Socialist Worker

Labour activists slapped down by party officials for opposing free school

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2546

Part of Wimbledon Labour Partys leaflet that was destroyed after advice from party officials

Part of Wimbledon Labour Party's leaflet that was destroyed after 'advice' from party officials


Labour Party officials have threatened to suspend one of their constituency parties in south London for campaigning against a free school.

Wimbledon Labour Party (WLP) claims it was sent “advice” from Labour’s head office telling them to destroy 40,000 leaflets, and implying they could be suspended.

It comes after members of WLP voted to oppose Labour-controlled Merton Council’s plans to open a free school run by private academies chain the Harris Federation.

Wimbledon Labour Party member Dave Carrier told Socialist Worker, “The right wing of the Labour Party agreed to build the free school.

“It’s opposed by the local party at the moment as we voted against it at a meeting. But they’re going through with it anyway.”

He added, “We agreed at the meeting to leaflet against the free school. We made 40,000 leaflets and we’ve had to scrap them."

Merton’s Labour councillors have come under fire from local residents who say the proposed site for the new school is unsuitable.

The council and the Harris Federation want to build the school on Merton’s High Path estate. But the plans mean the school will swallow up land already used by a primary school and a community centre for adults with learning difficulties.

If the building goes ahead the new school will have to share a playing field with the primary school and the community centre will be forced to relocate.

Residents have also asked why the school isn’t being built in nearby Mitcham and Morden, where more secondary school places are needed.

Plans to build a new school were first announced in May 2015. The council unsuccessfully tried to keep details of where it would be under wraps until late last year.

Leaked

When details of the proposed site were leaked last July, former Labour councillor Peter Walker suggested High Path had been chosen because, “Harris have already got a school in Mitcham and Morden, and they wanted one in Wimbledon. Harris has decided where it’s going."

Dave said WLP was opposed to the plans because of the proposed site. He also added that the position of Labour’s left wing leadership is to oppose academies and free schools.

He said, “This isn’t the best place for the school to be. But we’re also opposed to free schools in principle."

WLP’s banned leaflet did not criticise the council for supporting free schools. It said government rules mean new schools have to be academies or free schools, and only suggested that the school would be better off somewhere else.

But the right is clearly determined to crush any dissent from a left reinvigorated by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victories in 2015 and 2016.

Dave said, “The right must have asked head office if they could scrap them, and the head office approved it. They’ve been so used to ruling the roost with no opposition."

And an email circulated to Labour members by WLP said, “It would appear that someone, without informing us, contacted the national party asking for the leaflets to be stopped.

“We are astounded to have received this somewhat draconian advice, not least since the leaflet supports national party policy, which is against free schools.”

It added, “We are disappointed that behind the scenes manoeuvres of this kind are taking place within the Labour Party in Merton, and that debate is being stifled in this way.”

The move comes as Labour councils across the country force through attacks on jobs, services and housing by passing on Tory austerity.

Corbyn was elected Labour leader on a promise to end austerity and attacks by right wing councils. He can’t stand by while his own councillors ignore the needs of ordinary people in the interests of businesses and private companies.

To read the leaflet click here

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