Bye-Bye Labour

This I think is the final straw for me. It’s an email from the General Secretary of the Labour Party, David Evans, to Constituency branches, telling them what topics branches can and cannot discuss.

‘This will ensure that the business your local party is conducting is appropriate, minimises any challenge to its decisions and does not leave the party – locally and nationally – or its officers open to potential legal liabilities.’

A number of topics are covered in the email, some of them procedural; but the main ones refer to the recent debate on ‘anti-semitism’ in the party.  It’s the last that concerns me most. The IHRA ‘definition’ of antisemitism is, in the minds of most scholars, highly flawed, and by seeming to conflate antisemitism with criticism of Israeli governments has done untold and unmerited damage to the reputation of the Jewish community among many Labour members and supporters. Now however we are told that we aren’t allowed even to discuss it.

Here’s that last instruction.

IHRA definition of antisemitism

We are aware that some CLPs and branches have had motions tabled to “repudiate” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. The IHRA definition of antisemitism and its examples was properly adopted by the Labour Party in September 2018. CLPs and branches have no powers to overturn this decision. Furthermore, such motions undermine the Labour Party’s ability to tackle racism. Any such motions are therefore not competent business for CLPs or branches.

As per the previous general secretary’s instruction, any discussion about ongoing disciplinary cases remains prohibited.

This was obviously done under pressure – real or imagined – from what might be called the ‘Israel lobby’ and its press supporters. But whatever the provocation, I’m afraid I can no longer remain a member of a party that curbs civilised free speech in this way. This blog has probably made me liable to expulsion in any case; but I’ll save the party the trouble.

Where I’m to go to now I can’t tell. I no longer have a political home in Britain. As a demi-Swede I may try Vänsterpartiet here: formerly the Communists, but now the closest to Corbyn’s and Attlee’s party I can find anywhere. Of course I’ll still vote Labour in England, and wish Keir Starmer well; but he can have my membership card (of 50 years) back.

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8 Responses to Bye-Bye Labour

  1. Phil says:

    I’m holding on till the elections of members’ reps to the NEC; the system’s been hastily fix- ahem- democratised to ensure that the Left won’t get a clean sweep, but hopefully we can at least make a good showing. I find it hard to blame anyone on the Left for leaving, though.

    Evans’s letter wavers between saying more than he can do and suggesting more than he’s saying, and I think it comes down on the latter side. In other words, he is correct to say that for a CLP to pass a motion repudiating the IHRA definition would be ultra vires, meaning that no such motion should be tabled – this would be true of a motion repudiating any part of the rulebook. Challenging or debating the IHRA definition isn’t covered by a strict reading of “any such motion”, so he’s not actually banning us from doing those things. You can be sure that CLP and ward branch chairs will use this leter to justify ruling those things out of order, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You may be right, and I’ve been too hasty. But the earlier paras of the email were just as peremptory: forbidding discussion of past ‘disciplinary’ actions, for example. (I’m thinking here of Chris Williamson.) We’ll see if I get a reply from my Constituency Party Chair or from HQ. But I’ve stopped my Direct Debit anyway. Isn’t it cold out here in the political vacuum?

      Like

      • PS: I’ve just received this from my Constituency Secretary – just a few minutes after my letter of resignation! – which is very reasonable and understanding, and may convince me to hold off for a while.

        Hello Bernard,

        Thank you for your email, though I’m very sorry to hear of your resignation. The email from David Evans is something I’ve discussed at length with other secretaries around the country, and I personally agree that it’s unacceptable to gag local party units in this way. I understood when we were asked not to discuss ongoing disciplinary cases, but the recent restrictions seem to me to silence the very heart of the party – its membership.

        I find it very hard in light of this to give you good reason to stay in the party, but I would ask you to reconsider. We have not been able to meet for a long time, but that will change soon, and I believe the only way we’re going to improve the party is from within, and the only way we’re going to oust this cruel Tory government is by helping Labour to victory.

        I made a decision some weeks ago to remain in the party for those reasons, I felt that a protest of resignation was miniscule compared to the work I could do within the party to return it to its Socialist principles.

        If you are intent on resigning I will process your resignation today, but I ask you to reonsider your decision and join us in fighting for our party.

        In a personal capacity, with solidarity,

        Peter North
        (Hull North CLP Secretary)

        Like

  2. Is this the IHRA definition of antisemitism which Labour has adopted?
    “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • No. It’s that definition WITH EXAMPLES. See https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/working-definition-antisemitism. It’s the examples, originally offered as indicating POSSIBLE anti-semitism, but now taken to DEFINE anti-semitism, which the BoD and other similar organisations insisted on, and which Labour cravenly accepted but which its critics – including many liberal Jews – object to. They include, for example, criticism of Israel; or – in several cases of members recently expelled – the argument that anti-semitism in the Labour Party has been exaggerated, possibly for extraneous reasons. That is my position.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Interestingly, those on the right who are the hyper-critics of ‘political correctness’ when it emanates from the left, seem to have no issue at all with the foreclosing of discourse represented by some of the the examples in the working definition.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tony says:

        The examples include critical comments about ‘Zionism’, (undefined), which are to be conflated with anti-semitism, so that effectively any criticism of Israel’s policy towards Palestine can be interpreted as anti-semitic, which is plainly absurd. Labour has adopted a McCarthyite tactic of requiring members to sign up to an agreed definition, resign, or be expelled. It smacks of the intolerant tactics in the 1950’s of Gaitskill’s efforts to expel ‘fellow travellers’.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Marie Clausén says:

    I can completely empathise with how you feel; there is a lot of this about these days unfortunately. The Labour Party now sounds to me like it is being represented by what Iain McGilchrist calls authoritarian progressives, as small-minded and, ultimately, dangerous a breed as any other authoritarians.
    (I would have left a comment on your Facebook page, but I can no longer see these entries on Facebook since you’ve begun uploading them to your ‘story’ rather than your homepage, from where they used to appear in my feed.)

    Liked by 1 person

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