Former Labour staffer ANDREW FISHER reflects on what Al Jazeera’s series The Labour Files revealed about his former employers and the party of which he has been a member for 26 years
“Poly-ticks”, according to Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder, is where “Poly” means many and “ticks” means blood-sucking parasites. He could easily have been describing the internal politics of the Labour Party.
The Al Jazeera documentary series The Labour Files which aired last week once more exposed shameful behaviour within the party founded over a century ago by socialists and trade unionists dreaming of a better world.
A leaked Labour report, subsequently investigated by Martin Forde KC in his recently published report, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s investigation into the party’s handling of antisemitism have shed light on an operation shorn of any socialist values. Being a member of the Labour Party is to be exposed to ruthless, factional and thuggish behaviour with no recourse to justice.
I know this to be true as I experienced it first-hand – as one of the first tranche of staff employed by the Labour Party to work for Jeremy Corbyn on the day he won the Labour leadership on September 12, 2015.
The Labour Files confirmed with personal testimony what the EHRC and Forde Reports had shown: the party inherited by Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 had no competent complaints system, no fair disciplinary procedures and the whole “Governance and Legal Unit”, as it was then known, was a factional weapon wielded by the then General Secretary, the workshy Iain McNicol, and a clique of sectarian bureaucrats – some of whom were exposed by The Labour Files as lying about the members they were investigating.
Labour continues to fail in its duty of care to members. Former investigations and governance officer Halima Khan, who features frequently in the Al Jazeera investigatory series, reports there was poor record-keeping, a “hierarchy of racism” dictated to her by management and that allegations of antisemitism were “used as a tool” for factional advantage against the left of the party.
One of those persecuted was local Croydon member, David White. The former secretary of Croydon Central Labour Party was suspended the day before Labour conference in 2021, after being chosen by local members as a delegate.
The Labour Files shows correspondence between the current General Secretary David Evans, Croydon North MP Steve Reed, and the Croydon Labour group chief whip concerning White following the hack of Inside Croydon. It shows these senior officials making complaints about White on the basis that he had corresponded with this local news site.
Quite why the then chief whip of Croydon’s Labour councillors or Croydon North MP and Labour shadow cabinet member Reed should hold any interest in a Croydon Central member, who was not a councillor, is not clear. Certainly, you’d think both might have had more important things on their minds – like the financial failure of the council or holding the Tory government to account.
White himself was not made aware of any of these complaints against him. He was expelled from the party without any hearing before any investigatory or disciplinary body of the party. He exercised his right to appeal his expulsion in January 2022. Ten months later, and White has heard nothing back from the party since, despite sending reminders.
This is how the party treats dedicated local members with 50 years of loyal membership.
It is a reflection of the petty factional culture that defiles and discredits the Labour Party.
Even elected officials spend time on this tripe, rather than representing their constituents. Croydon Central’s Labour MP Sarah Jones seems not to be involved in these underhand shenanigans, but she cannot be comfortable with this corrupt clique interfering in the running of her local constituency party.
Reed, however, seems to have lots of time to spend interfering with matters relating to members in other constituencies – though no time to report data breaches or hacking to the police or Information Commissioner, it seems. The Labour Files shows Reed actively supporting the thuggish behaviour of a party member in Brighton closely aligned with his faction, who is suspended for a litany of appalling behaviour. That member was reinstated, The Labour Files shows.
I contacted the party’s press office asking what investigations have been opened following The Labour Files – or whether any staff or members had been suspended or expelled. I received no reply. Such is the party’s commitment to openness and transparency.
In the first episode of The Labour Files, Peter Oborne, a former writer for the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail, says “It is no secret that quite a lot of newspapers had it in for Corbyn … so they didn’t properly investigate these claims with the professionalism which we should have done.”
Following the broadcast of the series, veteran journalist Michael Crick tweeted, “It left me feeling very uncomfortable and thinking several Corbyn supporters were treated very unjustly.”
And he added, “I agree with Peter Oborne that the media – including us – should have looked into this far more.”
Hopefully, more of the national press will wake up to the appalling behaviour that has been allowed to dominate under successive Labour leaderships. Far from being improved under Keir Starmer, this culture has been embedded.
It’s far past time it was exposed and the party cleaned up its act – nationally and locally.
- From 2015 to 2019, Andrew Fisher, pictured right, worked as the Labour Party’s Director of Policy under Jeremy Corbyn. He is the chair of the Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party. Fisher is also the author of The Failed Experiment – and how to build an economy that works, and now writes regular columns for InsideCroydon in a personal capacity
Some of Andrew Fisher’s recent columns:
- ‘Rabbit hutch’ flats and the Chief Secretary: Philp’s conflicts
- New PM gives Philp opportunity to do right thing for Croydon
- Forde Report exposes racism, bullying and factionalism in Labour
- England’s Tories remain enthusiastic only about ground rent
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