Members of the Labour Party have spoken out against attempts to shut down party democracy in the run-up to a new leadership election.
Labour members told Socialist Worker the actions of Labour MPs, officials and the party’s right are “ridiculous”, “disgusting” and “disgraceful”.
The outcry came after Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) voted last week to suspend branch and constituency meetings.
The party’s general secretary Iain McNicol said this was due to a “marked increase in reports of intimidation and threatening behaviour”.
Such accusations have been used to smear and silence supporters of Labour’s left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn.
In Brighton an entire branch of the party was suspended after Corbyn supporters were elected to local executive positions at a 600-strong meeting on 9 July.
The NEC annulled the results and suspended the branch after members were accused of spitting and threatening violence.
Brighton Labour Party member John Donovan told Socialist Worker that the accusations were “just not true”. He said, “It was an absolutely democratic vote. The democratic procedures were followed correctly.”
The same meeting saw Brighton’s right wing Labour MP Peter Kyle welcome Angela Eagle’s leadership challenge against Corbyn.
And in a private email ahead of the meeting Brighton’s Labour council leader Warren Morgan warned that the party faced a “takeover” by Corbyn supporters.
The split reflects the deep division between most of Labour’s members and its MPs. Labour’s members overwhelmingly back Corbyn because they want a party that supports struggle and opposes racism and austerity.
But Labour MPs prefer a party that is pro-business, panders to racism and supports nuclear weapons.
John said, “The question must be asked why these people are making the complaints the way they are. Are they not happy with the results of the vote? I suspect so.
“It seems like a deliberate stitch-up.”
The best way to support Corbyn is to build movements against austerity and racism that also strengthen the left more broadly. A large demonstration in London last Saturday showed the way.
Labour Party member Caragh was on the demo. She said, “The Labour right are really afraid of social media and demonstrations. The only way they can stop Corbyn winning is if they rig it.”
And Amy from Hackney said, “The Parliamentary Labour Party disgusts me.
“The claims of harassment against Momentum are ridiculous— the right has harassed the left for years.
“I joined Labour because of Corbyn—the MPs’ action is making me question my membership of the party.”
Corbyn's on the ballot paper - but tens of thousands are denied a vote
Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) agreed last week that left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn would automatically be on the ballot paper in the leadership election.
Corbyn’s enemies had argued that he would need nominations from 51 MPs or MEPs to be on the ballot.
It was a deliberate attempt to exclude Corbyn, who is firm favourite to win due to his widespread support from Labour members.
NEC members agreed that only challengers needed to secure nominations by 18 votes to 14.
Labour’s NEC is mainly made up of delegates from the party’s constituency parties, affiliated trade unions, MPs and shadow cabinet. Clashes at the NEC can reflect the tensions between different sections of the party.
Corbyn was saved by NEC delegates from Labour’s affiliated trade unions, which so far have continued to back him.
Many trade union conferences this year passed motions in defence of Corbyn and his anti-austerity politics. But support from trade unions isn’t guaranteed.
And the Labour-affiliated Unite and GMB unions have openly challenged Corbyn over his opposition to Trident nuclear weapons.
It shows why it’s important for union activists to pressure their leaders to keep supporting Corbyn.
After some NEC members had left the room, the same meeting voted for restrictions on Labour members’ and supporters’ voting rights in the election.
It decided that members could not vote if they had joined in the last six months. And registered supporters will have to pay £25 to take part. This is a huge increase from the £3 charged in the election last year.
The restrictions are another attempt to demolish Corbyn’s support from the base of the party.
But Corbyn would have won last year’s election even without registered supporters—and still has plenty of support from members.
South London Labour member Venice Allan only joined this year. She told Socialist Worker, “I’m a new Labour Party member so I’ll have to pay the £25.
“That’s not going to be easy because I’m a single mother with a part time job.”