Labour ‘expels councillors’ who campaigned for rival

A picture of a Sunday market in Brick Lane, part of the area involved in this dispute. Labour party expels councillors who ‘supported rival’ (BBC News; more at The Wharf)

This report is about three former Labour councillors who were expelled from the party in east London for supporting an independent candidate, Gulam Rabbani, in a council by-election in Spitalfields in April 2012. The party has a policy of expelling any member who stands against a Labour candidate in any election or supports a rival candidate in any way. In recent years, in some areas, they have policed this quite ruthlessly, with people expelled in south Wales even for writing a letter to a paper giving a link to a website on tactical voting.

I am not sure about the circumstances of this expulsion and there may well be good reasons other than merely supporting a rival for why they were expelled; if they did it for reasons connected with cliques or back-home tribes then their expulsion is well deserved. The leader of the Labour group on Tower Hamlets council said that the three had consistently campaigned against the Labour party.

However, many people support candidates other than Labour ones because the rivals might well embrace policies more in keeping with what one might call Labour than those proposed by the official candidate. The policy dates from the time when Labour existed to support the working class and advance the country towards socialism. Then, securing seats in Parliament and on councils might have been seen as a moral end in itself, but that goal no longer exists, and having a Labour MP might mean your MP could mean anything. Many Labour politicians are not socialists by any standards, have no working-class connections and in the worst cases are indistinguishable from right-wing Tories except for their accents (Frank Field being a classic example). The party should not be able to expel someone for openly opposing someone who openly opposes such a candidate.

There should be a legal recourse to expulsion from a party, and the party should have to prove treachery, repeated indiscipline, radically divergent views or that the person is an embarrassment to expel someone. No party has a divine right to rule, and joining a party should not mean giving up freedom of speech. I know some of my friends are joining Labour again after years away, but I won’t as long as I have to support whoever they decide on, even if his values are entirely different from mine.

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