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Andrew Fisher’s suspension isn’t about rule-breaking – it’s about factional struggle

8th November 2015

Andrew Fisher’s suspension isn’t about rule-breaking
– it’s about factional struggle

By Phil Burton-Cartledge

So a couple of Labour MPs have made complaints against Andrew Fisher, Jeremy’s head of policy, and the NEC have moved to suspend him. His crime? Among other things, publishing a tweet advocating a vote for our anarchist friends Class War over Labour’s Emily Benn in Croydon South almost a year prior to the general election. Not the political crime of the century by any means, but rules are rules. Or are they?

As with all bureaucratic organisations, there are rules covering pretty much every element of the operation. And the Labour Party is no different. There are rules for elections. Rules for members. Rules for affiliates. Rules specifying party structures. Where there are grey areas are rules for governing ‘them’, and rules for governing ‘us’. So it is that if you’re a powerful figure, rules can be flouted with seeming impunity.

The clutch of Labour MPs, for instance, who quietly agitated against Ken Livingstone in the 2012 London mayoral elections – no action. The repeated public attacks by MPs on Ed Miliband – no action. The contempt for the party ‘simple’ Simon Danczuk fills his Mail on Sunday column each week – no action. The uppity anti-austerity campaigner who sent unwise and politically foolish tweets? Throw the bloody book at him.

Let’s be clear here. This isn’t about rules and rule breaking. This is about factional struggle. There are elements of the Parliamentary Labour Party incapable of reconciling themselves to the situation they now find themselves in. They know that a frontal assault on Jeremy’s office is suicidal and means curtains for their careers, so they’re taking up position and sniping at the leader’s appointments. John McDonnell, Seumas Milne, Andrew Fisher, if they can be picked off the leader will remain permanently weak vis a vis the PLP, and therefore less able to get his agenda and – possibly – changes to party structures through. And it will encourage them too.

This week’s PLP elections give the 4.5%ers a weight entirely out of proportion to their real support in the party. They will also take heart from the selection of Jim McMahon for the Oldham West by-election. Jim was able to romp home in a CLP that had returned a key leftwing MP for 45 years. If a ‘moderate’ can win Michael Meacher’s old stomping ground, then perhaps there’s a wider appetite in the party for their brand of politics than they first thought.

Nevertheless what I find frustrating, if not appalling, is the timing of all this. The government are lurching from crisis to crisis at the moment. Their difficulties are our opportunity, and yet the selfish behaviour of idiot trouble makers divert time and energy away from making an effective opposition. Perhaps that’s the whole point. The last thing they want is Jeremy to turn that polling deficit into a lead, for Labour under his leadership to start appearing successful.

This article first appeared in Left Futures.

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