Sunday, 4 September 2016

My letter of rejection by the Labour NEC, and my response.

In June, I applied to join the Labour party. I believed that as a result of the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, the Party was at last starting to reflect the philosophy and policies which I feel a truly socialist party should. When a challenge was made to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, I thought it important that he should get all the support he could and I wanted to be in a position to vote for him. As the vindictive attacks continued against Corbyn I was, naively, bewildered by the attitude of the Parliamentary Party, and it has taken me some time to understand what is going on. It is now clear that his opponents don't fear that Labour cannot win an election under Corbyn, they fear that he can win. A victory for a left of centre Labour Party in a general election would jeopardise the comfortable wellbeing of a great many influential people, and the overwhelming power of the transnational corporations in the UK but also in Europe would be threatened.

That is why I applied to join the Labour Party, and that is why my application has been refused!

Below I show the letter I received from the General Secretary, and below that, my response.

Labour Party Membership
The Labour Party
Head Office
Southside, 105 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6QT
Labour Central, Kings Manor, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 6PA

0345 092 2299 |

1 September 2016

Dear Tim,
Thank you for your recent application to become a member of the Labour Party. 

The Labour Party should be the home of lively debate, of new ideas and of campaigns to change society. However, for fair debate to take place, people must be able to air their views in an atmosphere of respect. They shouldn’t be shouted down, they shouldn’t be intimidated, and they shouldn’t be abused, either in meetings or online.

A panel of the National Executive Committee (NEC) has considered your application, and decided to invoke Appendix 2.1.B.x of the Labour Party’s rules, which states:

“At any time before the individual is accepted as a full member of the Party, the General Secretary may rule that the individual application for membership be rejected for any reason which s/he sees fit”

Under the procedures of the National Executive Committee (NEC), if a rejected applicant for membership has acted in a way, within the past two years which, had s/he been a member at the time, would have meant they were auto-excluded from membership, there is no appeal against the decision to reject the application. In your case, the reason for your application being rejected is as follows:

You publicly showed support for the Green party on social media on 12 October 2014.

The NEC will not normally consider a further application for membership until two years has elapsed, unless you write to us and we consider there are exceptional circumstances. 

Yours sincerely,

Iain McNicol
General Secretary of The Labour Party

I found the above letter deeply offensive. I am replying as shown below:

The Labour Party Head Office
105 Victoria Street
 5 September 2016

For attention of Mr Iain McNicol, General Secretary
 Dear Mr McNicol

I must thank you for your letter dated 1 September 2016 rejecting my application to join the Labour Party.

Firstly, I would like to take issue with the fact that it has taken this long for you to come to this conclusion, following my application in June, and subsequent confirmation of my membership, including issuing me with a membership number.

Secondly, on the issue of my showing support for the Green Party in social media one month under two years ago, my exclusion seems to me unnecessarily petty and vindictive, and gives the impression that your team have been desperately seeking an excuse to exclude me (and many others in similar circumstances) for reasons of your own.

Thirdly, although I have no recollection of this social media entry, I am quite sure that whatever I was supporting was entirely compatible with socialist values. My political beliefs haven’t changed, only the means to express them. At that time, the Green Party was the only credible left of centre party around, and it would have been surprising if I had not found something in their policies to support.

I have been in complete sympathy with your publicly declared zero tolerance for abuse in social media.  Your letter to me made much of your stand regarding abuse, intimidation and so on.  While I agree with and accept the stand you take, I strongly object to the implication in your letter that my ‘transgression’ somehow equates to the abuse and intimidation you refer to.

On the subject of abuse, I have noted with interest the apparent indifference in the NEC to instances of abusive or unacceptable language on the part of prominent Labour members, whether it is Mr Wayne David’s inexcusable racist remarks on BBC radio in Wales, Michael Foster’s characterisation of  Corbyn supporters as Nazi storm troopers, Mr Frank Field’s much publicised reference to an ‘execution squad’, and even Mr John McTernan’s reference to certain MPs as morons. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe all those mentioned here are still entitled to vote in the upcoming leadership election, and have retained their Party membership.

I noted some time ago that you declared your intention not to interfere in the leadership election.  However I suggest to you that outside observers (of which I am now one) could be forgiven for thinking that the treatment by the NEC of would be voters in the leadership election has been partisan.  I would also suggest to you that in the event of an Owen Smith victory later this month, the consequences for the Party and the NEC would be dire, as that result could only be achieved as a result of the disenfranchisement of thousands of Corbyn supporters.

Lastly, I see that recently an MP publicly stated that the objective in this leadership challenge was never to displace Jeremy Corbyn, but merely to cause trouble.  This leads me to question what has happened to this Party, which I support. You head the NEC and presumably aspire to being a man of integrity. It cannot be right that Members of Parliament, who claim to be democrats, refuse to accept a democratically elected leader.  The lack of integrity shown by some of those MPs comes very close to falling within the definition of corruption.  I would have hoped that you, as General Secretary, and therefore without bias in all this, could have used your very considerable influence to unite, not divide, the Party.

Yours sincerely

Tim Thomson

Friday, 12 August 2016

Labour Wars

Todays decision by the appeal court in favour of the NEC, to block some 130,000 Party members from voting in the Labour leadership election, left me, along with many others, angry and surprised. It seems to be an attack on the democratic process of the Labour Party.

But my next reaction has been to try to figure out what had been achieved, and indeed what the aim had been of the whole process.

From the point of view of the five new members who brought the case, I guess their motives were twofold; first, to establish their right (and the right of others) to vote in the leadership election, but second, to make a point of democratic principle.

On the first objective, unless they choose to take the case to a higher court, they have failed. On the second point, in the eyes of the world at large I believe they have succeeded.

Now, from the point of view of the NEC, what was their objective and what have they achieved?

Their objective had little to do with either Owen Smith or Jeremy Corbyn, but was about control of the Party, and in this respect, poor old Owen Smith is just a pawn! They are hoping, I believe, for an early election, before the leadership issue has been resolved, in the conviction that after a disastrous loss, Jeremy Corbyn would be forced to resign and all would ‘go back to normal’. The new leader would then be someone like Hilary Benn, and we would be able to settle back into the neoliberal narrative.

What have they achieved? Well, first a massive disillusionment among the Party membership, who are unlikely to trust any of the so-called rebels again, in particular, Tom Watson and the NEC members responsible for all this. Secondly, they have demonstrated to a very wide chunk of the electorate a degree of incompetence probably only equalled by Britain First, and which we would not wish to see in a Party of Government!

Should our brave five take this to a higher court? I don’t believe so. It costs money, which most of us are short of. If they won, there would be some satisfaction in the knowledge that democracy prevailed. However the evidence is strong that even if they lost there would be no difference in the result of the leadership election, which we are confident Jeremy Corbyn will win. The NEC in its present form is discredited beyond redemption, and their actions will not be forgotten. Those new members who will have been unable to cast a vote would and should feel slighted, but should also feel satisfied that a democratic result to the election will have been achieved, albeit with reduced eligible membership.

Where next, then? It is increasingly clear that there are elements in the PLP who would prefer a split to a Labour victory under Jeremy Corbyn, a sentiment already famously voiced by Tony Blair. Against this, there are many CLPs who clearly support Corbyn, against the inclination of their MPs. So even disregarding the prospect of mandatory reselection, which nobody is so far advocating as a policy, there are a number of MPs who may find themselves with these options; to back the leadership, unless they are to lose completely any support from their CLPs; to resign from the party, in which case they would be under considerable pressure to trigger a by-election, when a new candidate might well be selected; or to sit, disgruntled, on the back benches, just being a nuisance, and suffering discontent from all sides – not a good position from which to discharge the duties of a constituency MP.

I believe that, important though this court case has been in exposing the leanings and prejudices of the parties involved, it has now become an irrelevance. The process, organized by a group of incredibly incompetent rebels against the leadership and the membership, has immeasurably strengthened Corbyn’s position as well as enhancing his stature in the Labour movement. From here, when the dust has settled, I believe that a Labour Party united under Corbyn is very well set up to campaign for, and win, the opportunity to govern after the next general election. My feeling is that there will be no snap election – Teresa May perceives that she has too much to lose and little to gain (she too wants to leave a legacy!) and she, at least, does not underestimate the strength of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

My Letter to my MP George Eustice following the EU Referendum

Dear George

EU Referendum

I am aware that your preference for a referendum result on June 23rd was the one that was achieved. However it is important to me that you, my representative in Westminster, should be in a position to take my views into account in any debates on this subject.

The reason we had a referendum
You may remember a recent email from me in which I expressed the view that the referendum should not take place; that such decisions should be taken by Parliament. I felt that the referendum was promised for reasons internal to the Conservative party, and thus our position in Europe and globally was being put at risk for relatively trivial reasons.

The legality of the referendum
At least two experts have questioned the legality of the referendum, and a legal challenge is not out of the question. (This gleaned from press reports.)

The Campaigns
I believe that the two official campaigns (both led by Conservatives) and the one led by Nigel Farage, were to a greater or lesser degree based on finding fault with others’ arguments, instilling uncertainty and fear, making exaggerated claims, and deliberate deceit. Many of the ‘promises’ made during the campaigns have subsequently been rowed back from. There was no real effort, on either side of these campaigns, to point out strong, positive, factual reasons, either for remaining in the EU or for leaving. The Leave campaigners in particular made increasingly bizarre claims about what we as a nation on our own could achieve, making light of the immense difficulties which complicated trade deals can encounter. Politicians of other countries have already called these claims into question.

Voting patterns
Different parts of the country showed wide variations in the results. For example, Cornish fishermen were voting to leave, because they believed they would be allowed to catch more fish (an assertion subsequently thrown into doubt). Voting patterns among different age groups were significant. Those in my age group (OAPs) predominantly voted to leave, while the younger voters – those who will be most affected by the result – voted to remain. It was unfortunate, in my view, that a minimum voting age of 16 was not introduced, as was the case for the Scottish referendum.

The reasons people voted as they did
It has become very clear, since June 23rd, that many people regret the choice they made. Recent reputable polls suggest that about 1.3 million people have come to believe that they made a mistake. I read of a woman in tears because she thought that by voting to leave, she was voting to give the NHS 350 million GBP per week. Another thought that voting ‘Leave’ simply meant that immigrants would leave. Many people whose interviews were reported on TV were making a protest gesture, believing it would have no effect. Google has reported a spike in enquiries for definitions of ‘EU’ and ‘Brexit’ after the polls had closed, suggesting that many people had no idea what they were voting about. This must be considered a failure on the part of the campaigners to explain the basis for their respective positions.

Where we are now
The negative effects of the vote are becoming clearer. Until now I have not detected any positive effects. Indeed, speaking personally, I have not yet heard a sound factual argument for the benefits of leaving! It seems entirely possible that the knock-on results may include a new Scottish referendum, which may well succeed this time. There is a possibility that a referendum in Northern Ireland could ultimately lead to a reunification of the two parts of that island. The unraveling and disintegration of the EU over time is a likely outcome, and that is surely something we should rather fear than welcome, particularly with the current Russian regime waiting in the wings. We are likely to be increasingly a puppet of the USA, a prospect some may welcome but I do not. Current indications are that our economy will suffer for many years to come.

What should happen next
The primary duty of Government is to protect the interests of the Nation. I believe that duty is incompatible with the invocation of Article 50. There is significant pressure for there to be a debate in Parliament on the matter, which could well halt the process. The House of Lords is overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU. There is a petition signed by over 4 million people asking for a second referendum. The three options are these: for the Prime Minister to invoke Article 50, with the consequent backlash and legal challenges; for there to be a debate and vote in Parliament at which time the referendum result could either be set aside, or acted upon, depending on the result; or there could be a second referendum which of course would have to be followed through with appropriate action. In a second referendum, claims and counter claims should be factual and informative and should be subjected to independent scrutiny, to avoid a recurrence of the current uncertainties. Any one of these options is likely to result in some kind of backlash – the inevitable result arising from the original decision by the Prime Minister to hold a referendum.

It's not just me!
Can I ask you to take the time to watch this video put out by Professor Michael Dougan of the University of Liverpool Law School, who echoes, from an expert standpoint all my concerns about the ‘Brexit’ referendum.

In summary
I believe that the referendum result was won by deceit, exaggeration and some wishful thinking. I believe strongly that it should not be acted upon without, at the very least, a Parliamentary debate, in which the conduct of the campaigns, and the risks and benefits arising from a ‘Brexit’, are examined. I believe that the main reason for continuing unhappiness with the result of the campaign is the widely held belief that its legitimacy is open to question; I further believe that Parliament should act quickly to re-establish some legitimacy into the process.