WALTER CRONXITE, political editor, on the backlash against Sir Keir Starmer and his general secretary’s treatment of Jeremy Corbyn
David Evans, the “power behind the throne” of Croydon Labour, is now under attack from local parties across the country for his mishandling of disciplinary measures against former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
One south London CLP last night called for Evans to be sacked.
Evans, a former aide to Tony Blair, was credited with helping Labour regain control of Croydon Town Hall in 2014 and helping Sarah Jones win the Croydon Central parliamentary seat three years later.
Earlier this year, shortly after Sir Keir Starmer became leader, he was appointed General Secretary of the Labour Party. Inside Croydon reported at the time that the appointment could “tear Labour apart”.
And now, after Evans’s decision to suspend Corbyn from the party following the publication of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report on antisemitism in Labour, CLPs – constituency Labour parties – across Britain have passed motions condemning the treatment of the former leader.
Tribune describes Starmer and Evans’s position as “a war on the membership”.
Corbyn’s party membership has since been restored, though Starmer is refusing to reinstate the Labour whip in parliament, leaving the 71-year-old MP for Islington North nominally as an “independent”.
On Wednesday, there was a unanimous vote at Islington North CLP in favour of his full reinstatement to the Parliamentary Labour Party. Another motion that evening had thanked the range of CLPs which had passed Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) motions supporting Corbyn.
In south London, Dulwich and West Norwood CLP last night passed a motion of no confidence in Evans by 87 votes to 34, calling “for the NEC to take immediate steps to remove him from office”.
Dulwich and West Norwood is the constituency of Helen Hayes MP, Starmer’s shadow spokesperson on the Cabinet Office.
According to a report in Tribune, Camberwell and Peckham CLP – where the MP is Blairite Harriet Harman – also passed motions critical of Starmer and the Labour leadership, but only after the chair and secretary received warnings from London region Labour Party over even daring to debate the motion.
In Bristol West, the CLP’s chair and co-secretary have been suspended by the party for going ahead and holding the discussion.
Referring to the Labour Party headquarters where general secretary Evans is based, Tribune reports today, “These attacks by Southside on Labour members and their right to discuss major political developments in their party are likely to continue as a wave of constituencies defy the muzzle to table motions in every part of the country.”
Another south London CLP, Kingston and Surbiton, passed a motion last night expressing solidarity with Corbyn which stated, “Jeremy is a lifelong campaigner against racism and antisemitism.
“We believe that unity, not division, is important for the Party to make progress and effectively challenge racism, fascism, antisemitism and harassment in whatever form this may take.”
Richmond Park – which had been the first CLP in the country to nominate Starmer for Labour leader – also passed a motion of support for Corbyn. “This demonstrated that it wasn’t just bastions of the Left where the campaign is attracting support; the meeting had one of the highest attendances of any since that leadership vote earlier this year,” according to Tribune.
There have been no motions debated by any of the three CLPs in Croydon in recent weeks. Indeed one of the CLPs, Croydon South, has failed to convene any meetings, virtual or otherwise, since the first covid lockdown began at the end of March – eight months ago.
Meanwhile, 14 members of the party’s ruling body, the NEC, have written to Evans criticising Starmer and others for commenting on the NEC’s work, accusing them of “direct political interference” in their processes and describing their actions as “unacceptable”.
Corbyn was informed last night that the suspension of his whip would last for three months.
At the heart of the Corbyn controversy has been Evans and his seemingly unilateral decision to suspend the former leader.
As described by Tribune: “This move amounts to the latest ad lib approach from the Labour leadership to the Corbyn suspension – which was first leaked to the media before he was informed, then issued without any clear guidance as to what rule he had broken, overturned by a politically-neutral disciplinary panel of the National Executive Committee after Starmer allies had fast-tracked the case, only to then be reinstated (in the PLP at least) in a knee jerk fashion by Starmer himself. Now, it is subject to a legal challenge.
“If this all sounds like a farcical mess, that’s because it is.”
Which is possibly not a bad description of the Labour Party in Croydon at the moment. There were calls at a council meeting last night for the Labour whip to be removed from councillors Tony Newman, Alison Butler and Simon Hall, and for their expulsion from the party altogether for their part in the collapse of the council’s finances which led, last week, to the issue of a Section 114 notice.
Newman, when leader of the council, was extremely reluctant to resign that position and he has given no apology for the state of the council, or the damage that he has done to the Labour Party’s reputation in south London.
And it has been suggested that Newman, Butler and Hall have “friends in high places” within the Labour Party regionally and nationally. Croydon’s two Labour MPs, Jones and Steve Reed OBE, both have shadow cabinet jobs under Starmer, and Jones was wheeled out yesterday to criticise Corbyn – the party leader she had credited with helping her win Croydon Central in 2017.
Newman has so far escaped any sanction from the party for his failure to report a serious sexual assault against a young woman last year by one of his serving Labour councillors, or for his part in the fixing of the candidate selection for the subsequent council by-election in Fairfield ward.
Newman and Butler have worked closely with David Evans on campaigns and election manifestos for many years. Butler and Evans also share a daughter. The Croydon-based firm founded by Evans, The Campaign Company, received hundreds of thousands of pounds in council contracts, shovelled his way by Newman and Butler once they took power in Croydon in 2014.
Butler’s son even managed to get a job with TCC when it was running consultations for Brick by Brick, though the then deputy leader never declared the interest.
“The clique sticks together,” a Croydon activist said today. “While he’s busy persecuting Corbyn, Evans won’t be doing anything over the conduct of his mates who have done far deeper, and much longer-term damage to the party.”
Read more: Council forced to declare itself bankrupt
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