AFTER CAMERON WON THE GENERAL ELECTION, I decided to become much more active in my local Labour Party. Along with many others, I was very frustrated and angry. Very soon I became secretary of Rushcliffe CLP and secretary of West Bridgford branch.
The branch had a stable but small number of committed officers who had organised and kept the Party going. However times were now different. Local party membership had doubled as a result of both the General Election and Corbyn’s election and many new people wanted to build a party to win in 2020.
This was not without some tensions, however, and in October these resulted in the resignations of the CLP chair and myself as CLP secretary. I remained branch secretary however and worked to build the branch – an organisation which was described by the Regional Officer as ‘exemplary’.
Branch meeting attendance increased five-fold. I galvanised this support so that for the first time in a very long while the branch had a BAME officer, a TULO officer, its first disability officer and a new newsletter officer. New members were set to reinvigorate the CLP General Committee (GC) with the election of over 20 GC delegates, ten of whom were enthusiastic supporters of the leader, wanting ‘straight talking honest politics’.
All seemed to be going well at both branch and CLP level. However, on 19 March along with nine other officers from two branches, I received a letter from the Head of the Constitutional Unit (I had no idea what that was) telling me I was ‘administratively suspended’ by the NEC because of ‘allegations’ about our behaviour. We were not allowed to know what the allegations were and who made them. We still don’t know.
Subsequently we were told further allegations were made that one of us had talked to a party member about our suspension. We were not told who had allegedly spoken to whom or about what. We were told by the Deputy Regional Director that we were ‘not permitted’ to talk to party members about our suspensions. Really? At this point you will begin to feel you have strayed into the pages of a Kafka novel.
This article could either get me reinstated or expelled. It is difficult to predict. After being suspended for six weeks we were asked for written submissions about our suspensions with a deadline six weeks in the future. Now, 16 weeks on, those officers have stuck to that. We have been effectively turned into pariahs. For doing what? We are left then wondering just what rationale there could be for removing eight branch officers from a single branch and two from another. This has devastated our branch at a time of crucial campaigning activity for the Party. This was at a time the Party was recruiting members in unprecedented levels. Wouldn’t you just want to encourage people to take part in building the Party? Or would you treat these enthusiastic new recruits like this? Let me just ask this question. Why are those members suspended up and down the country all supporters of Jeremy Corbyn?
[Peter Gates is a Labour Party activist and a member of Momentum. He has undertaken a number of social research projects into the effects of disadvantage for Nottingham City Council and has an international reputation for his academic work on social justice in education. He is a member of the UCU, Stop the War and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.]
is a member of Rushcliffe CLP