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I HOPE no-one from Labour’s compliance unit is reading this.
You see, I’m not supposed to tell anyone other than the Samaritans that I was suspended as a Labour member three weeks ago.
I was suspended for circulating the resignation letter of the chair of my CLP (Constituency Labour Party).
I had been asked to do this by officers in my local party as it was standard practice.
I made no comment on the letter, but within it, the former chair wrote: “Anti-semitism has been and continues to been used for political ends; ie conflating anti-semitism with anti-zionism.”
By circulating his words, I was “undermining Labour’s ability to campaign against any form of racism.”
I was surprised this got me in trouble because there were far more obvious reasons to suspend me.
Every Sunday morning on Not the Andrew Marr Show, I give a platform to Labour members and ex-members who are critical of Sir Keir Starmer — many of whom have been suspended or expelled.
One week, we invited Labour’s general secretary David Evans to appear. When he didn’t, we changed the title to The David Evans No-Show Show.
I’ve even dressed up as “Sir Keith” and put out video messages from him in which he suspends people.
Surely this should have got me suspended.
How did I get here? I wasn’t always like this.
I used to put on fundraisers for cash-deprived CLPs and I believe I’ve put on more fundraisers than anyone in the history of the party (over 250 in total).
I went through two cars as I drove comedians, a PA system and stage lighting all over the place (from Workington to Bangor, to Falmouth and North Norfolk).
Political fundraisers at a local level were mostly uninspiring dinners with a speech or two from bigwigs. I tried to change that with comedy nights.
When Jeremy Corbyn was Labour leader and struggling with the media and his own backbenchers, I was integral to the JC4PM tour which saw hundreds of comrades — and sometimes over 1,000 — turn up for events in London, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Brighton, Doncaster and Birmingham.
We mobilised a lot of people in good time before the 2017 general election, which Labour was so close to winning.
As well as staging events, I produced a pack of Top Trump cards called Labour Heroes.
The aim of this pack of 40 cards featuring MPs was to place Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott next to people like Keir Hardie, Nye Bevan and Michael Foot as part and parcel of Labour’s history.
I wanted Labour to be seen as the party of heroic radical socialists and not the party of middle-of-the-road careerists.
This year I’ve changed my view on Labour Heroes.
I don’t think any Labour MPs are behaving heroically because they are not really fighting for members who have been suspended or expelled.
The real Labour Heroes are those who have spoken out. These are just some of them:
• Ken Loach, this country’s leading film director and social commentator
• Diana Neslen, a Jewish 82-year-old lifelong anti-racist who took the Labour Party to court when she was accused of anti-semitism
• Jackie Walker, a woman of black and Jewish heritage who experienced a traumatic childhood before becoming a teacher, lecturer and anti-racism adviser
• Ian Hodson, a former biscuit baker in Blackpool who went to play a leading role within the BFAWU in the fight to improve working conditions for McDonald’s workers
• John Dunn, a former miner who was badly beaten, framed and seriously injured in the miners’ strike in 1984 and is now a leading activist in the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign
• Pamela Fitzpatrick, a Labour councillor who has represented hundreds of people at welfare benefit tribunals.
All these people have faced suspension or expulsion from the Labour Party. They deserve recognition as they have been smeared in the media and faced reputational damage.
That’s why I’ve created a Labour Heroes 2022 calendar featuring 12 such heroes and also why I am putting on a pre-Christmas event called A Night for Labour Heroes at the Conway Hall on Wednesday December 15 from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.
The guest list features all those who have spoken out and there will be an award ceremony — with shining engraved glass trophies — with categories including “Suspension of the Year” and “Auto-exclusion of the Year” and we will be showing tribute videos to the prize-winners.
This will be a colourful celebration, also featuring music from Robb Johnson, comedy from Don Biswas and poetry from Kevin Higgins.
With Covid regulations in mind, there will be socially distanced seating and everyone will be required to wear a mask.
The masks will come in particularly handy as it will make it difficult for Labour’s compliance department to identify anyone.
To book tickets for A night for Labour Heroes go to: buytickets.at/labourgrassroots/610354.
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