After a purge which saw an estimated 100,000 (largely left-wing) registered supporters barred from voting in the Labour Leadership election, it has been revealed that former Conservative Minister Ros Altmann was allowed to cast her vote.
In a purge being referred to internally as ‘Operation: Ice Pick’, Labour HQ purged the party of suspected ‘entryists’. The name is a particularly sick joke, referencing the weapon-of-choice in the 1940 assassination of Leon Trotsky by Stalinists.Supporters of Corbyn have been consistently derided as “Trots” throughout the campaign.
Some of the most brightly-shining figures of the non-New Labour aligned Left found themselves banned, these include: Mark Steel, Jeremy Hardy, author and NHS campaigner Marcus Chown, legendary film maker Ken Loach, PCS Union leader Mark Serwotka and disability rights campaigner Francesca Martinez.
I was also rejected in this purge. I got the email, and when I asked for evidence for the decision, the Party was silent. But yesterday, a friend pointed out that the Party had ‘outed’ me in the Guardian newspaper as an ‘infiltrator’.
This was on the basis of a single Twitter conversation between me and my Labour MP ahead of the 2015 general election. Other supporters fared even worse.
After Peter Sinclair donated £20 to Labour in April, party official Iain McNicol sent him a note of thanks. McNicol told Sinclair that “The Labour Party is built on donations like the one you just made”.
But Iain McNicol sent him a decidedly frostier email on the morning of the first purge.
Former Labour supporters who were coming back to the party in their tens of thousands at the prospect of a genuine social democrat movement under Corbyn have been treated as ‘infiltrators’ by the large elements of New Labour politicians who have become part of a permanent political class in Westminster. As I wrote at the time:
It is one thing disallowing registered supporters with a right-wing history, having gathered robust evidence that they are seeking to undermine the party. The case of conservative columnist Toby Young is one such example. But I would be against rejecting any new supporter, whatever their voting history (but especially social democrats) who seek to help build the party into a broad, popular, social democratic movement. By kicking out anyone who voted Green in 2015, they are basically barring the route back to Labour for disaffected social democrats.
Furthermore, if Labour don’t win back these voters, they are sunk in 2020. Labour need to win an extra 106 seats in 2020 to gain a majority, an almost impossible task. But that almost impossible task becomes totally impossible without a mass, popular movement to reengage the public. Just 24% of people voted Conservative in the last election, 76% didn’t. The largest gains went to socially democratic populists the SNP, who killed Labour in Scotland. The biggest losers were the Liberal Democrats, the only ‘centrist’ party in town.
So why would the Parliamentary Labour Party NOT want to harness the power of a populist, social democratic movement? Especially when it is the only chance they have of regaining office in 2020.
It is becoming ever more clear that the Labour Party in Westminster has become a part of a permanent political class alongside their Tory and Liberal Democrat counterparts. Disengagement and voter apathy means a fairly stable job, a few seats lost and won either way each election and no big surprises. The chance to earn a great wage and pass policies which guarantee lucrative consultancy/director roles after politics. All done with the passive acceptance of a disaffected electorate, half of whom don’t even bother to vote anymore. To this permanent political class, a popular movement based on social democratic values is about as welcome as a fart in an elevator.
This is why Harriet Harman is planning to cull over 100,000 so-called ‘infiltrators’ from the vote. This is why self-appointed voice-of-the-left Polly Toynbee, the Guardian editorial team, and most of the press (right and liberal) are character assassinating Corbyn and anyone who would give him their vote.”
After all this, we find that while left-leaning types were culled in a quite disgraceful social media spying effort on the part of Labou HQ, an actual Tory minister was let through. Altmann has now been expelled from the party. If I had set out to find a better punchline to this whole embarrassing affair, I very much doubt I would have succeeded.
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