Members from Labour branches across the country, otherwise known as ‘Constituency Labour Party’s’ (CLPs), are accusing the central party of undermining democratic process and ‘rigging’ the selection of parliamentary candidates.
This month, numerous branches have seen their entire boards suspended, with Sir Keir Starmer trying to clamp down on branches favouring the selection of ‘pro-Corbyn’ or ‘far-left’ candidates, and install candidates loyal to what has been called the ‘Blair-lite’ direction he is steering the party towards to make it more electable.
Yesterday, suspended Labour MP and Corbynista Diane Abbott published an open letter, accusing Labour’s investigation into her of being a sham and “fraudulent”.
The former Shadow Home Secretary has essentially been blocked from standing again for the party in the next General Election.
Abbott was suspended by Labour pending an investigation in April of this year, after publishing a letter in the Guardian in which she appeared to suggest Jewish People and other minority groups are not “all their lives subject to racism”.
She added: ”In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus”.
Energy Secretary Grant Shapps accused the letter of being “hateful antisemitism”.
Ms Abbott claimed the letter had been an “initial draft”, but Starmer’s Labour leapt on the opportunity to suspend a senior Corbyn loyalist.
This week, Abbott she said that the ongoing, four-month-long investigation into her “is fraudulent”.
She said she was told by the Labour Chief Whip to “actively engage” with the investigation, “but the Labour Whips are no long involved – it is now run entirely out of the Labour Party HQ, which reports to Keir Starmer”.
“There is no investigation”.
She continued: “others have committed far more grave offences, and belated or grudging apologies have been wrung from them. Yet they have been immediately excused as supporters of this leadership.”
“The Labour Party has not charged me with antisemitism because they know it is untrue”.
Making unsubstantiated insinuations that her treatment was partly down to ‘racism’, Abbott said that Labour HQ had “decapitated” the elected leadership of her Hackney constituency party in order to install Starmer allies.
All of this, she argues, is to “replace me as the candidate prior to the next election”.
To this end, it appears that Abbott is in fact telling the truth.
In an apparent power grab to prevent local branches electing candidates unfavoured by Labour HQ, the NEC, likely instructed by Starmer, have seized control of three branches over the past two weeks. These branches are Leicester East, Bolton North, and Abbott’s CLP, Hackney North.
Two weeks ago, the Labour Party suspended the entire Leicester East CLP – one of its most problematic constituency branches – following claims of members violating the rules in the run-up to the next general election.
Senior sources stated that the party’s headquarters is looking into the Leicester East constituency Labour Party (CLP), which has been represented by disgraced politicians Keith Vaz and Claudia Webbe.
Local party officials in the area were anticipated to select their next parliamentary party candidate over the coming months, but reports indicated that Labour headquarters is now planning to enforce a condensed candidate list.
It is believed that the party suspended the CLP in response to allegations that gatherings had been improperly planned to favour a certain group, most notably those who support Keith Vaz and/or Claudia Webbe.
The suspension was confirmed to the Guardian by a labour source who stated that the NEC has a responsibility to protect the integrity of CLPs, to make sure they are properly run in accordance with the party’s rules and procedures and may work completely, inclusively, and democratically.
In Hackney, Pro-Abbott officials were replaced last week.
The branch’s left-wing chair, treasurer and secretary are being replaced by interim “right-wing stooges,” they said.
Outgping chairwoman Sue Millman, who is being ousted alongside her Jeremy Corbyn-supporting secretary, told far-left newspaper Morning Star that the reasons given by the party were bogus.
“Under arrangements introduced by the [Labour Party] to manage constituency boundary changes, CLPs affected by greater than a 15 per cent change are to have temporary executive officers appointed by their regional office,” Millman said
“This is not the case in Hackney North and the replacement of our executive officers will come as a shock to the members who elected me and the other officers whatever their politics.
“It appears to be as a result of other issues arising from the recent Tom Dewey scandal and the suspension of the whip from Diane Abbott — our amazing local MP who is overwhelmingly supported by the majority of CLP members, due to her diligent engagement with the local party and community, and her excellent representation of the constituency.”
Tom Dewey, also a member of Abbott’s branch, was a Labour councillor convicted of downloading thousands of child abuse images. This week, Hackney mayor Philip Glanville officially resigned after it was revealed he had lied when claiming he had not continued his close friendship with Dewey after his arrest.
A Hackney Labour source said former spad Lenny Shallcross will be the CLP’s secretary, adding: “It’s a cover to impose right-wing stooges.
“They are hoping to just completely destroy the left in Hackney North and then parachute in a right-wing candidate.”
It seems that Abbott, who is highly unlikely to hold onto her seat at the next General Election if standing as an independent, is now resigned to her fate.
“Taken together, the procedural impropriety, Starmer’s pronouncement of my guilt, the four-month delay in the investigation, the repeated refusal to try to reach any accommodation, all point in the direction that the verdict has already been reached,” she said.
Today, another candidate spoke out against the selection process, this time in Wales.
The process used by Welsh Labour to select its Westminster candidate for the new seat of Merthyr Tydfil & Aberdare was unfair, undemocratic and discriminatory, according to a sitting Labour MP who was narrowly defeated in the contest.
Beth Winter, currently the MP for Cynon Valley, has called on Labour to commission an independent review into the process, which she believes may have been designed to favour Gerald Jones, the MP for Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney.
The two seats are being merged as part of a widespread shake-up following a reduction in the number of Westminster seats in Wales from 40 to 32.
At the selection contest in June, Mr Jones beat Ms Winter by 231 votes to 215.
In a 21-page dossier put together with the help of her lawyer, Winter alleges that information and explanations were withheld from her “at every stage’ of the process, which was “pushed through” in an unusually short timeframe, and at a peak holiday period, for “reasons that remain unclear”.
Ms Winter also claims voters were disenfranchised by tight deadlines, an “inexplicable” freeze date beyond which no new party members could vote in the selection, and a “complete lack of clarity”.
Writing to the Welsh Executive Committee (WEC) ahead of its September meeting, Ms Winter said that in her view, the process “was not inclusive, fair or democratic” and that “this leads to feelings of a lack of trust and confidence in Labour Party procedures.”
She continued: “In order to restore some trust in the party, I am of the firm belief that an independent review of the selection process in Merthyr Tydfil & Upper Cynon is now essential.”
The WEC discussed her report last weekend, but Ms Winter confirmed that “to date I have received no official information from the WEC on the outcome of that meeting. In my correspondence with the WEC I made it clear that I was requesting an independent review of the selection process, but unofficially I have been advised that the WEC has decided to defer any decision on that request and have, instead, asked that officers who were closely involved in the selection process consider my report and the questions raised by it before any decision on an independent review is made”
This makes little sense if the WEC seriously wishes to build trust in the party, and it begs the question of what they are afraid of if they do not agree to an independent review,” she added.
In her dossier, Ms Winter poses 27 questions to Welsh Labour:
* Why was the decision taken to run the selection before the boundary review process was complete?
* Did the procedure approved by the WEC on the 13th May apply to all selections in Wales?
* Prior to the selection, why were my emails about the selection not responded to?
* Why was the decision taken to run the selection prior to the new CLP (Constituency Labour Party) being constituted?
* Why wasn’t a selection committee formed of local CLP reps from the two constituencies to enable democratically elected oversight?
* Why was the decision taken that there should be no in-person voting?
* What consideration was given to ensuring compliance with the Equalities Act and that digitally excluded members were not discriminated against?
* Why was the decision taken that hustings would be online-only?
* What was the rationale for such an unusually short selection process?
* Why did members and candidates not receive any prior notice of the selection process and the reason for it?
* Why did the WEC originally agree to a procedure which prevented anybody voting by postal-proxy from being able to watch the hustings before voting?
* Why were trades unions excluded from this process?
* Why was the freeze date January 1 2023, over five months before the selection?
* Does the WEC consider it acceptable that I did not receive advance notice of the start date and only found out on Tuesday May 16 that the process had already started?
* Why was email notification not sent out to all members at the start of the process?
* Why did members not receive any prior notice of the selection process and the reason for it?
* Why was the process rushed through over a half-term and bank holiday when there was ample time for a longer process?
* How many additional codes were generated in Anonyvoter during this process?
* Will the WEC agree that Anonyvoter should not be used in future selections until there is an independent review of the software’s reliability.
* Why was Mr Jones permitted to use Labour Party resources in support of his campaign?
* Why was there a failure to adhere to the WEC procedural guidance (including during the count)?
* Please can candidates be sent the “marked register” detailing who has voted online, as held on the Anonyvoter software?
* Why is the information promised to us at the count being withheld?
* Will the party confirm that I will be offered an alternative seat in accordance with Section A.6 of the WEC Procedure as above?
* Why are selection processes so different in each case?
* Why are Labour members in other constituencies entitled to vote in person but not in Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare?
* Will the WEC commission an independent review of the selection process in Merthyr Tydfil & Aberdare?