Members suspended over leadership no confidence motion that was not heard

Elliot Chappell

The chair and secretary of Labour’s North West Cambridgeshire local party have been suspended after planning and withdrawing a motion of no confidence in Keir Starmer and David Evans for debate at a meeting.

The executive officers were informed last month that they were suspended pending the investigation of allegations that the chair allowed the motion to be discussed and that the secretary circulated it to members.

But while the motion was circulated to members on December 7th, it was withdrawn after general secretary David Evans sent updated guidance to local parties. Members were updated and the motion was removed from the agenda.

Local sources tell LabourList that the constituency party meeting went ahead on December 14th, but took place without discussion of the motion that had been ruled out of order by the party. The agenda has been published online.

Approached for comment and clarification, the Labour Party would not comment on the specifics of ongoing disciplinary cases, but it is understood that the claim the motion was not debated is disputed and will be investigated.

One local member told LabourList: “As Labour activists, we are desperately trying to do all we can to win council seats in May’s local elections. But the suspension of members in key positions are really hindering our efforts.

“The grounds they have been suspended on seem dubious to say the least, and I’m sure a simple conversation with members would have resolved the matter. But instead the party have chosen a knee-jerk reaction that has left us with a situation that was completely avoidable.”

Local parties have been told by the general secretary that motions concerning the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn or the suspension of the whip are out of order, as are motions of no confidence in Starmer or Evans.

The chair, co-secretaries and a number of other Bristol West Labour Party members were suspended by the party in November last year after hearing a motion on the disciplinary action against the former leader.

The Zoom meeting, joined virtually by around 200 local members from Bristol, went ahead and the motion was considered without debate. It passed by a majority of 19 with 99 voting for, 80 against and three abstaining.

Co-secretary Darran McLaughlin was selected as a candidate for the 2021 local elections but was then suspended by the party as a result of the motion. Labour has now proceeded with selecting a replacement ahead of the May contests.

The suspended Bristol Momentum activist has accused the party of targeting him by preventing him from standing and has criticised Labour for a “shameful” systematic underrepresentation of Black men.

He said he had to wait two months for evidence on his suspension and has has still not been given a date for his hearing. “They’ve suspended members across Bristol because we dared to dissent from the leadership’s line,” he said.

“They’ve shut down meetings because they worry they might not like the outcomes and they’ve influenced candidate selections for both councils and the West of England metro mayor to make sure their mates get Labour’s backing.”

The Bernie Grant leadership programme alumni has argued that there is a wider issue because “from the Parliamentary Labour Party to the national executive committee, Black men are systematically underrepresented” in Labour.

“The party established the Bernie Grant leadership programme specifically to rectify this imbalance. I was part of that programme, but now I’ve been arbitrarily deprived of my right to represent my community in local government.”

The former Labour council candidate for 2021 appeared in a campaign video released by Starmer last year as part of his bid to become the next Labour leader after Corbyn.

An internal report on Labour’s handling of antisemitism complaints, which was leaked last year and distributed online in April, alleged that staffers seeking to undermine the then party leader Corbyn targeted Black Labour MPs.

Labour activists argued last year that BAME communities have been “alienated from the party’s structures, policies and public discourse” following the leaked internal report on the processing of disciplinary cases.

A group of campaigners, including Labour Against Racism And Fascism and Socialists of Colour, wrote to the party leadership in June calling on the them to set up a roundtable discussion on racism within Labour.

An investigation into the leaked report underway – chaired by Martin Forde QC and supported by three Labour peers – is looking into the commissioning and content of the document as well as the party’s structure, culture and practices.

Former leader Corbyn is a party member but currently sits as an Independent MP because the whip has been suspended for three months pending an investigation conducted under Parliamentary Labour Party rules.

He was suspended in October for his comments in response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into antisemitism within the party, but was reinstated as a member by Labour’s ruling body in November.

Addressing the Jewish Labour Movement one-day conference last year, deputy leader Rayner called on members to “get real” about antisemitism and warned that “thousands and thousands” could be suspended if they fail to do so.

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