Open Letter to Iain McNicol, General Secretary of the Labour Party
Dear Iain McNicol,
After over a month of repeated telephone calls and emails to the Labour Party, several assurances that I had not been purged or blocked, and three re-issues of my ballot, I was relieved to receive my ballot on Wednesday 14 September. I voted the same day for Jeremy Corbyn. Three days later, on Saturday 17 September, I received your email explaining that my vote had been cancelled and that I was suspended from the Labour Party. The email was sent to someone called ‘Graham Scrambler’ but I am assuming it was me you had in mind.
Your email said it is regarded as unacceptable for members to use ‘racist, abusive or foul language or behaviour at meetings, on social media or in any other context’, and that I was guilty of an offence in this category. You then referred, more specifically, to ‘comments you have made on social media, including a post on 26 July’.
My sole engagement with social media is via twitter, so I looked up my tweets for 26 July. There were 14 of these, only three of which related to the Labour Party. Here is the trio:
‘Say publicly and repeatedly your leader is useless > polls slip down > say publicly and repeatedly that polls show your leader is useless.’
‘Labour plotters routinely abusing/bullying Corbyn but NEC not bothered. Also routinely critiquing OWN Labour Party with help of MSM.’
‘Mistake to think Blairites & Corbynites want the same things & disagree how best to get them. Blairites are Tory-lite. We need change!’
Needless to say, I stand by them. I imagine that the third might be the offending tweet because it includes a double-mention of the word ‘Blairites’. I know from colleagues on twitter that you are more sensitive to the negative deployment of terms like ‘Blairites’ and “Progress’ than you are of terms like ‘Corbynite’ and ‘Momentum’. It will be for you to explain why and to justify yourself at a later stage, critically of course, after the leadership election.
Now come on: re-read my third tweet and ask yourself out loud if it warrants suspension from the Labour Party. The word ‘pathetic’ springs to mind. If you have other tweets you do not mention in mind, then you will be obliged to specify these when responding to my forthcoming appeal. In this open letter I have a few opinions and words of advice to offer in the interim.
Let me start with an obvious point. Your betrayal of your present office is such that you will likely resign in the aftermath of the leadership election. The attempt to exclude the elected leader from the second leadership ballot despite his impressive mandate was an offence against natural justice. Your repeated attempts to exclude Labour Party members from voting in the leadership contest on the basis of non-random but contingent criteria fall into this same category. Just listen to your policies. Never mind what the Labour Party website states, you can only vote if you joined the Party before mid-January 2016. If you are a non-member, on the other hand, you can vote if you give us £25. Oh, and member or not, if you are eligible to vote we may check you out and if we don’t like what we find, we’ll remove your right to vote or, if you have voted, cancel it.
We will not have the full data set until the election is behind us, by which time you may no longer be in office. But there exists a strong prima facie case: (a) that you have through your office sought to bias the election away from Jeremy Corbyn and towards Owen Smith; (b) that you have acted to put obstacles in the way of pro-Corbyn members by re-jigging the electorate; and (c) that you have resorted to farcical and ad hoc devices – just re-read my emails above once more – to scrutinize and ‘purge’ members likely to vote for Corbyn.
One of the ironies of the present campaign is the salience of what Freud called ‘projection’: supporters of Owen have routinely accused supporters of Corbyn of doing what they do themselves. These accusations include negative comments and behaviour. But ‘the rules’ you have applied to me apparently do not extend to the same degree to them or to MPs, several of whom have launched vicious attacks, and almost exclusively on Corbyn. No routine sanctions there. And here’s another example of projection for you. Look once again at my third tweet above, and substitute “Corbynites are hard-left’ for the penultimate sentence ‘Blairites are Tory-lite’. Would I have been suspended then? Of course not!
Calculated political interventions of the sort you currently represent will not easily be forgotten. When the data are in it will be no good saying: ‘I was under a lot of pressure’, ‘I was trying to hold the Party together’, ‘I was looking for a solution’; or ‘there were clearly errors of judgement’, ‘the administration of the ballot was not as efficient as it might have been’, ‘some voters were suspended who shouldn’t have been’.
I suggest to you that it is the vast majority of Labour Party members, and I include (but cannot speak for) the vast majority of those of us who have been purged’, who most fully represent the values of the Labour Party. In line with the rules agreed by the pre-Corbynite Party, we will have voted twice for Corbyn as leader. It is those who have sought to undermine this democratic process because it did not deliver the result they wanted who might more appropriately be anticipating sanctions.
You will be receiving my formal appeal against my suspension shortly.
PS Nobody is going to tell me what I can and can’t tweet.