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LABOUR’S left protested against the death of democracy in the party today ahead of a decision on whether to purge left-wing groups.
Hundreds of suspended party members picketed Labour’s central London headquarters alleging unfair expulsions, attacks on free speech and rigged internal elections.
The demonstration, partly organised by Norman Thomas, chairman of Labour’s South Thanet branch until he was suspended in December, came as the party’s national executive committee (NEC) was due to vote on whether to proscribe four grassroots groups as “toxic.” The meeting was ongoing as the Morning Star went to press.
Membership of Resist, Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW), Labour in Exile Network and Socialist Appeal could be forbidden if the proposal is approved, the expected result given that a majority of NEC members back party leader Sir Keir Starmer. Any members of the groups would then be automatically expelled from Labour.
The groups supposedly stand against party values by “promoting” communism, suggesting anti-semitism allegations against members are overblown, and demanding that former leader Jeremy Corbyn be reinstated as a Labour MP after Sir Keir withdrew the party whip in October.
The move could affect legendary film-maker Ken Loach and the BFAWU union’s national president Ian Hodson due to their involvement with LAW.
Mr Thomas told the Morning Star that the move is an “obvious attempt by the leadership to hasten the purge of the left in the party,” adding that members would “keep on fighting for a democratic, socialist party.”
In a statement on the eve of the vote, 10 left NEC members, including former MP Laura Pidcock and Unite’s Jayne Taylor, said the vote was a “continuation of the destructive factional behaviour” from the leadership.
“[This] is about setting a precedent as a forerunner to proscription of more and more groupings on the left of the party, to ultimately erase the Bennite and other socialist traditions within the party,” they said.
The warning comes amid fears bigger groups key to community organising, including Momentum, may be next.
And proposals to create an exclusive “star chamber” to act as judge and jury on similar decisions in future is an affront to natural justice, the group, which also includes Ian Murray of the Fire Brigades Union and CWU’s Andy Kerr, also stressed.
Labour’s poor financial situation was also on the agenda for today’s meeting, with the party’s general secretary David Evans admitting to staff that cash reserves are now down to just one month’s payroll, news website LabourList reported.
Finances have been under strain since the party suffered a catastrophic loss of membership following Mr Corbyn’s resignation as leader last year.
Party numbers swelled to well over half a million when the Islington North MP was at the helm between 2015 and 2020, making the party at one stage the biggest in Europe.
But the decision by the Unite union, Labour’s biggest donor, to cut its contributions, combined with a lack of wealthy donors coming forward, has also hit the party coffers, Mr Evans is reported to have said, as had costs dealing with thousands of internal complaints.
Voluntary severance is being offered to staff, and it is understood that the aim is to make at least 90 redundant. The party may also be forced to scrap a number of special advisers.
Reacting to the news, Momentum co-chairman Andrew Scattergood said Sir Keir had brought the richest party in Britain to the brink of disaster.
“[Sir Keir] promised competence, electability and socialist policy: on each he is comprehensively failing. We need the support of a mass membership and engaged trade unions — and that means we need to be a party that fights for working people.”
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