The struggle between grassroots members and the leadership of the Labour Party nationally reached an Orwellian low in south London this week, when a local branch meeting was allowed to debate no-confidence in leader Sir Keir Starmer, but was blocked from discussing a similar motion over the party’s general secretary, David Evans. Or “Big Bother”, as Evans is becoming known.
For the past two decades Evans has run a consultancy in Croydon which received a series of juicy, six-figure contracts from his mates on the council.
Labour members in Sutton and Cheam were barred by the party’s London regional office from holding a no-confidence vote over the Blairite general secretary, though they were able to go ahead with a similar motion on Starmer.
Intriguingly, one of the senior figures in the Sutton and Cheam Constituency Labour Party is Charlie Mansell. For a day job, Mansell works for The Campaign Company, the very same Croydon-based business established by Evans.
Mansell’s work for TCC involves “research, development and segmentation for campaigns”, a subject on which he is such an expert that, with his help, Labour in Sutton has not managed to win a single seat on the LibDem-dominated council since 2002…
That was the year that Mansell was returned as a councillor for St Helier ward. That means that in the 18 years since, Labour in Sutton has managed to field more than 300 losing candidates.
Last month, a meeting of Croydon Central CLP saw an unexpected turn-out of Evans’ old mates, as a motion of no-confidence in Starmer was narrowly defeated, after local party officials jumped through a series of procedural hoops in order to even discuss the matter.
So it was this week in Sutton and Cheam, where the CLP considered two motions. The first called on the party to accept the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s report’s protection of members’ right to free speech on its contents and on antisemitism in the party.
The second declared the lack of confidence in Starmer, who only became leader earlier this year, succeeding Jeremy Corbyn.
The Starmer motion cited “Whipping the [Parliamentary Labour Party] to abstain on the ‘Licence to Kill Bill’ and the ‘Spycops Bill’.”
The Labour Party, the motion’s wording stated, “should be making it clear by their actions… that they oppose any illegal actions by British armed forces” and the police.
The motion went on to criticise Starmer’s lack of “solidarity” with the Black Lives Matter movement, his “complete disregard of Labour Party democracy” and a lack of support for teaching unions over the return of schools during the covid-19 emergency.
Both motions were passed, according to a report on Skwawkbox, by a majority ratio of around 3 to 1.
The website reports that representatives of the party’s Governance and Legal Unit and London regional office were present at the meeting, but while they “did not prevent the anti-Starmer motion, they did block a no-confidence vote in Evans, telling members they could face action if they proceeded”.
Referring to Starmer as “Keith”, a party member told Skwawkbox, “Why are they protecting Evans but allowing Keith to shoulder the resentment? Even people who voted for Starmer as leader are disgusted.”
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