact that the right wing is planning to split. Most notably, as we have also highlighted previously, are the noises emanating from a chorus of vocal capitalist media outlets. For example, “Just imagine”, the Bagehot columnist from the Economist comments, offering his advice to Blairites on how to go about splitting the party most effectively:
“On September 24th 2016, Jeremy Corbyn wins re-election. Within hours he moves to consolidate his control of the party. One-by-one, MPs start declaring their independence from their re-elected leader; eventually over 150 have done so. Local Labour Parties begin to split along leader-rebels lines. Staffers in Labour’s headquarters formally disregard Mr Corbyn. A True Labour declaration of independence and social democratic principles is promoted by leading MPs and Labour grandees like Mr Kinnock. A majority of Labour MPs rally around it and appoint a True Labour interim leader and shadow cabinet sporting the best of the party’s parliamentary talent (perhaps: Angela Eagle as leader, Rachel Reeves as shadow chancellor, Tom Watson as a continuity deputy leader). True Labour obtains recognition from John Bercow as the official opposition. Donors are sought and local branches established.”
It is becoming increasingly clear to anyone who has eyes to see that Labour, therefore, is heading for a split: with the vast majority of Labour’s rank-and-file backing the democratically elected leader and his left-wing programme, on one side; and a cabal of right-wing gangsters in the PLP, with the backing of big business and the entire British Establishment, on the other.
This is the perspective that the inspiring Corbyn movement must prepare for. Already this summer we have seen enormous rallies and meetings across the country in support of Corbyn’s leadership, drawing in both the thousands in big cities such as Liverpool, Sheffield (see video below) and London (see report below), and the hundreds in smaller towns such as Matlock in Derbyshire, where a large crowd turned out to see Corbyn a couple of weeks ago. The task now is to turn these numbers into an organised force, capable of transforming the Labour Party and reclaiming it as a vehicle for working class representation and socialist policies.
Beyond just campaigning for a Corbyn victory, therefore, Momentum and the trade unions should begin organising and planning for the turbulent situation that will open up after leadership election: campaigning for a democratisation of the Party, with the re-admittance of all those who have been suspended or expelled in the purges of the past year; training and educating candidates to replace the Blairite splitters as councillors and MPs – candidates willing to be workers’ representatives on a worker’s wage; and organising activists in every ward and constituency to defend Corbyn and fight for socialism.
- Stop the purge! Democratise the Party!
- Deselect the Blairites! For workers’ MPs on a worker’s wage!
- Vote for Corbyn! Fight for Socialism!
Thousands turn out in support of Corbyn in London rally
On a balmy Sunday evening last week, around 3,500 people came to the Ruach City Church in Kilburn to send a clear message to Owen Smith, his Blairite backers and their media hacks – Corbyn stays!
This was by no means the first of such events – we have had countless reports of similar rallies all over the country – but it was the last before ballots were sent to members and served to bolster the morale (not that it needed much of that – speakers had to pause regularly for peels of cheering and applause) and focus the minds of the activists present, in preparation for the next phase of the campaign.
The location of the rally wasn’t chosen simply for the size of the venue, as several of the speakers explained, including local councillor, Thomas Gardiner, Kilburn is one of the most deprived areas in the country. According to Gardiner, his constituents “die a decade earlier than those in neighbouring wards”. It also has a long history of Irish migration and has been witness not only to shocking discrimination but also inspiring struggle and solidarity between communities. A fitting place then for Corbyn to speak.
Other speakers included a member of the Young Labour Executive, Zarah Sultana, newly elected NEC member, Claudia Webbe, the former General Secretary of the NUT, Christine Blower, and the General Secretary of the TSSA, Manuel Cortes.
A “political revolution”
Of particular note was Webbe’s speech, in which she said the election of Corbyn in September was “not just a political wake up but a political revolution”. This had audience members on their feets, clapping and cheering. Cortes went on to stress the importance of having a socialist leader and the fact that “something has fundamentally changed in society”. There was an excited and positive atmosphere throughout the hall and many clearly felt they were involved in something big.
As for the main event – Corbyn used his speech to firstly make the point that under the Tories, the poorest and most vulnerable have been deliberately hit hardest, but also, and perhaps even more importantly, he explained that working people, when given the opportunity have great ideas about how to run the economy and the country in a fairer, more democratic and environmentally friendly way.
We thoroughly agree with this and believe it hints at something much greater – a society in which millions of working people, not a handful of bankers and ‘entrepreneurs’ like Richard Branson, have control over society’s vast wealth and resources and democratically plan the economy for the benefit of all. This is Socialism. The essence of Corbyn’s campaign is the idea that together we can change society – with a clear socialist program we can do just that.
- Vote for Corbyn! Fight for Socialism!
- Forward to victory!
Estimated 2,500 in attendance at the “Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire”
Despite the heavy rain in the morning that threatened to wash out the event. 2,500 (Daily Mirror estimate) braved the weather to come to the Corbyn rally outside Sheffield City Hall. At one point Momentum Organisers were even handing out free waterproof Ponchos for attendees! Despite this the atmosphere was that of great positivity and enthusiasm, and the sun came out shining moments before Corbyn began to speak. It almost looked planned.
The speakers were all well received, and overall the event went very well. It should be noted that none of Sheffield’s 5 MPs spoke, despite the size and significance of the rally. When Corbyn left he was mauled by adoring fans; the Mirror has since responded with a very sour article calling it “hero worship”. The crowd seemed to be very diverse, both racially and in terms of age which runs refreshingly contrary with the stereotyped trope of Corbyn supporters. All in all, the event was a success and Sheffield City centre was filled with cheers of “Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy” and “Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire!”