Socialist Worker

Mass purge in the Labour Party as the right gets desperate to beat Jeremy Corbyn

The real reason for the ludicrous attacks on Corbyn is that the right know they’re losing, says Nick Clark

Issue No. 2520

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn at a rally in Leeds in July

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn at a rally in Leeds in July (Pic: Neil Terry)


Leading Labour Party figures stepped up their attack on their own membership last week in a bid to rig the leadership election against Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour’s general secretary Iain McNicol emailed the party’s national executive committee (NEC) with examples of reasons why members or supporters were suspended ahead of the election.

Thousands have had their membership suspended as part of a huge operation to exclude Corbyn supporters from the vote.

McNicol’s email was intended to justify the suspensions in the face of accusations that Corbyn supporters are being purged.

Some of the examples described posts on social media that were racist or could be considered as death threats.

But many others were simply suspended for calling Labour MPs “traitor” or “coward”, or for calling for deselections. Some were suspended for saying they had previously

voted for rival parties such as the Green Party or Plaid Cymru.

McNicol pointed out that Labour Party rules say that “members and supporters must conduct themselves in a calm and polite manner and be respectful to each other at all times”.

But that rule is applied selectively. Millionaire Labour donor Michael Foster, who last month compared Corbyn supporters to Nazi Stormtroopers, has not been suspended.

Neither has MP Ian Austin, who heckled Corbyn as he apologised for the Iraq war, calling him a “disgrace”. Nor has Wes Streeting, who has called Corbyn supporters “Corbots” on social media.

Several MPs have boasted of shouting down, bullying and humiliating Corbyn and his allies at Parliamentary Labour Party meetings. None of them have been suspended either.

Condemned

On the same day that McNicol’s email was released Labour MP Ruth Smeeth revealed she had received 25,000 abusive messages, including death threats. Corbyn rightly condemned the abuse.

Without any evidence, Smeeth said that “it’s about what people are doing in his [Corbyn’s] name”.

Leadership rival Owen Smith later used an interview with LGBT+ news website Pink News to accuse Corbyn of being “complacent” about homophobia and antisemitism inside Labour.

And an article by Labour MP Kate Green in the New Statesman accused Corbyn of “carelessness, indifference and ignorance” over women’s oppression. It was deliberately timed to follow and undermine Corbyn’s launch of a Women’s Advisory Board to tackle gender inequality.

The overall aim is to discredit Corbyn and much of Labour’s new members—implying that the left is to blame for racist, sexist and homophobic abuse.

In fact it is the left that has by far the best record of countering such behaviour.

The constant attacks appear to be having one other effect, with a number of recent polls putting the Tories ahead Labour.

But one by YouGov last week also suggested that more than half of adults in Britain believe that Corbyn is unfairly treated by the media.

The poll also showed that Corbyn is set to beat Smith—by 24 points. That’s the real reason behind the right’s desperate attacks on Labour members.


Thousands flock to see 'unelectable' Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election campaign continued last week with two huge rallies in Stoke-on-Trent and Ramsgate.

The turnouts show that the Labour leader can win widespread support in places often seen as being traditionally right wing.

Ramsgate is in Thanet, Kent, where the racist Ukip party is the largest group on the district council. But 3,000 people turned out to see Corbyn.

Ramsgate Corbyn supporter Eloise Hanchett said, “It’s very strange what’s going on in the Labour Party at the moment.

“The people want Corbyn it seems but the party doesn’t, which is a very strange situation as he’s voted in by the people.”

Another 1,000 turned out in Stoke, a place the Nazi British National Party once described as its “jewel in the crown” when it had 12 councillors there.

Sarah, who was at the rally, said, “I like Corbyn because he focuses on things like equality, workers’ rights and the NHS.”

And Labour member Steve Tunstall said, “What Corbyn says resonates with my core values, such as his support for the NHS and social housing.

“I don’t accept that he’s unelectable.”


The plotters keep plotting for the future

Labour’s right are already preparing their next moves following Owen Smith’s likely defeat in the leadership election later this month.

The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting on Monday was set to debate a proposal to reintroduce the election of Labour’s shadow cabinet by MPs.

Shadow cabinet elections were abolished under previous leader Ed Miliband—a move backed by a majority of Labour MPs at the time.

Reintroducing elections would mean that MPs could fill the shadow cabinet with opponents of Corbyn—while allies such as John McDonnell or Diane Abbott could be kept off.

If the motion is passed, the proposal would still have to be submitted to Labour’s conference this month by the party’s national executive committee.

Meanwhile right wing Labour activists have started preparing for other battles at Labour’s conference, which begins on Sunday 25 September.

They are desperate to stop a rule change dubbed the “McDonnell amendment” going through.

The change would mean that MPs only need nominations from 5 percent of the PLP to stand in a leadership election. It would be easier for left wing candidates to get on the ballot paper.


Green appeal from the right

The Green Party elected new leaders last week.

MP Caroline Lucas was elected alongside anti-abortion bigot and former Tory Jonathan Bartley as joint leaders.

Bartley began their leadership with an appeal to “everyone who wants more than divisions” to join the Green Party. He said, “We don’t throw bricks through one another’s windows”—a reference to dubious accusations that Corbyn supporters threw a brick at Labour MP Angela Eagle’s office.

The appeal mirrored Owen Smith’s claim to represent a “radical and credible” alternative to Corbyn that can reunify the Labour Party.

Both are aimed at sapping away Corbyn supporters from the right.


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