The Labour Party this afternoon announced that it had lifted the suspension on Andrew Fisher, the socialist author and party member from Croydon who has been appointed as policy adviser to Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader.
The decision is likely to be bitterly disappointing, and embarrassing, to The Hon Emily Benn and those from the Progress party-within-a-party in Croydon Labour, who may have encouraged Benn, the young West Thornton councillor, to put her name to the complaint against Fisher, based on little more than a couple of tweets posted on social media over the course of almost two years.
Throughout this Progress attempted purge, Fisher has maintained the stout support of the party’s leadership, with shadow chancellor John McDonnell telling a meeting held at Croydon’s Ruskin House earlier this month that Fisher had campaigned longer and harder for the Labour Party than The Hon Emily had ever done: “Andrew’s knocked on more doors for Labour than Emily Benn’s had hot dinners,” McDonnell said, without waving around any examples of 20th Century Far Eastern literature.
The Hon Emily, the granddaughter of Corbyn’s political hero, Tony Benn, was the somewhat lacklustre sacrificial Labour General Election candidate in Croydon South in May, where her brand of soft-focus socialism saw her campaign launched outside the actual constituency and include a concert by a string quartet.
“I’m a Benn, not a Bennite”, she has said, distancing herself from the principles of Tony Benn and the left, while being prepared to trade on her family name. With her uncle Hilary in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, The Hon Emily’s complaint about Fisher came just a matter of weeks after Corbyn’s overwhelming election as leader saw her post messages apparently supporting a rival political party.
Fisher, an occasional contributor to this website, has apologised for his misinterpreted tweet about the Class War candidate in Croydon South – who has refused to publish his own Twitter message to which Fisher was responding, to provide its full context. Fisher has also closed down his social media accounts.
Today, Labour’s National Executive Committee announced that it had lifted Fisher’s suspension, but issued him with a warning about his conduct.
Around a decade too late, Labour has decided to draw up a code of conduct for party members using social media.
The witchhunt against Fisher was seen as another signal that the Parliamentary Labour Party, few of whom support Corbyn, was seeking another way to reject a leader who was the overwhelming choice of the party’s membership, including many new members attracted by Corbyn’s refreshing straightforwardness and outright rejection of Tory austerity.
Tonight, two Labour MPs, Caroline Flint and Siobhain McDonagh, showed their own disrespect for the NEC, rejecting its judgment over Fisher. “We are disappointed that the Labour Party has decided not to proceed with a full disciplinary inquiry by the NEC into Andrew Fisher, and instead issue a slap on the wrist.
“The chair of this investigation has been subjected to huge pressure, and this has compromised the independence and integrity of Labour’s disciplinary process. It is unacceptable for members to support other parties, delight in Labour MPs losing their seats or to engage in cyber-bullying…”
Flint and McDonagh, who is the MP for Mitcham and Morden, appear to dislike the principle of free speech and being able to hold an opinion of the abilities – or lack of them – of elected representatives. But it is notable that they have managed, somewhat slyly it would seem, to introduce a very serious new charge against Fisher, that of “cyber-bullying”, completely without evidence or justification.
Their statement continued: “Others have been excluded from our party for less than the activities of Mr Fisher. It would appear that there is one rule for members and one rule for those who work for the party leader.”
It is not known whether the latter part of the statement is intended ironically: Inside Croydon has information which suggests that across south London, in CLPs – constituency Labour parties – where Progress members hold control, membership applications from those who have in the past expressed anti-Blairite views have been purged and rejected.
For his part, under a heading “justice is done”, Fisher issued the following statement welcoming the NEC decision:
Truth is, if there are divisions within the Parliamentary Labour Party between right-wingers and the Corbynistas, there are also splits within the Labour Party in Croydon which are becoming increasingly visible within the Town Hall group.
Today, Inside Croydon sought the reactions to the Fisher news from figures within Croydon Labour, such as council leader Tony Newman, who is always available for photo-ops with ageing rock stars, and from the Croydon South constituency party secretary, Joanne Milligan. Neither responded.
We also approached The Hon Emily Benn, but she was probably too busy in her full-time job as a City banker.
And we also asked Steve Reed OBE, the vice-chair of Progress and Croydon’s only Labour MP. But he was too busy this afternoon helping his constituents by campaigning in Oldham, Lancashire, and has not responded to our invitation to comment.
David White, the secretary of Croydon Central’s CLP, told Inside Croydon: “I’m very pleased that Andrew has been reinstated.
“The executive committee of Croydon Central Labour Party wrote to the general secretary saying that Andrew has been an active and respected member in Croydon Central since 2008. Those of us who know Andrew have never heard him express anything but loyalty to the Labour Party and its values.
“The important thing now is for the party to unify round Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and fight the growing attacks by the Tories on ordinary people’s living standards and the fabric of society.”
- Want to find out what Andrew Fisher really thinks, in more than 140 characters? His Inside Croydon article archive can be found here
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