I had two emails from the Labour Party just before Christmas. One was headed “Update on your membership payment” and contained information about the new membership fees, which have risen in line with inflation.
Here is what it said:
The Labour Party is an incredible and powerful force for good, and we’re stronger with you on our side. Thank you for being with us.
Together we’ve created transformational change — from the NHS to the welfare state. And in opposition, we’re holding the Tories to account, delivering crucial U-turns from the government when it matters most.
Members like you, Christopher, truly are our greatest strength.
It came with an attached letter from no less than David Evans, the general secretary of the Labour Party, himself.
Here is what the letter said:
Thank you for your continued commitment to the Labour Party. Every Labour Party member is different; but we are united by our commitment to equality, compassion and social justice.
Our most lasting achievements — from the creation of the NHS to the national minimum wage — were due to the people of our movement coming together to fight for our shared values. By renewing, you are standing alongside hundreds of thousands of proud card-carrying members as we continue campaigning for fairness and equality.
That email came through on December 20, five days before Christmas.
The second email came on December 21, a day later; coincidentally the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year.
It was signed “kind regards” from the party’s governance & legal unit (GLU), and it also came with a letter attached:
Dear Mr Stone,
Notice of Allegation
We are writing to inform you that the Labour Party (the Party) has received an allegation that you have committed a Prohibited Act contrary to the provisions of Chapter 2, Clause I.5 of the Labour Party Rule Book (the Rule Book).
Chapter 2, Clause I.5.B of the Rule Book provides that the following constitutes a Prohibited Act:
- Possessing membership of, providing financial assistance to, sitting on the ruling body of or otherwise supporting (as may be defined by the NEC) any political organisation that the NEC in its absolute discretion shall declare to be inimical with the aims and values of the Party.
At a meeting of the NEC held on 20 July 2021, the NEC considered, determined and confirmed that Labour Against the Witchhunt, Labour In Exile Network, Socialist Appeal, and RESIST constituted “political organisations” for purposes of Chapter 2, Clause I.5.B.v of the Labour Party Rule Book.
The NEC further confirmed that membership of any of the above organisations was incompatible with membership of the Labour Party, pursuant to Chapter 2, Clause I.5.B.v of the Labour Party Rule Book. Examples of support for the above organisations are set out in the Complaints Policy. We have set out the details of the allegation below and exhibited the evidence to support this allegation overleaf.
- Allegation 1: Support for Labour Against the Witchhunt
- On 22 July 2021, you joined the Facebook group “Labour Against the Witchhunt” and remain a member of the group as of 24 November 2021. On the 22 July, 25th August and 13 October 2021, you shared posts in the group.
- Allegation 2: Support for Labour In Exile Network
- On 29 December 2020, you joined the Facebook group “Labour In Exile Network Group” and remain a member of the group as of 19 December 2021. On the 19 August, 25 August and 12 October 2021, you shared posts in the group.
I won’t go into all the details. I’m certain I’m not the only one to have received such a letter in recent days. It is replete with unintended irony, such as the line about the Labour Party’s concern for my health and wellbeing, which offered a link to the Samaritans, and the fact that I’d just had the letter the day before thanking me for my membership and extolling the virtues of the Labour Party as “an incredible and powerful force for good”. It would be a joke if it wasn’t so pitiful.
I can’t deny the charges. I am a member of both Facebook groups, but of neither organisation. I did, indeed put up posts, but that was before they were proscribed. I don’t know what the legal term is, but it seems to me to be against laws of natural justice to punish a crime retrospectively, before it was declared a crime… as if liking and posting on Facebook can be considered crimes at all, as opposed to just having an opinion about stuff.
As it happens, I was considering my membership anyway, ever since I heard the news that my good friend Anne Belworthy had been expelled.
Anne had been a member for 65 years and was an absolute inspiration to all of us younger members. I’d first met her in 2011, when I was the rep for the CWU, protesting about the closure of our delivery office in Whitstable. Anne led the Canterbury Pensioners’ Forum, and I was invited to speak to her group about the effect the closure would have on retired people. I saw then what a dedicated and indefatigable campaigner she was. It was people like Anne who made me proud to be a Labour member. To my mind she was — IS — the heart and soul of Labour. The idea that the party could exist, or have any purpose, without the presence of Anne and her kind in its midst is a joke. Remove Anne from the Labour Party and there is no Labour Party: just a shrill mechanical husk, posing as a party.
You can read all about Anne’s expulsion here.
My own relationship with the Labour Party began in the 70s. My great uncle George, who I lived with in Burton-on-Trent during a year-long sabbatical from college, was a member. Also two of my friends from school, Pam and Joe Field, were very active and vocal supporters of the party at the time. (They’ve since stopped paying their dues, after 50 years, because of Starmer).
I was politically naive in those days, more into spiritual things than politics, but it was being around people like George that made me see beneath the surface. The commitment to an ideal that the postwar generation showed seemed to me a deeply spiritual matter. Conversations with my uncle helped to refocus my attention away from the world-renouncing spirituality of my youth towards a more active engagement with the political world. I didn’t actually join the party till later, but I was an always-interested supporter, and watched the election broadcasts on election night and party conference religiously.
I eventually joined in 1984, during the miners’ strike. I had just moved to Whitstable in Kent and was surprised to find that there were mining villages in the region. The bulk of the membership of the Miners’ Support Group, which met every Friday down the Labour Club, consisted of local members of the Labour Party. I joined both — the party and the club — at the same time.
The club became the focus of my life for several years. I was the membership secretary for a while, as well as the social secretary. We took it upon ourselves to raise money for various left-wing causes: starting with the miners’ strike, and including anti-apartheid and a variety of other issues.
When I joined, the club was virtually moribund and had been taken over by people whose views veered far to the right of the Labour Party. Indeed, there were rumours that some of them were BNP sympathisers. Certainly their language was ripe, full of racist remarks and ugly rhetoric. The club was being bled of funds too. Money was disappearing into unaccountable places and the finances were stumbling from one crisis to the next. I got beat up down there one night. There was an emergency meeting and eventually the club committee got replaced. My housemates, Andrew Ling and Julian Spurrier, became very active down there, as did I. Eventually I ended up on the committee.
I can honestly say that the club wouldn’t have survived without me. Obviously I wasn’t on my own. Lots of other people were involved, including the Rowden family, Chris, his wife Sue, and sister Patsy, whose dad, Fred Rowden, had been the first person to be served at the bar when the club had opened in 1978. There was a picture on the wall of him raising a glass on that first night. Anne, too, was a founder member, and is now the last living representative of this august group. My job was to organise benefits, which quickly became the financial mainstay of the club. Julian was a solicitor, and had organised an extension on the bar for our first benefit. Once that had been accepted by the magistrates as “a special occasion”, the precedent had been set and they were obliged to issue us extensions from then on. The club quickly became a hub for a different kind of clientele: students from the university and artists and bohemians from the town. I used to say that it was the model for a new kind of economics. The bands used the back room to practise and played for free, money was raised on the door for the various beneficiaries, the club took lots of cash behind the bar, the town had a late-night venue and everyone had a great time. What could be wrong with that?
We organised a claimants’ union from there and a writers’ & artists’ cooperative. During the poll-tax era we had a very active anti-poll-tax group, called Whitstable Against the Tax (Wat): a reference to Wat Tyler, a local hero and one of the organisers of the Peasants’ Revolt. We had a flysheet called Wat Times, which represented my first public attempt to put pen to paper, and we organised a march to London following the line of the Kentish peasants’ march in 1381. We made the front page of the Morning Star. Colleagues from that time became friends, many of whom have remained so to this day.
But it was at about this time that I realised how timid the Labour Party was as an organisation. The leadership failed, entirely, to support the miners in their struggle and, when it came to the poll tax, Neil Kinnock told us to pay up and that he would repeal it once in government. Of course he never did get into government, which meant that, had we not fought it in the way we did, then it never would have been repealed. People say that it was the poll tax that brought down Thatcher, and I am proud to have played my part in that.
It was after this that I renounced my membership of the party. I remained an active member of the club, however, as an associate member, and, for lack of anyone else to vote for, continued to put my cross in the box marked Labour.
During the Blair years things got worse. We were led into an illegal war by someone who, quite evidently, had sold his soul to the establishment… if not to the devil himself. Blair made himself immensely rich after his time in office — the richest ex-prime minister ever, with a shady globe-spanning organisation supporting dictators and other vicious regimes — which suggests that he was being paid off for services rendered. It was hard in these years to continue to support the Labour Party, and, in fact, I soon found myself as the election agent for two other parties: 1) the Money Reform Party, whose aim was the abolition of the debt-based money system; and 2) the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, whose candidate in Canterbury was Rocky van de Benderskum. You can read about that here. Obviously both of these were single-issue parties, whose purpose was to highlight a particular policy using the ballot box for publicity. They weren’t really rivals to Labour.
All of that changed in 2015 with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Once I saw his name on the ballot, I swore to rejoin Labour if he won; which he did, of course.
I was enthused about politics again. The 2017 election manifesto was a bold, innovative, intelligent, fully-costed love letter to the British people and I supported it with all my heart. I became an active member of the party again. I attended meetings. I delivered leaflets. I got involved. I was one of many. Tens of thousands of us, young and old, working-class and middle-class, blue-collar, white-collar, teachers, musicians, artists, from many different traditions, from many different backgrounds, from all over the country, joined the Labour Party, to make it the largest political party in western Europe. Those were heady, exciting days, and we really did think we could change the world.
In some ways we did change the world. The austerity agenda, which had dominated politics ever since the crash of 2008, was quietly dropped by the other political parties as an attempt to subvert the Labour rise. And despite relentless opposition from the broadcast media and the press, and from significant factions within the party itself, Corbyn took 30 extra seats in the 2017 general election and increased the party’s poll rating to 40 per cent, its highest rating since 2001. I felt that I had found my political home at last.
It was after that that the anti-semitism charges started happening. The press had thrown everything at Corbyn. He was a clown. An idiot. Unpatriotic. Scruffy. Unelectable. Ate beans from a can. Didn’t show the proper respect. Danced his way to the Cenotaph. Was a terrorist sympathiser. Had a messiah complex. Was a spy for the Czech intelligence services. A whole bunch of stuff that became increasingly absurd as the months went by. But finally they had found something that could be made to stick. Corbyn’s historic support for the Palestinian cause alarmed the Jewish population and made it easy to throw allegations of anti-semitism at him. By sheer repetition the charges became fixed in the subconscious of the population. The daily deluge of misinformation served as an incantation, a spell that infected the public mind. He was undermined from within and from without. His natural politeness and equanimity allowed his enemies to get close. Starmer wormed his way in, undermining him at every turn, dismantling his Brexit policy, making it incoherent and muddled, and betraying the working-class northern voters who had overwhelmingly voted for Brexit. With friends like this, who needs enemies?
There’s no point in going over all this again. We lost the 2019 election. Very badly. It was one of the saddest days of my life. Corbyn resigned and, after another election in the Labour Party, Starmer took over. He famously made 10 pledges, which included the pledge to unite the party. He has since gone on to do the opposite.
That was in 2020. I remained in the party, paying my dues, hoping to influence it for the things I believe in. I didn’t want to cede the ground to the Blairites, who were moving in fast. I couldn’t let go of the possibility that we could still turn this old engine around. After all, it was the party that my uncle George had supported and that my mum had voted for the whole of her life. I couldn’t renounce the belief that it was my party, that people like me had founded it, and that, by being a member, I had a right to have my say. Friends left, or were expelled. When they questioned me about my continued membership, I had a particular line: “The Labour Party is a battleground, not a monolith,” I said. “It’s not a single organisation with a single philosophy. It’s our job to stay in and to fight to make it what it was meant to be.”
I was wrong. It’s been easy to get rid of me. In the end I went without a fight. I could have saved myself nearly two years worth of fees.
I knew from Anne’s experience that appeals don’t work. They will ignore your letters. They will pay no attention to your evidence. They don’t care if you are a member of the proscribed organisations or not. Posts on Facebook are enough to condemn you of a crime you didn’t even know you were committing. The Labour Party is a toxic place where a modern-day McCarthyism rules. There are people trawling through your social-media history trying to find evidence of your alleged crimes. The party has become a zionist front, with Israeli spies being given prominent roles. Bogus anti-semitism has given way to actual anti-semitism: Jewish supporters of Palestine are being targeted for expulsion. Dozens, maybe scores, of my friends from this small area of east Kent have been expelled, while scores more have left, unable to bear the toxic atmosphere, the betrayal and the injustice any longer.
I took great relish in going down to the bank and cancelling my standing order. When the woman behind the counter suggested I ought to inform the recipients, I said no. “I want to cause them as much trouble as possible,” I said. She laughed. I think she understood what I was talking about.
Recent figures put Labour Party membership down by 200,000 since Keir Starmer took office. That number is set to increase as the current purge takes hold. Meanwhile, the finances are in turmoil. Labour staff are being laid off and the party is in debt. Several unions have disaffiliated or withdrawn funds. The party is spending more on court cases defending its anti-semitism stance, or paying off critics, than it is on campaigning. There is no real opposition any more. The party is more concerned with attacking its left-wing members than it is the government. The worst Tory government in history is being let off the hook while the Labour Party is tied up with internal disputes and snooping through members’ social-media accounts to see if they might have said a naughty thing one night after too many beers.
The question has to be, who does the Labour Party belong to? Keir Starmer has been an MP for all of six years, and yet he was able to remove the whip from Jeremy Corbyn, someone who has been an MP for approaching 40. The aggressive takeover of the party machinery by a faction, and its use to remove long-standing members such as Anne Belworthy, seems to me to parallel the workings of disaster capitalism at its worst. It amounts to a hostile takeover, a coup d’etat against the membership, in which the laws of ownership are being used to asset-strip this historical institution, to make it friendly to the neoliberal agenda.
It seems clear to me that Keir Starmer is an establishment plant. He is “Sir” Keir after all. You don’t get to be knighted without services being rendered to your masters in high places. He was given two jobs: either to make the Labour Party friendly to the establishment, to make sure that a membership insurgency like the one that brought in Corbyn, could never happen again; or, failing that, to kill off the Labour Party altogether. It seems he is doing a good job of both.
More Expulsions: Jean Fraser’s Letter To The GLU
To whom it may concern:
I am writing in response to your so-called letter of allegation together with its ‘evidence’ provided by your McCarthyite, smutty little screen-shotters.
I do not dispute that I liked the sites in question, nor that I made a sarcastic comment about your policy of suspending/expelling left-wing Jewish members. However, my defence is based on my belief that you had no justification in the first place proscribing the groups mentioned in your letter. These groups comprise members – many Jewish – who have committed themselves over many years and decades to socialist values. Perhaps you have forgotten or do not care that on the back of our membership cards it states that: “The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party.”
As the Labour in Exile Network and Labour Against the Witchhunt are groups whose agendas are committed to both socialist and Labour Party values, your allegation cannot hold up; and what does your proscription of them say about the Labour Party under its current leadership? Despite Keir Starmer’s pledge when he was a leadership candidate to unite the party, he has sown far more division than ever existed before. It appears that the Leadership now desires an echo-chamber where no dissent is tolerated.
I’m sure I am not the first to point out that demanding I do not tell anyone about this allegation goes against natural justice which gives me the right to defend myself however I see fit. And what Party rule prevents me from speaking about your letter? Please withdraw this letter of allegation otherwise I will be forced to contact my solicitor.
In conclusion, regarding your patronising suggestion I contact my GP, the CAB or the Samaritans I would suggest that if you feel this letter will distress me to that extent, then you have already reneged on your duty of care to me as a member of the Labour Party.
Jean Fraser – Membership no. L1384627
About CJ Stone
CJ Stone is an author, columnist and feature writer. He has written seven books, and columns and articles for many newspapers and magazines.
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