The Labour Leadership Election Farce
Every day brings alarming revelations about the farcical running of the Labour leadership election. It appears that more than 100,000 party supporters, entitled to vote, did not receive their ballots by the end of August – the point at which all ballots were due to be issued.
There is also the issue of people unjustly suspended from the party, and deprived of their vote, all of whom appear to be Corbyn supporters. A piece in the Daily Mirror yesterday suggested that up to 7,000 members have been “purged” in this way.
There is an online poll in the link above. As I write this, 61 per cent of respondents think all the party supporters signed up to vote should be able to do so. Only 15 per cent think the current situation is fair. The other 24 per cent agree with some, but not all, purging.
The scale of the Labour purge is gradually slipping into mainstream media consciousness.
In contrast, the BBC, with its vehemently anti-Corbyn approach to reporting political news, now seem to be ignoring the purge of his supporters.
The BBC reported Corbyn’s concern about the purge on August 26, but have not revisited it since then
Yesterday the BBC ran an expose of the Saving Labour approach to ousting Corbyn, but failed to make the connection with gerrymandering of the ballot by staff at Labour HQ.
My Blogging on the situation continues to be part of the social media storm. Work continues among the suspended to challenge the situation.
Yesterday the Labour Insider Blog featured a piece by me about the mental health aspects of the purge – they gave it the title Labour’s Shame. This what I wrote:
Thousands of loyal Labour Party members are currently suspended, on the basis of little or no evidence, due to what appear to be unaccountable actions by the compliance department. This is obviously causing a lot of anger and upset to those involved. As one of those suspended, I have been Blogging on a daily basis about the Labour purge, explaining what it means to be barred from party activity, and what is being done to tackle this. For much of my life I have battled with mental health issues, including Asperger Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and spells of depression. I have touched on this in my Blog pieces plus Tweets, and received many messages, both public and private, from other people in a similar position.
People with Asperger Syndrome struggle with social interaction. Membership of the Labour Party has always been important to my sense of identity. When I joined Labour, in 1984, I felt part of a political party that championed the NHS, comprehensive education, and workers’ rights, while providing opposition to Thatcherism. In 1997, I helped in the election of a Labour government, which was destined to introduce the minimum wage, and strengthen the NHS, along with other achievements. I felt proud of my small role in the process. Although I struggle talking to people I do not know, confidence in the strength of the Labour Party, and enthusiasm for politics, has enabled me to be a regular party canvasser, talking to people on their doorsteps. I have stood as Labour candidate at local elections on 10 occasions, between 1989 and 2015. Now that I have been suspended, I feel that part of my identity has been taken away, hopefully only on a temporary basis.
Other people have been telling me that suspension has intensified their mental health problems. Experiences we share include increased anxiety, lack of sleep, and the repeated checking of emails, hoping for news that the nightmare of suspension may be removed. The nature of Asperger’s and OCD causes me to obsess about particular problems. As I write this, it is the eleventh day of my suspension. The suspension has rarely been far from mind in this time, and I am finding it difficult to focus on other matters. I have sent a series of emails to the Labour Party about the suspension. I often find the writing of even the simplest email a struggle, with the Asperger in me wondering whether I am communicating as I should be, while the Obsessive Compulsive worries about the content – spelling, grammar, layout of paragraphs, font, and is it unlucky to send an email at 13 minutes past the hour? On the single occasion this week that I spoke to somebody at party headquarters, the lack of any positive outcome added to my anxiety.
I have had a telephone conversation with the Equality Advisory Support Service, an organisation that provides official advice on the practicalities of the Equality Act and Human Rights Act. They are looking at the Labour Party’s legal responsibility to deal fairly with party members who have a disability, including long-term mental health issues experienced by myself.
In an email sent on September 2, the Labour compliance department belatedly acknowledged my mental health concern, and said this will be taken into account when they deal with my appeal against suspension. Unfortunately, at the same time, they said the actual reasons for the suspension of myself, and thousands of other party members, will not be investigated until after the leadership election, in which our votes have been taken away.
Apparently Labour Party staff, who are busy suspending loyal comrades they know nothing about, on the basis of flimsy evidence, do not have time to look at the detail of appeals. As Labour Party members we place trust in our organisation. At present that trust is sadly not being reciprocated by the party machine, which is badly letting down thousands of our people. For those of us with Asperger’s, and similar conditions, it feels very alienating.