Even as the packed hall at hustings in Park Hill on Thursday night was being told by one of the Mayoral candidates in next month’s elections that Labour’s “main activity is expelling each other”, Inside Croydon was receiving news of yet another member expulsion in MP Sarah Jones’s Croydon Central constituency, the latest in the factional conflict within the party.
Jeff Conibear is a young activist who is a member of Momentum, and who has now been expelled by Labour. Conibear rejects the charges against him which he says are “trumped up”.
He had originally been suspended while the party investigated social media posts going back years that were critical of the state of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.
Conibear’s Twitter activity had also included criticism of Keir Starmer, whom the member describes as “a career bureaucrat of breathtaking dullness and poverty of vision”. The Labour Party had lifted Conibear’s membership suspension after its original investigation, so the expulsion this week came out of the blue.
Conibear’s expulsion comes just weeks after members in Croydon Central, in a democratic vote, ousted Carole Bonner as the local party chair, replacing her with Andrew Fisher, a former senior aide to Jeremy Corbyn. Conibear was one of the members who took part in that meeting.
He is far from the first locally to be kicked out of the party, with other cases based on at best questionable evidence.
Marc Wadsworth, from Thornton Heath, is a lifelong campaigner against racism who in the past worked with Nelson Mandela and Jesse Jackson. Yet in 2018 he was expelled from Labour, he maintains “unjustly”, after confronting then MP Ruth Smeeth at a filmed, public meeting, for colluding with the right-wing press against party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Last year, Wadsworth won a High Court libel action and substantial damages against the Jewish Chronicle for publishing false allegations against him. “The High Court of England tends to work to better standards of evidence than the Labour Party,” one of Wadsworth’s supporters said.
Earlier this year, David White, the former Croydon Central Constituency Party secretary, and a Labour member for 50 years, was expelled from the party without ever being given a hearing, on allegations of antisemitism relating to social media posts from eight years earlier – which the party’s national disciplinary system had already considered and previously dismissed.
This week, Conibear announced his own fate at the hands of Labour’s disciplinary “process” in a post on Facebook.
The Labour Party, for its part, has made no statement. Its correspondence to Conibear is understood to have included contact numbers for the Samaritans.
Conibear wrote, “A few days ago I received notice from the Labour Party that I have been expelled from active membership.
“The grounds are trumped-up charges of antisemitism, relating to social media posts of mine over the last few years that are strongly critical of the state of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians (the original docket also included posts in which I criticise Keir Starmer).
“While I have never shied away from expressing such views robustly, I take great offence at the suggestion that they are racist, as I have always taken care not to conflate the actions of Israel with those of Jewish people more generally. Antisemitism is a poisonous ideology which I abhor, and none of those who I regard as colleagues within the party, nor those who I look to for political inspiration, consider it anything other than a manifestation of reaction in society which must be defeated.
“But while being expelled on these grounds is distressing to me, it also puts me in the honourable company of progressive members of far longer standing who have likewise been cynically targeted by the party’s ruling right-wing, from national treasures like Ken Loach, to respected local comrades like David White.
“What we are seeing is yet another chapter in the orchestrated campaign by the party leadership to purge all critics of Keir Starmer, a career bureaucrat of breathtaking dullness and poverty of vision. This means expelling socialists and anyone else determined to hold him to the left-wing electoral mandate on which he stood for party leader two years ago.
“It has been clear to me for some time that, under his (titular) leadership, Labour no longer represents progressive values, nor the interests of working class people in this country. This is not to say, however, that no benefit can accrue from the activities of conscientious individuals who opt to remain in the Labour Party and to seek office within it. Indeed, I count several such people as friends, and wish them luck in their quest to make a difference in society.
“It is my intention to remain active in local and national politics, while continuing to do what I can to support leftists in the party.
“As such, I hope my activities and those of other members wrongly expelled will contribute to making Starmer’s job as difficult as possible, until such time as he is eventually replaced with an actual leader who offers a realistic prospect of winning a general election and implementing socialist policies.”
While Conibear and White have been expelled, the Labour Party has as yet taken no action against those party members who, as councillors in Croydon, managed to bankrupt the borough, withdraw Council Tax Support from 20,000 of its poorest households and just a year after the Regina Road scandal shocked the nation, increased council tenants’ rents by 4.1per cent.
Only Simon Hall and Tony Newman, the chief architects of the council’s financial collapse, remain on “administrative suspension” by the Labour Party, which has taken no further action since their suspensions 15 months ago. Meanwhile others, including the likes of Alison Butler and Paul Scott, have remained active at the Town Hall as councillors, and within the local party.
These include Newman’s cheerleader Bonner, a former councillor who although no longer CLP chair, remains a member of the Local Campaign Forum leading into the May 5 elections, and is a member of the team running Labour candidate Val Shawcross’s campaign to become Mayor.
As one increasingly disenchanted Labour member told Inside Croydon, “Next time a Labour candidate tweets a photograph of them out canvassing, count how many non-councillors or non-candidates are in the picture. The usual tally this year is zero…
“The right is ripping the guts out of the party in Croydon. Jeff Conibear is another activist who won’t be campaigning for Labour at these elections, but his expulsion will see another 10, 12, maybe 20 disillusioned members walk away, disgusted at what is happening.”
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