News / Politics

Labour suspends pro-Corbyn party members in Bristol

By martin booth, Sunday Nov 22, 2020

The Labour Party has suspended some of its members in Bristol for allowing a motion to be heard in a constituency meeting on the suspension of former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Other Labour members have been suspended for sharing a hashtag on Twitter calling for the party’s regional director to be sacked.

Bristol24/7 understands that five people have been suspended in the Bristol West constituency Labour Party (CLP) – including the chair and co-secretary – with others suspended in Bristol East and Bristol North West.

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The general secretary of the Labour Party, David Evans, issued instructions which said that local parties could not question the findings of the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report on antisemitism in the Labour Party or pass any motions disagreeing with it.

Former leader Jeremy Corbyn was suspended after making a public statement about the report. Despite being readmitted to the Labour Party, current leader Keir Starmer has still suspended him from the party whip.

A member of Bristol West CLP told Bristol24/7 that many members “are up in arms” about how Corbyn has been treated by the party.

They said: “It is unprecedented in British political history for a former party leader to get suspended. It cannot be seen as anything other than an obvious factional attack on the Left, and an attempt to stamp out any possibility of socialist politics.”

On the day that the EHRC report was released and Corbyn was suspended, the Easton and Lawrence Hill branch of Bristol West CLP passed a motion in solidarity with Corbyn, calling this a factional attack on the Left and calling for his reinstatement, while also recognising the seriousness and value of the EHRC report.

The members behind the motion said that it focused on the failure to follow the correct processes, but they were told by senior party figures that a meeting to hear this motion should not take place, and warning that there would be consequences if they went ahead.

“We were caught between a huge number of members who are furious about what has happened and the fact that they were being told they cannot discuss it, a lot of other members who insisted that we follow the instructions of the party and shouldn’t hold a meeting or hear a motion, and the weight of the party machinery,” the member of Bristol West CLP told Bristol24/7.

During the subsequent meeting conducted over Zoom to hear the motion, a majority voted in favour of the meeting going ahead it and the motion itself was later passed, with 99 votes for, 80 against and three abstentions.

Keir Starmer with Labour MPs Karin Smyth and Kerry McCarthy – photo: Kerry McCarthy

The other members who have been suspended were told it is because they had shared tweets from Bristol Momentum that were calling out Labour’s regional director, Phil Gaskin.

The tweets gave examples of the many times he has allegedly acted against the interests and wishes of Labour members throughout the South West.

After using the hashtag #sackgaskin, the members were charged with bullying a staff member.

The member of Bristol West CLP told Bristol24/7 that “obviously these people on Twitter do not actually have the power to call for the sacking of a regional director of the Labour Party, and did not expect that to be the outcome of tweeting about it”.

They said: “It was tongue in cheek. It was a spontaneous response from frustrated members in anger against a powerful and unaccountable Labour staffer…

“There are thousands and thousands of members, many of whom have been in the party for decades, who have never witnessed this kind of authoritarian interference from the party before.”

Matthew Williams of Labour South West said: “CLPs have received guidance on conducting discussions of the EHRC report in a constructive and inclusive way that recognises that its recommendations result from a statutory investigation and that the party has accepted it in full.

“We cannot comment on individual cases because our disciplinary procedures are confidential and we must uphold our legal responsibilities for data protection. We will not tolerate abuse of Labour Party staff in person or on social media.”

Main photo of Jeremy Corbyn and Thangam Debbonaire: Bristol24/7

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