Mark Steel, the stand-up comedian and broadcaster from Croydon who was barred from joining the Labour Party because of his support for another political group nearly a decade ago, has called for some Labour MPs to be banned for supporting Tory Party policies.
He may have only been joking.
Steel is a long-time supporter of Crystal Palace Football Club and the Socialist Workers’ Party – the former being longer lasting than the latter, Steel having left the SWP in 2007. This, though, was some time after Steel had been a candidate in Croydon and Sutton in the London elections for the Socialist Alliance, where he polled fewer than 2,000 votes.
He has just started his seventh series of Mark Steel’s In Town for BBC Radio 4, and he continues to write a weekly column for the now online-only Independent.
And with the Labour leadership contest entering its final fortnight, Steel yesterday wrote about the “purge” of applicants and members within the party.
Steel applied to join Labour last year, during the first flush of enthusiasm for Jeremy Corbyn, but his application was blocked. A poll of Inside Croydon readers voted 90 per cent in favour of Steel being allowed to join the Labour Party (assuming that, after all that has followed, he might still want to).
Over the past 12 months, Labour has also suspended the secretary of the Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party over a single tweet, while local Blairites sought to have Andrew Fisher, the Croydon resident and union activist who is Corbyn’s policy adviser, expelled from the party.
Steel wrote: “If you were cynical, you might notice all those banned, including the 130,000 who joined recently, are those likely to vote for Corbyn. The anti-Corbyn faction believe it’s essential to stop him, because while he can attract thousands to rallies, they say he couldn’t win a General Election. The only answer, therefore, is to replace him with someone who stands even less chance of winning a General Election, and can only attract nine people to rallies.”
In his column, Steel writes, “You hear of reasons for being banned such as ‘tweeting a preference for cucumbers over spring onions’, or ‘supporting a candidate who wasn’t in the Labour Party, on the grounds it was the 2009 final of X Factor and there was no official Labour candidate’. Long-standing members are banned because ‘you boiled an egg in a manner that could support terrorism’ or ‘it has been reported you had a dream in which David Miliband’s head was on a tadpole’, or ‘it was suggested you didn’t recognise Stephen Kinnock during a question about politicians on Pointless‘.
“One Labour member was banned for ‘liking’ a tweet that supported Green Party policy on fracking, which suggests at no point must you have ever supported anything ever proposed by another party.
“So to clarify, to be allowed to vote you have to support any idea said by someone in your party, as long as it’s not from the leader of your party, but have to disagree with anything ever said by the Green Party. This means Green Party leader Caroline Lucas could advocate voting Labour, then anyone in the Labour Party who voted Labour would be banned from the Labour Party for supporting a Green Party policy and Labour would be forced to disappear under Labour Party rules.
“This could get even more complicated soon, because most Labour MPs supported Tory Party policies on welfare and immigration and war, so when the General Secretary gets round to banning them, there will end up being a minus figure of members, meaning any candidate who wins nought votes will be the clear winner.”
Mark Steel was not available to confirm which Labour MPs he might have in mind.
Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Lambeth South/Croydon North [delete to taste] and sometime vice-chair of Progress, lives in a £1 million house outside his constituency in the Shirley Hills.
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