ANDREW FISHER (pictured right), Director of Policy at the Labour Party when Jeremy Corbyn was leader, questions the dubious procedures, the lack of due process and even bullying in the treatment of some Croydon colleagues
As reported by Inside Croydon yesterday, David White, a popular stalwart of Croydon Labour, has been expelled from the party. The process used would slander the term kangaroo court.
David has been a Labour member for 51 years, twice as long as I have. He’s been an elected Labour member of the Greater London Council (abolished by Thatcher in 1986), stood as a parliamentary candidate, and for many years was the secretary of Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party.
Last year, he was selected by local members as one of Croydon Central’s delegates to represent the local party at the Labour Party’s annual conference. David topped the poll. The day before conference, he was sent a letter suspending his membership because of some tweets that were apparently so offensive that no one had raised them as an issue in more than seven years.
Despite this, he has been expelled without a hearing, and it’s not clear if he can appeal in person against the decision.
His expulsion is for alleged antisemitism. As David wrote in a Facebook post after an anonymous unsigned letter ended his half-century of membership, “This accusation is hurtful as I have spent my whole adult life campaigning against antisemitism and all other forms of racism.”
I say this as someone who worked for the party for more than four years: Labour’s disciplinary procedures are about factionalism, not fairness. They produce unjust results because the entire process is selective and corrupt.
When I moved to Croydon 15 years ago, David was one of the most supportive and welcoming people in the CLP. He was secretary in 2015 when Labour’s membership in the marginal seat quadrupled to more than 1,000 members, greatly increasing David’s workload. But he worked diligently to ensure new members were welcomed.
I’ve always found the softly-spoken retired solicitor to be unfailingly polite, reasonable and open to debate – even when others weren’t.
Alongside many others, David also campaigned tirelessly to get Sarah Jones elected to parliament in the General Elections of 2015, 2017 and 2019 – with a hard-fought victory in 2017 and an increased majority in 2019.
So it was a sad coincidence that on the day this loyal Croydon servant of the party was expelled, his local MP was seen arm-in-arm with Labour’s newest recruit, guiding Christian Wakeford across the floor of the House of Commons and to his seat on the opposition backbenches.
As a Tory MP, Wakeford voted to cut Universal Credit and to deprive children of free school meals.
David White’s expulsion, though, should not be seen in isolation. The injustice done to David by Labour’s factional disciplinary procedures is compounded by the equally factional processes that have been conducted locally.
Respected local councillors like Jamie Audsley and Andrew Pelling – both with good records of activity and campaigning in their wards – have been purged, not by the local branches who selected them in the first place, but by a selection panel. Ironically, David White had also been an elected member of the Labour’s Local Campaign Forum until his rather dubious suspension.
The “crime” committed by Audsley and Pelling seems to be independent thought and daring to disagree with the council leadership. Debate and discussion enhances politics, but is decreasingly welcome in the Labour Party of David Evans and Keir Starmer.
Most of Labour’s current councillors have remained silent while their colleagues have been harassed and purged. Whether cowed or secretly cheering, they are complicit by their silence.
An exception is Councillor Robert Canning, who has written to the party nationally to complain that Pelling has been subject to a sustained campaign of bullying – which he quite clearly has.
Next week, the NEC, the National Executive Committee of the party, meets and it is likely to be told that Labour’s membership nationally has dropped by more than 150,000 since Starmer was elected as leader in 2020.
Labour membership peaked at 570,000 under Jeremy Corbyn, but is now reportedly “below 400,000” according to a well-placed NEC source. This loss of membership revenue – somewhere in the order of £5million a year – is a huge blow to any party wishing to run an election campaign.
Last week it was reported that the party was floundering financially, having shed one-third of its staff, as many unions have reduced their affiliation to the party, and stopped additional donations, too, and it is now gearing up for real-terms pay cuts for those that remain.
I was told last year by Labour staff that the avalanche of small donations from thousands of members that deluged the party during elections under Corbyn had almost dried up entirely.
The hit from declining membership is not only financial, but organisational. Party members go out to knock on doors and deliver leaflets during election campaigns. That has been a historic advantage for Labour – a younger and more numerous membership acts as a counterweight to the better-funded campaigns of the Conservatives thanks to their (often dodgy) millionaire donors.
As for large sections of the membership that do remain, many are demoralised.
In Croydon, some members have told me they won’t campaign this year in protest of the treatment of councillors like Jamie Audsley and Andrew Pelling – and that was before the outrageous expulsion of David White.
It appears that in today’s Labour Party, Conservative MPs who vote to cut Universal Credit and who demonise refugees are welcomed, while hard-working local activists are purged on trumped-up charges by kangaroo courts with no due process.
While polls nationally seem to favour Labour (the party is on 55per cent in London compared to the Tories’ 23per cent in the latest YouGov poll), Labour’s dire financial state and the self-inflicted internal divisions may make things harder for Labour at future elections than they could be.
- Years of activism means I have accumulated (and in some cases edited) lots of political pamphlets. So this year to raise some funds for good campaigns and strike funds (also to declutter my modest home), I’m selling some off with all proceeds going to good causes. I’m supporting security guards on strike at Great Ormond Street Hospital denied the same annual leave, sick leave, and career progression as other NHS workers. See my tweet here for details of how to get yourself a great pamphlet and donate to their strike fund!
- And I’m also raising funds for the excellent South Norwood Community Kitchen with some other sales – see another tweet here. So pick your cause and get yourself a great short read.
- South Norwood resident Andrew Fisher has worked as a trades union official, researcher and writer, and as Labour’s Director of Policy from 2015 to 2019. He is the author of The Failed Experiment – and how to build an economy that works
Andrew Fisher’s most recent columns for Inside Croydon:
- After wasted decade, Mayoral candidates need town centre plan
- Gove won’t ‘level up’ with an extra £1.50 per person per year
- ‘Managed democracy’ stifles members’ interest in the Mayor
- Air pollution is a real killer, but council has caved in to cars
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- Inside Croydon: 3.3million page views in 2021. Seen by 1.6million unique visitors in that 12-month period