As regular readers of this blog will know we show the effect of the unprofessional, unjust disciplinary system used by the labour party. It has been shown over and over again how the system has no respect for due process or natural justice. You can find on these pages an analysis of the rulebook, a letter to the NEC, and a cross-section of members who have been seriously affected mentally and emotionally by the lack of care or justice that characterises the system.
We have seen signs of improvements since Jennie Formby took over as General Secretary, but much still remains to be done. We are hopeful that the needed changes are all in the pipeline. We are actually in the process of doing a further analysis and would welcome the NEC being open to listening.
Meanwhile here is a case I came across recently that illustrates another factor that is missing – the common sense to read any situation in its context. True justice will always do this. Paul Harnett is someone who has my full respect and admiration. A person dedicated to social justice, and who, as a member, put in much time and effort to the cause, to get a labour government.
He was expelled from the party because he broke a very important rule. The rule that says we must not support another party. We absolutely must have such a rule and it requires no explanation to justify why. However what I consider has been a major failure here is that absolutely no consideration was given by the investigator for a) the SPIRIT of the rule and b) that it was inadvertent, and c) that it was known to be harmless. The judgement that it was harmless was supported by a number of M.P.s and also Ann Black (and we all know how well versed in, and a stickler for, the rules Ann is), but she asked that leniency was shown.
This is a perfect example of when looking at the circumstances alongside a rule the sensible and just thing to do is to read and apply the SPIRIT of the rule, and the intention and motivation of the individual who broke the rule. What follows is Paul Harnett giving us an overview of his situation. I say that anyone who reads this with a sense of true justice would not hesitate to say Bring Him Back to us, he should be a member.
The Spirit of the Rules
I was banned from the Labour Party in September 2017, the day after I had agreed to stand for chair of my local branch in Chorlton, Manchester. I had inadvertently broken the rule which doesn’t allow for members to nominate a member of another party.
I had done this in my own constituency as my co-director of World Basic Income Ltd., Laura Bannister, was pregnant and desperate for nominations to be the Green Party candidate. Apart from it being unlikely that Labour would lose a 15,000 majority.
I did it on the understanding that the Greens were not targeting Withington during the election (they didn’t – and LP almost doubled its majority), and was unaware of the rule preventing members nominating other parties. I stand guilty of stupidity.
I have been political my whole adult life. I was a volunteer teacher at the infamous Croxteth Comprehensive in 1982 during the successful campaign to keep it open. I was an active member of the Liverpool-Corinto Direct Links Campaign supporting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. I lived in Corinto and then Managua 1985-86, 1987-88.
I was a worker for SANE (US equivalent of CND) as well as the Committee in Solidarity with El Salvador in 1986. I worked in Namibia the year after it gained independence in 1992. I have worked in international development since 1990. In 2015 I founded World Basic Income Ltd. with a view to ending world poverty.
In 2015 I was so astounded by the Labour Party’s manifesto (austerity light), I immediately went out and joined a political party for the first time in my life – the Greens – the only party who opposed austerity. I was subsequently astounded by the rise of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party, which left me a choice of 2 socialist parties after waiting for just 1 for most of my life.
I was more and more drawn to the Labour Party and after the second leadership contest in 2016, decided to join. I worked tirelessly to gather support for Corbyn locally and challenge the branch at the AGM. Then the 2017 election was called.
After some local canvassing for the LP many of us decided to also hit the marginals in the North West. I took 2 months off work. We went to Weaver Vale, Chester, Lancaster, Bury North and Bolton West – all on multiple occasions. My car was the vehicle of choice for many. The election night party for Labour in Chorlton was held in my house. Signs were all over my house/garden for Labour.
On 26th June 2017 I received a letter from Sam Matthews, Head of Disputes, asking for a statement as they had evidence that I’d nominated a Green candidate.
I sent in a statement with support of 4 MPs (including my own MP who I had canvassed with on a few occasions), Trade unionists and others with evidence of all my campaigning during the election. I also managed to contact Ann Black of the NEC who showed me her emails of support asking the committee for leniency) (n.b. Ann did incorrectly say I hadn’t campaigned in my own consituency – I think because she was mindful of me organising campagins in the local marginals).
I presumed I would get a slap on the wrist, and got on with organising the left in Chorlton for the forthcoming AGM.
In September 2017 I decided to run for the Chair position in my branch. The day after, a letter came through from Complaints saying I was banned and could appeal after 5 years or in exceptional circumstances 2 years.
Since then I have started Chorlton Socialist Club which has made a big impact locally and also inspired other similar ventures across the country.
In May this year I took 2 weeks off work campaigning in Brooklands, Trafford during the local elections (we won!). The win there meant the LP was the biggest party in Trafford and now leads the Council. I also do a lot of “other” organising for the left locally.
I still remain active and focused on getting the labour party into No 10 – I would welcome so much being able to do so as a party member.