Labour has effectively lost its majority on a major city council after three councillors were suspended as part of the ongoing party “purge”.
In 2016 the party won a slim majority of 37 seats out of 70 in Bristol, but the suspension of two councillors this week and one at the start of this month leaves Labour with only 34, just short of a majority.
All three suspended councillors have been vocal supporters of party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour’s national office confirmed that councillors suspended as part of the leadership election process have their council group whip suspended, meaning the party is now technically short of a majority in the city.
Bristol was one of the success stories of Mr Corbyn’s mixed local election results earlier this year, with the party taking over the city mayoralty and controlling it alongside the elected council for the first time since the post’s creation.
The city is however not immune from the wave suspensions being handed out by Labour officials – with the local party becoming a hot-spot of conflict between supporters and opponents of Mr Corbyn.
The three suspended councillors are Harriet Bradley, who represents Brislington West, Mike Langley, of Brislington East, and Hibaq Jama, of Lawrence Hill.
Ms Jama spoke at a rally in favour of Mr Corbyn last month and had previously been criticial of local MP Thangam Debbonaire, arguing that comments she had made about the integration of refugees had been inappropriate.
Ms Bradley, a professor specialising in women’s employment at UWE Bristol, has also vocally supported Mr Corbyn on social media and is reported by the Bristol Post to have supported campaigns to select different a different candidate for MP at the next general election.
Mr Langley has put his name to a list of 403 Labour councilors who supported Mr Corbyn. He signed a letter suggesting “that those MPs who have embarked on this indulgent course of action [to oust Mr Corbyn] will reflect on their behaviour and turn their fire on the real enemy, the Tory Party”.
A campaign officer in Bristol West, Andy Burkitt, has also been suspended. Bristol Labour MP Ms Debbonaire offered her support for Mr Burkitt in a statement on Facebook and described suspensions in general as a “mess”.
“I am sure everyone will agree we are in a mess with suspensions. The NEC is the final abitrator. I hope that people will keep faith with the LP and appeal when decisions are wrong,” she said.
“I hope that we can all work together to come together as One Labour. The country needs this and I will do everything I can to help.
“When meetings are up and running again I look forward to being with Bristol West Labour party members again and campaigning together for a Labour government.”
Labour’s national office said it does not comment on the reasons why people are suspended from the party. The Bristol City Council Labour group whip Christopher Jackson confirmed the councillors had had their whips removed “as per the norm”.
A total of 3,107 people have been suspended from the party during the course of the leadership contest, according to a panel report shown to the NEC earlier this month.
Labour says it suspends people who have supported other parties and who engage in abuse or rudeness on social media. Decisions are formally taken by the party's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).
However, supporters of Mr Corbyn are overwhelmingly reporting being the targets of the suspensions and say the operation amounts to a targeted purge by the Labour machine.
John McDonnell last month said Labour supporters and members would not accept what he called a “rigged purge of Jeremy Corbyn supporters”.
The three councillors could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
A Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party has a robust validation process for all votes to ensure every vote cast is eligible in keeping with the Labour Party rules. Decisions about individual members are taken by the NEC.
“Members who have been contacted by the Labour Party to confirm they are not deemed eligible to vote can contact the Party to obtain the evidence considered by the NEC.”
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