Di Coffey

So Farewell, Iain McNicol

Di Coffey
So Farewell, Iain McNicol

THROUGHOUT SOCIAL MEDIA, euphoria greeted the news of Iain McNicol’s resignation. A Facebook friend said she was so overwhelmed with joy and relief she wanted to dance naked round her block of flats. I empathise with her feelings.

Yes, I know McNicol was “only carrying out the instructions of the NEC” – or so I’m told - but it was his name on the letters sent to members telling us we had been suspended or expelled in a blatant and successful attempt to deny us the chance to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the 2016 leadership contest. Those letters shattered the lives of thousands of us.

I cast my first vote for Labour in 1964 when I was 24. I remember standing in Trafalgar Square with my young husband, cheering on Harold Wilson as the results came through. But my darling man developed multiple sclerosis and for the last 17 of our 51 years together, I was his carer. Like most long-term carers, I’d forbidden myself to be ill but, when my husband died at home in 2010, I went down like a pricked balloon. Breast cancer, dormant for 34 years, returned to bite me. In September 2014, I was given a year to live.

Widowhood drew me back to my home town of Falmouth and, after being told, totally unexpectedly, that I was in remission, I walked over the threshold of Falmouth Labour branch in November 2015. I was concerned over the execs present who did not express 100% enthusiasm for the election of Jeremy Corbyn as our leader. A debate on social housing revealed members who supported the sale of council houses. Alarmed, I set up Momentum Falmouth in January 2016.

I reckon that decision pissed off enough in the CLP exec to get me suspended in 2016, although the official reason given was that I had used “foul and racist language in my posts on social media.” I hadn’t, but I confess to using the word “Blairite” many times! However, I was unaware when posting that although it was ok for Labour MPs to bad mouth Corbyn throughout the mainstream media, it was forbidden for members to criticise the said MPs via social media. Yes, I didn’t pull my punches but I’ve never resorted to personal abuse - and of course the allegations of racist language were without any truth at all.

The shock of receiving the letter from McNicol telling me I’d been suspended, that I could no longer be vice-chair of Falmouth Labour branch and I could no longer represent the Labour Party in any way at all, sent my physical health into a steep nosedive. I began to feel very ill, too ill in fact to contemplate attending any tribunal concerning my suspension. It was with enormous regret that I quit the Labour Party.

My secondary cancer spread to my peritoneal lining and throughout 2017 I was unable to attend Momentum meetings. But my chemo injections appear to be working so in November last year I wrote to Labour’s governance and legal administrator asking if I could be readmitted to the party.

Enquiries were made to my Truro and Falmouth CLP and, because most of the exec roles are now held by members loyal to Jeremy Corbyn, I received their wholehearted support for my application to rejoin Labour. However, I have been told I must attend an interview before a panel chaired by a member of the NEC before a decision can be made about me.

I haven’t yet received a date for my interview. I can only hope it won’t involve too much travelling and that I’ll be strong enough to undergo the ordeal.

Throughout the last years I have worked online rallying the troops for Corbyn, sharing info about Labour events throughout the UK - and I send donations to my local Labour branch in lieu of my cancelled subscription. I see myself as a communicator - hopefully, a motivator.

I have received unwavering support from my local Labour and Momentum comrades who even made face masks of me and staged an “I am Di Coffey” demo at the 2016 conference and I’ve been inundated with offers of support at my interview. I was presented with a framed photograph of me in conversation with Jeremy Corbyn following his hugely successful rally at Heartlands in Cornwall in August 2016. It’s one of my most treasured possessions.

I can only hope McNicol’s resignation will close the chapter on the shameful purge that took place in 2016. And I also hope that those of us who were unjustly suspended and expelled will be welcomed back into the party we still love and support despite the trauma we’ve gone through.