Labour members who have been prohibited from supporting Jeremy Corbyn in party meetings have now been told they cannot discuss the subject of freedom of speech.
An email last Thursday from the party’s administrative head, the General Secretary, David Evans, ruled that any motions of ‘solidarity’ (with anyone) or any motions discussing the processes of the Parliamentary Labour Party are out of order.
His reason for prohibiting these motions was that they provide ‘a flashpoint for the expression of views that undermine the Labour Party’s ability to provide a safe and welcoming space for all members, in particular our Jewish members’.
This has caused a great deal of anger for members who support Jeremy Corbyn but abhor anti-semitism, and has also upset many Jewish members who do not feel that the General Secretary should speak for them in this way.
Since the directive from Evans, a number of CLP Secretaries and Chairs have been suspended from the party for allowing motions to be discussed at their meetings. This includes respected NEU National Officer Louise Regan (in Nottingham East), Pete Firmin and Bridget Dunne (Hampstead & Kilburn).
Their suspensions have been covered by national media and they have been hounded on social media.
Chairs and Secretaries of Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) face a dilemma as they are being urged by many members to allow discussion about Jeremy Corbyn, while also being threatened by unelected Regional Officials who tell them to block debate. Jon Rogers spoke eloquently about this on Sunday’s discussion on ‘Not the Andrew Marr Show’.
Many CLPs, such as Sedgefield, have decided the only course of action to take that satisfies members’ desire for discussion is to table a motion of no confidence in the General Secretary. They have seen this as the last resort.
In the last couple of days, however, at least one Regional Director of the party has extended the scope of what motions are prohibited.
Labour Grassroots was sent a copy of an email sent by Phil Gaskin, the Labour Party’s South West Regional Organiser, that argues that allowing a motion of no confidence in Evans would ‘create a situation where Jewish members would be made to feel uncomfortable and unwelcome’.
Gaskin’s authority comes from Evans so it is not a surprise that he would wish to stick up for his boss, but his claim further undermines the authority and integrity of CLP officers who would not allow members to feel unsafe for any reason.
Former human rights lawyer Sir Keir Starmer has not commented on the matter.