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LABOUR’S war on its own members took an embarrassing turn at the weekend when a left MP defeated the party’s threat of investigation against her for allegedly breaching its rules.
The investigation warning went to Kate Osborne, MP for Jarrow in north-east England on Friday, but was followed within an hour by a grovelling apology and retraction after she swiftly responded with a lawyer’s letter.
After stopping the investigation in its tracks, Ms Osborne asked how many other Labour Party members have been threatened without having recourse to expert legal advice.
And campaigners said that Labour’s purge is now steaming ahead without the need for formal procedures such as appeals against expulsion.
Recounting her own experience, Ms Osborne said: “Without warning … the Labour Party served me with a ‘notice of investigation’ making serious accusations of breach of party rules.
“I was shocked and unnerved by getting such a letter and was puzzled at what the party was saying about me.
“I thought my job as an MP was on the line and that I faced public shaming in front of my constituents as some will always say: ‘There’s no smoke without fire.’
“Well, there is. The charges were completely baseless. The evidence relied on made no sense. There never was anything that was a breach of the rules.
“Luckily, I had access to immediate legal advice and my solicitor wrote a strongly worded letter utterly rejecting the allegations.
“Shortly after receiving the letter, the party withdrew the investigation claim — it was an ‘administrative error’ and apologised for the mistake and the distress it had caused me.
“What does this say about an apparent mission to threaten members with expulsion from their own party?
“There is little if any consideration being given to the impact on members of receiving such threatening letters.
“An apology after the event is one thing, but the effect is awful. How many people have had similar letters but do not have access to specialist legal advice?
“I’m one of the fortunate ones, but how many others are left stewing while ill-considered baseless allegations are rained down upon them?”
Ms Osborne said she was speaking out because “if they come after elected MPs with baseless claims, they will come after others.
“We need a serious look at ourselves and what is happening to our party,” she said.
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “This should not have happened.”
Labour MP Richard Burgon, who was shadow justice secretary under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, said: “How many more less-well-known left members is this happening to? This must stop.”
Norman Thomas of the Labour in Exile Network said: “Basically [party leader Sir Keir] Starmer and his allies are trying to clear the party of anyone who disagrees with his new party line.
“They want to be rid of anyone who still harks after the socialist policies championed by Jeremy Corbyn.
“The only reason they backed down in Kate Osborne’s case is that they feared facing high legal costs — and the party has paid out too much in legal costs in recent times.”
Stan Keable of Labour Against the Witchhunt said: “Starmer’s majority on the national executive committee has reinvented a proscribed list of organisations they used to use against the Communist Party. This was abolished in 1973.
“Now they do not have to go through any procedure. They just say: ‘You are a member or supporter of a proscribed group so you cannot be a member of the Labour Party’.”
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