20th February 2017
Ealing Council Stitch-Up:
the Shape of Things to Come?
By Mick Brooks
The way council candidates in Ealing have been selected may be a harbinger of how right wing Labour intends to treat the process nationally.
The Labour Parties in Ealing have been traditionally dominated by the right wing. Council leader Julian Bell, a Progress supporter, actively campaigned for Liz Kendall in the 2015 leadership election.
A left wing challenge has emerged recently around the FaceBook page Ealing Labour for Corbyn. EL4C members can easily be identified by their attendance at the 400+ John McDonnell meeting in Ealing Town Hall in support of Jeremy’s 2016 successful leadership bid. There have been other more recent events such as a showing of the film ‘Pride’ and a meeting addressed by Alex Nunns, author of ‘The Candidate’, the book about Jeremy’s leadership campaign.
The selection process for 2018 candidate councillors began early in Ealing. Stage one is an interview panel intended to weed out obviously unsuitable candidates. Normally this is uncontroversial. This time it turned into a purge. Eighteen out of nineteen Corbynistas were rejected outright.
Candidates were presented with a campaigning report immediately on arrival for interview. This was a new departure, sprung on new candidates without warning. Many of these new candidates are also new to the Party. There has been a massive influx of members since Jeremy became leader. These new and enthusiastic members and candidates have been accused of not canvassing for Labour before they became members. This is ridiculous. Who has ever heard of non- members being asked to canvass for our Party?
Among the identified Corbynistas one sitting councillor was among those rejected by the interview panel. She is now ineligible to stand for the ward she has represented for the past four years. The sitting councillor’s record of canvassing was deemed inadequate – because she had broken a leg! (She broke it while canvassing.)
She was asked why she couldn’t canvass by phone. This would have involved walking up a narrow and inaccessible staircase. In effect she was being discriminated against because of a disability, which is against the law. The Labour movement has been foremost in fighting against disability discrimination, yet right wing Labour blatantly used it to bar Corbyn supporters from becoming council candidates.
The normal procedure is that the local branch and CLP should supply the report of campaigning activity to the interviewing team. This was not asked for or given. At a joint ward meeting in Ealing in January it was clearly established that local officers had not been asked about local members’ campaigning activities. No systematic records of individual comrades involved in campaigning had been kept in any case.
Not to put too fine a point upon it, these ‘reports’ were inventions, fabrications concocted to eliminate Corbyn supporters from the process. At the meeting it was agreed to write a letter to the organisers about this. They have so far contemptuously failed to answer or even acknowledge the letter.
One candidate had previously been a member of the Socialist Party. She was presented with evidence of articles she had written more than fifteen years ago. The dates on the articles were falsified to make them seem more recent. Shouldn’t we welcome new and enthusiastic members to the Party? Instead anonymous spies, apparently with nothing better to do, conducted this time- consuming ‘research’.
Having been rejected by the interview panel, candidates can appeal to an appeals panel. London Region Labour is dominated by the right wing. Eleven lefts were available to serve on the appeals panel. Not one was selected.
It was clear to the unfortunates who went for appeal that the panel members knew who they were and what they were going to do to them. After lengthy and unpleasant interrogation potential councillors have been told that their appeal was rejected. The reasons are ‘confidential’. Imagine being found guilty of murder and told by the judge that the evidence and legal argument to imprison you are confidential! Often the harangues from the panel have been accompanied by petty and unpleasant gestures. In one case, over a long evening the panel members made themselves a cup of tea, but refused to offer any to their victims.
In Ealing Labour we are faced with a regime of whole-scale lies and chicanery intended to victimise and marginalise supporters of the elected leader of our Party. Party officials conduct themselves like members of the Stasi, whose see their task is to police and spy upon local Party members. It must be said that the vast majority of Party members, whether right or left wing, are deeply shocked when they hear of these shenanigans. Opposition is building up.
The overwhelming support among rank and file members for Corbyn and his policies is meeting obstruction from an entrenched bureaucracy. Hopefully their resistance shows they feel themselves to be under serious challenge for the first time in years.
Our Party is in urgent need of democratisation. The example of Ealing Labour should be a wake-up call for Party members all over the country. The 2017 Labour Conference must be the focus for a thoroughgoing democratic renewal.
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