The battle goes on in Brighton and Hove
With the Labour Party conference starting in Brighton within the next few days, a slew of interview requests from national newspaper journalists prompted me to review some of the key events that have happened in our local party — now [three] parties — in the last 15 months.
Specifically, I wanted to cover a few recent developments after reviewing those I have previously rehearsed in more than 91 blogposts and 80,000 words.
If you want to hear more, please attend the fringe meeting at 6.30pm on Sunday, September 24, at The Quadrant, Queen’s Road, Brighton.
To begin at the beginning: I started this blog partly because I wanted it to be a resource for anyone interested in the suspension, in July last year, of what used to be the Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party (the “City Party”) — then, with 6,200 members, the biggest “party unit” in the country.
Specifically, I wanted to expose the false allegations by Councillor Warren Morgan, the leader of the Labour Group of councillors and the minority Labour administration on Brighton and Hove City Council (BHCC).
Many readers will remember how Cllr Morgan — supported by several other Labour councillors — repeatedly alleged there had been “spitting” at the City Party’s annual meeting on July 9 last year. (In the run-up to meeting, he sent a secret email to “friends” about an alleged left-wing “takeover” of the local party.)
Regular readers will also recall how — at precisely the time he was spreading false allegations about “spitting” — Cllr Morgan ignored an outrageous verbal assault on Seema Chandwani by Harris Fitch, one of his supporters, in a public house where many other supporters were present (including Fitch’s flatmate and best friend, a Labour councillor).
Outrageously, a formal complaint against Cllr Morgan — by Matt Tully, the young man wrongly accused of spitting — was not even acknowledged by Iain McNicol, the Labour Party’s general secretary.
So much has happened since then:
- a spurious NEC inquiry, whose report was leaked but never published;
- the imposition of an unelected and unrepresentative steering committee;
- the forced division into three Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs);
- the imposition of delegate-based structure for CLP general committees (GCs, rather than all-member meetings);
- the election of three Corbyn-supporting CLP executive committees (ECs);
- the election of Corbyn-supporting conference delegations by all three CLPs — with two CLPs (Hove and Brighton Kemptown) passing motions making selection of parliamentary candidates more democratic;
- proposals for a Local Campaign Forum (LCF) to oversee the process of selecting potential Labour Party candidates to stand in the BHCC elections in May 2019.
Meanwhile, Ivor Caplin — a former defence minister under Tony Blair at the time of the Iraq War and a man who has long been in the intimate circle of Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove — has been behind anonymous smears and briefings that have resulted in the expulsion of Mark Sandell (who was elected chair of the City Party in July last year) and of Riad El-Taher (who was elected to Hove CLP’s EC); Mr Caplin was also behind libellous comments about Becky Massey, another EC member in Hove who was suspended and then re-instated. Separately, Mel Melvin, an EC member in Brighton Kemptown CLP was suspended for alleged anti-semitism.
None of this prevented membership of the Labour Party in Brighton and Hove growing by 40 per cent — to about 9,000 members (or about one in 25 of the electorate!). Nor did it prevent Momentum Brighton and Hove — with 2,500 members and supporters, of whom more than 1,000 are party members — from playing a significant part in the general election campaign in June.
Having played a central part in the decision by the Green Party not to stand in Brighton Kemptown, it decided to concentrate all its resources into supporting Councillor Lloyd Russell-Moyle’s (successful) campaign there to oust Simon Kirby, the sitting Conservative MP.
This decision was vindicated on June 8, when Cllr Russell-Moyle won a majority of 9,868. This was despite — not because of — the Labour Party machine; it was because of Jeremy Corbyn and a socialist manifesto.
Finally, a few words about my own suspension on October 26 last year.
Separately, it took the Labour Party 117 days — and a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office — to respond to my Subject Access Request, submitted in a vain attempt to learn what the allegations me comprise.
As of today, my case has still not been referred to the National Constitutional Committee — even though the NEC’s Disputes Panel made the decision to refer it on January 16.
As a result, I will have been suspended for more than a year before I have even a chance of a hearing — and before I learn details about the still-unspecified allegations by still-unnamed complainants.
All this is despite the excellent report of the Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry, which was published on June 30 2016. This made several excellent recommendations in its chapter headed “Clear and transparent procedures for dealing with allegations” (pp 15–20):
· Specifically, the report said it was important that procedures explain that those in respect of whom allegations have been made are clearly informed of the allegation(s) made against them, their factual basis, and the identity of the complainant. It said “subjects of complaint should normally be informed both of its substance and author at the earliest opportunity”.
· Furthermore, the report said it was important the procedures lay down clear timelines within which a complaint will be dealt with.
· In addition, it highlighted the importance of motivation and context, when considering if a complaint was politically motivated.
· The report also said: “It is completely unfair, unacceptable and a breach of Data Protection law that anyone should have found out about being the subject to an investigation or their suspension by way of the media and indeed that leaks, briefing or other publicity should so often have accompanied a suspension pending investigation.”
And that’s why I will be speaking at the fringe meeting at 6.30pm on Sunday, September 24, at The Quadrant, Queen’s Road, Brighton. I hope you can join me.