Local parties defy general secretary guidance on motions to back Corbyn

Sienna Rodgers
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Thursday evenings are a popular time for local party meetings in the Labour Party. General secretary David Evans sent an email before many took place last night: all motions relating to the withholding of the Labour whip from Jeremy Corbyn – including “expressions of solidarity” – will be “ruled out of order”, he told officers and representatives. This is based on his determination that such motions are “providing a flashpoint for the expression of views that undermine the Labour Party’s ability to provide a safe and welcoming space for all members”. The email cites the party’s code of conduct and makes explicit reference to party culture, and concludes that such restrictions could stay in place until the culture is deemed to have improved.

The party grassroots are exploding in some areas of the country, particularly some of the biggest local parties. A number defied the instructions of the general secretary last night by passing motions in support of Corbyn in his battle over the whip, including Birmingham Hall Green, Hampstead and Kilburn, Milton Keynes North and South, Leeds North East. Others, such as Hackney South and Bristol East, have expressed the same view without specifically going against instructions, by commenting instead on democracy or passing motions of no confidence in Evans or Keir Starmer. There is an awareness that the party is willing to suspend members for flouting guidance, as happened in Bristol West, though no united approach from Corbyn supporters yet in the face of this reality.

The role of the Jewish Labour Movement in these matters is important. The party-affiliated organisation announced seven days ago that it believes such motions create an unsafe environment for Jewish members, and also that it would be pausing engagement with the party after Corbyn’s readmittance. It is no surprise to see Evans, in charge of the party headquarters that facilitated the unusually speedy disciplinary process, take into account their view of these motions and act accordingly. But Momentum and other parts of the Labour left are determined to have a say. The Communication Workers’ Union has called on Labour to “let members discuss what they want”. The upshot of these motions will likely be many suspensions, possibly local parties being put in special measures, perhaps overall accelerating the replacement of Corbynite executive committees with pro-Starmer ones.

Tensions are only going to escalate further. The Guardian has picked up on our story from Wednesday, adding that the pre-action disclosure application has now been lodged as we reported it was going to be. Labour sources deny that a deal over Corbyn’s reinstatement was struck, while those close to Corbyn say evidence will soon emerge to prove this is what happened. Our exclusive poll of Labour members conducted by Survation shows that the party is starkly divided over the whip decision, with 48% against and 46% in favour, while a majority had a “negative” view of Corbyn’s statement that led to his original suspension. The results are weighted based on recent data – the 2020 leadership election – and I would recommend taking a look at the full tables as well as our write-up to see what can be learnt about the current membership as there is lots of fascinating information to dig into.

Over the weekend, JLM will be hosting a one-day conference featuring high-profile speakers from the Labour leader himself to Angela Rayner, Lisa Nandy, Andy Burnham, Margaret Hodge, Ruth Smeeth and Louise Ellman. There will be much talk of what Labour needs to do to implement the recommendations of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The party has just unveiled the appointment of Jane Ramsey as the person who will be leading on setting up an independent process – not only for antisemitism complaints, as some in the party have predicted, but those relating to racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, bullying, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination. The crucial action plan is due by December 10th. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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