Leaked evidence of a conspiracy against the Labour Party

Below is an article I have written for the June 2020 issue of the ever-excellent Labour Briefing.

Please subscribe to — and support — a remarkable must-read publication.

In the Labour Party — like in space — nobody can hear you scream. Or so it has felt for countless grassroots party members who have been expelled, suspended, investigated, libelled, or straightforwardly abused — and largely abandoned — since Jeremy Corbyn was elected party leader.

As one of the fortunate ones — twice suspended; twice unsuspended — my search for a root cause of what is rotten at the heart of the Labour Party machine goes further back than 2015. To the appointment of Iain McNicol as general secretary four years earlier.

Even that does not necessarily give sufficient perspective to understand fully the dysfunctional and distorted bureaucracy that is laid bare in the 851-page leaked report entitled “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014–2019”.

The truth socialists have to face in the light of the leaked disclosures is that our party, if it is to achieve its modest self-declared aims, must re-invent itself from bottom to top.

Electing a leader who genuinely shares those aims is not enough; campaigning for a party whose policies promise to fulfil those ambitions is not enough. The radical democratisation of the Labour Party is fundamental — a fundamental means to the end of a socialist transformation of society.

If we cannot be democratic — transparent and truthful — in how we behave as individuals and as a party, how can we even pretend to be democratic when we aspire to serve as a government or a council?

Therein lies the failure, in my view, of Corbyn and those closest to him. They fooled themselves into thinking they could play a new game, without changing the rules of the old one. Without, from the very start, being Herculean in their determination to clean out Augean-like stables that were overflowing with the detritus of the McNicol era.

Finally, we have one more chance for truth and reconciliation, provided we have the truth first.

The inquiry into the contents of the leaked report is a final opportunity. It is hard, however, to have much faith in an inquiry that seems as much concerned with how the report was leaked — by an inquiry team comprising three members of the House of Lords (under Martin Forde QC, as chair).

Especially when one of them is Lord Whitty, the general secretary under Neil Kinnock who presided over two waves of “witch-hunts” — particularly in my home city of Brighton and Hove — against socialists in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Inevitably, much focus has been on how the party machine worked against — by active intent as well as by passive indolence and incompetence — electoral success for a Corbyn-led Labour Party.

A lot of interesting words and phrases are repeatedly used by the participants highlighted in the report: “trots” (as in “hunting the trots”) gets 237 mentions; “Stasi” (as in the machine’s “new Stasi system”) is another favourite; and disparaging mental health issues (one official hopes a sufferer “dies in a fire”. Another responds: “I wouldn’t piss on him to put him out”).

Despite its length, however, the leaked report touches on only the tips of the icebergs that sought to freeze the actions of socialists at a local level.

Therefore, let me try to summarise my personal knowledge of just a few episodes during 14 years as a Labour Party activist in Brighton and Hove.

This article is based on a book-length account — more than 40,000 words — written after the leaked report triggered again all the awful memories and experiences that I and countless comrades — often women; often BAME or Jewish comrades; sometimes both — suffered in the naïve belief they were the isolated results of local actions by local individuals, a few very bad apples that had grown on a very rotten tree.

All five Labour Party officials involved in some or all of the episodes mentioned in this article are mentioned in the leaked report; all have since left employment by the party:

  • Mike Creighton ran the Labour Party’s Compliance Unit before becoming the party’s Director of Audit, Risk Management and Property. After 25 years as a paid employee, he retired — with an infamous anti-Corbyn leaving speech in March 2017;

It is worth noting that two of them — Mike Creighton and Sam Matthews — both figured in last July’s infamous BBC Panorama programme entitled Is Labour Anti-Semitic?

There is room here only to catalogue the bare outline of just a few episodes from the McNicol years in what used to be the “City Party” (Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party), until 2017, after it was forced to split into three separate constituency parties: Hove CLP, Brighton Pavilion CLP, and Brighton Kemptown CLP.

  • The “open selection” of Peter Kyle as Labour Party parliamentary candidate for Hove in June 2013 — from a “long list” of 16 men, from which a short list of three men was compiled (all against party rules); complaints were swiftly rejected by Creighton and McNicol;

In the future, in the light of the leaked report, when grassroots members scream about unjust treatment by the party machine, let us hope that the rest of us will listen.

This article appears in the June 2020 issue of the ever-excellent Labour Briefing. Please subscribe to — and support — a remarkable must-read publication.

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Greg Hadfield

Pro-Corbyn. Elected secretary of Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party; votes annulled by NEC; suspended Oct 2016; re-instated Feb 2019. Ex-Fleet Street.