Guest Author

Why Nottingham East CLP voted no confidence in Chris Leslie: the background

Guest Author

THIS VOTE HAS BEEN a long time in coming. In the years since Chris Leslie was ‘parachuted in’ to Nottingham East in 2010, he has frequently been at odds with the non-Blairites among the membership. Nottingham has suffered greatly under Tory austerity policies, so it comes as no surprise that since Corbyn’s election as leader, Labour Party membership across the constituency has soared. Since last year’s AGM, Corbynsupporting CLP delegates have been very much in the majority.

Nottingham East is one of the safest Labour seats in the country. We deserve an MP who works with Labour Party activists across the board for the benefit of our constituents. We have instead an MP who continues to ‘parachute in’ to a variety of photo opportunities in the constituency, while managing to avoid actual meetings with the general public, including those with urgent issues that need to be addressed by their MP.

Chris Leslie does not hold surgeries. When pressed, he says he has occasional ‘drop-ins’, eg, in a supermarket, but these are few and far between and it is impossible to discover where they are to be held in advance. He has refused to hold meetings with CLP officers when requested. What we do get is a monthly report at CLP meetings and a weekly email to constituents, both of which are designed to showcase his public persona.

Any adverse questions at CLP are generally met with arrogance and dismissal, ironically stating that he is there to represent his constituents. In the media he dismisses those who oppose him as “hard left Marxists”.

In the general election in 2017 the Labour vote in Nottingham East increased by several thousand. We all knew this was very much a ‘Corbyn factor’, a hope for positive change and a response to the Labour manifesto. We celebrated that the election result, far from being the complete wipeout that all the polls and media had predicted, had in fact done so well as to destroy the Tory majority. Not so Chris Leslie. He appeared to believe our increased vote was down to his own personal following and achievements, and went on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme to tell all who would listen that Labour had failed.

Those of us who had worked hard in the surrounding Labour marginals to try to bring about change - such as the near downfall of Anna Soubry - were understandably and justifiably angry.

And still are. He was sent letters of complaint and told in no uncertain terms that he was not just undermining the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn - as was and remains his intention - but was also undermining the Labour Party as a whole and feeding into the negative mainstream media narrative.

For a while, at CLP meetings, he mainly conveyed his anti-Brexit stance, comparing his stand against Labour Brexit policy with the many times Corbyn had voted against the leadership on matters of conscience. This might have been forgiven had he not also combined it with public attacks on the leader himself.

Then, this summer, the media frenzy took off in a new direction and declared the Labour Party to be a hotbed of antisemitism. Not known to have attended any anti-racist protests previously, Chris Leslie was suddenly moved to attend the anti-Corbyn ‘Enough is Enough’ rally, pleading a heartfelt concern against antisemitism. Suddenly he was the ‘go to’ person whenever the media wanted negative comments about Corbyn. He supported Margaret Hodge in her despicable outburst at Corbyn and described in his weekly constituent email how he was fighting antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Many of us wrote to him - including many Jewish members - providing him with data and other evidence demonstrating how this was designed to attack the leadership and restrict free speech on Palestine. CLP motions were passed condemning the weekly massacre of unarmed protestors in Gaza, including children, medics and journalists. We called on him to rescind his membership of Labour Friends of Israel, which had tweeted the Israeli government propaganda that they were all terrorists who were basically responsible for their own demise. Another motion called on him to support the NEC Code of Conduct. But he ignored them all.

So it is not surprising that this vote of no confidence was brought to the CLP. There was tangible anger in the room that he had not even bothered to attend - but we were told this was because he was attending a meeting on Brexit. Moving accounts were given of how badly he had treated some constituents who tried to meet with him to discuss their circumstances.

Delegates wanted him to know that we deplore his undermining of the leadership, his disloyalty, deceit and engagement in plots to oust our democratically elected leader.

There were a few, maybe a handful, of delegates present who argued on his behalf. Their stance was mainly that we shouldn’t be doing this at this time when all media accounts should be focused on the failures of the Tories - an irony that was not lost on delegates. Later we were told that several of his supporters had boycotted the meeting. It would have made no difference to the outcome - otherwise they would have attended. The original motion of no confidence passed, unamended and overwhelmingly. We await Chris Leslie’s response, but not with bated breath. Meanwhile we will fight together to campaign for a Labour government.