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Why Jeremy Corbyn's 'entryist' supporters are not the Labour Party's biggest threat

It is the Labour Party bureaucracy, along with a truculent parliamentary Labour Party, that persists in undermining democratic processes and actively disenfranchising the membership

Charlotte Gerada
Monday 18 July 2016 17:15 BST
Corbyn and his supporters are not to blame for Labour's current state
Corbyn and his supporters are not to blame for Labour's current state (Getty)

I, like thousands of others, joined the Labour Party after Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader. Corbyn’s track record of voting against austerity and war drew me in. It was refreshing to hear honest opinions, progressive policies and a vision for a fairer, more equal Britain being articulated, and all by someone who could lead a government.

To be clear, I’ve never been a member of a militant left group, despite the claims by some in the Labour Party that all new members are Trotskyists. I work for a charity, I spent years volunteering as a local school governor and I work on campaigns like this one to stop a LGBTQI pub from closing in my local community. I’m hardly the ghost of militant times past.

It is infuriating, as a relatively new member, to be tarnished with the “entryist” brush. Corbyn's supporters reflect a wide cross-section of society, which I found anecdotally in my Constituency Labour Party (CLP) meeting a fortnight ago. There I discussed not only the future of Labour, but our country, alongside teachers, bankers, doctors, nurses, students, people of colour and retirees. Together, a majority of us voted to pass an emergency motion of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. His most passionate defenders reflected the diversity of the room.

Corbyn disappointed with NEC's regulations for Labour leadership election

There needs to be an end to the use of sensationalist and inaccurate language in describing those who are committed to Corbyn's politics, especially as Corbyn supporters are not culpable of hijacking the party in the way some would have you believe. It is the Labour Party bureaucracy, along with a truculent parliamentary Labour Party, that persists in undermining democratic processes and actively disenfranchising the membership. Those of us who joined because we care about ending austerity are being actively blocked from a political party that laid the very foundations of our welfare state.

I was recently elected Education Officer for my CLP in a job share but, like so many others, I’ve now been pushed out of the democratic process in the Labour Party. My local party meetings have been suspended, although many of us were hoping to press on with important local activity. It’s frustrating that months will pass before anything can be organised for our local membership.

Iain McNicol, General Secretary of the Labour Party, has announced the suspension of all normal party meetings at CLP and branch level until the completion of the leadership election, with a handful of exceptions. This decision has been made because of an alleged increase in reports of intimidation and threatening behaviour taking place at party meetings.

Last week, the NEC suspended the Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party and annulled the results of a recent AGM attended by more than seven hundred people. It’s just a week since nearly two-thirds of voters of the 6,000-strong local membership voted for the new executive committee, some of which are Corbyn supporters. The election has now been annulled because of claims of alleged abusive behaviour, although this was challenged by Greg Hadfield, who was elected as branch secretary and was present during election day.

This follows the new rules that dictate that 130,000 party members and union affiliates who joined in the last six months are no longer able to vote. Only those who joined on or before 12 January 2016 now can. Anyone else wishing to vote will have to pay a £25 fee and become a registered supporter. This fee is a significant financial barrier for many people, including those most excluded from our democracy.

To many of us, this feels like an anti-democratic coup. So many of us are desperate to end austerity and revive Labour’s commitment to fighting injustice and inequality. Clearly there is a hunger for change among the Labour Party membership, but Labour HQ is actively silencing members’ voices. Surely though, those involved in the coup must realise: the more undemocratic Labour bureaucracy is, the harder we will fight to change the status quo. And we will win.

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