As ballot papers for a raft of Labour elections arrive through letter boxes this week, Croydon North’s Progress MP Steve Reed OBE and a “co-operative” councillor who served under him during his time as leader of Lambeth Council have called the party process into question.
Jeremy Corbyn looks like he might win the Labour leadership contest on first-preference votes alone, a democratic outcome of an election which Reed and the likes of Stockwell councillor Alex Bigham appear to regard with horror.
Reed is supporting Liz Kendall for the Labour leadership and former Blair cabinet minister Dame Tessa Jowell to be the party’s candidate for London Mayor.
Despite supposedly being Croydon’s only non-Tory MP, Reed failed to bother attending recent Labour election events held at Ruskin House for the mayoral selection or to hear Corbyn speak.
Bigham and Reed have a problem with their party’s new selection system, which operates on a principle of one person, one vote. It was introduced at the behest of right-wingers in the Labour Party – like Bigham and Reed – as a means of diluting the impact of the trades union bloc votes. In an attempt to engage more people in politics and the party, the elections also offer an option for non-members to vote by paying £3 to become a supporter.
Reed and Bigham appear most concerned that as well as attracting Tories wishing to cause mischief (such as Gavin Barwell’s parliamentary aide, Croydon councillor Jason Cummings, who made a cash donation to the Labour Party before being caught out), the policies and integrity of Corbyn have actually managed to work in attracting many former Labour voters back to the party.
“TUSC candidate who stood against Labour in Croydon North in May registered to vote in leadership election. Hard left infiltrating Labour,” Reed bleated to his Twitter followers.
“TUSC grew out of the Trotskyite Militant Tendency who infiltrated Labour in 80s, they are very hard left,” wrote the owner of a £900,000 house on Shirley Church Road.
Reed was referring to Glen Hart, a trades union official from Thornton Heath who in May’s General Election managed to poll 261 votes to the 33,513 who voted for Labour and got Reed as their MP. Hart had in fact not simply signed up as a supporter, but had chosen to join the Labour Party, inspired by Corbyn’s approach to politics. But this week, Hart told Inside Croydon that he is seriously reconsidering his party membership because of his treatment at the hands of Reed and his colleagues in south London’s version of McCarthyism.
As well as picking on Hart, Reed may have had a hand in the blocking of comedian Mark Steel from having a vote in the selection process. Steel campaigned for Labour at the General Election in May, but clearly his face doesn’t fit with Reed and his mates in the “Lambeth South” constituency.
Reed has something of a track record in this respect.
When he was leader of Lambeth Council, Reed issued instructions for borough officials to monitor the email account of one of his own party colleagues, Councillor Kingsley Abrams. Abrams, like Hart a union official, was eventually forced out of the Labour Party. Despite twice issuing threats of legal action against this website for daring to report these facts, Reed has failed to follow-through (simply, we would suggest, because his complaints are baseless).
Meanwhile, in Reed’s old stomping ground of Lambeth, Bigham has been so frit of “entryism” by the likes of – Shock! Horror! trades unionists and real socialists – that he has even started a petition to have the party’s leadership election halted. This has brought about a counter-petition, calling for Bigham’s de-selection as a Labour councillor.
By 1pm today, Bigham’s petition had been backed by a grand total of 15 signatories.
What might be termed the “Kick Bigham Out of the Labour Party” petition, by contrast, had been signed by 217. You can view that petition here.
As one signatory to the petition put it: “Neo-liberal Tory-lite New Labour Blairites may feel entitled to see the Labour Party as their own property to run for their own and their undemocratic and corporate bosses’ financial interests, but it is not. It is the people’s Labour Party and we want it back. If Alex Bigham is against the democratic process, he has no place in politics here.”
Bigham responded on Twitter, stating, “I’ve been a Labour member for 17 years and a councillor for five. If some never-been-canvassing Trots want to try to deselect me, bring it on.”
Note that like his mentor, Reed, Bigham uses the word “Trot” as if it is a term of disparagement. A bit like the words “City banker” are used as a term of disparagement by the majority of ordinary people.
Bigham works for Ark, what he calls an “education charity”. What he doesn’t say is that Ark is a major private operator of state schools, as academies. Oval Primary near East Croydon was forcibly converted into an academy for Ark. Among Ark’s trustees is Lord Stanley Fink, described as “the Godfather of the hedge fund industry”, a former Tory Party treasurer and frequent guest of David Cameron at Chequers. Nice.
Given that, it does seem odd that it has taken so long for Bigham to be accused of “entryism” to the Labour Party.
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