I have now been under “administrative suspension” from the Labour Party for three months and there is no sign of an end. I can’t vote in any elections, I can’t attend meetings or vote in my branch or in my local party at all. I was on the Executive Committee locally so I can’t fulfil any of my responsibilities, which means I can’t help the poor chair to organise fiendishly complicated voting software and Zoom meetings.
We (or I should say “they”) have just had the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-a-conference and I got excited emails from inclusive sounding groups like Team Labour.
I had an invitation to register for Connected – the on-line substitute for a physical national conference – and thought I must have been forgiven or policy had changed for virtual meetings as I wouldn’t actually be polluting real live people with my physical presence. So I registered and signed up for a couple of events. Welcome emails arrived. Hurray, Labour loves me after all!
But no! Hours before the meeting I got an email headed something like IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR MEMBERSHIP chucking me out of the meeting and any other events. I felt unreasonably hurt. The invite and the welcome email had been so friendly and inclusive I’d been lulled into thinking the party had seen the light. But the shadowy people who suspend us will search you out and make you feel you’ve tried to cheat the system and sneak into Labour’s secret procedures when really you’re an outcast, a non-person.
I could have been sitting in the street on a piece of cardboard with a plastic cup begging for change and got a warmer reception.
I see terrible things happening that I’d like to join my comrades in opposing, locally and nationally but I don’t even know if I can hold a Labour placard or march with the Labour banner.
If I ask questions about the terms of my suspension I get no reply.
I wrote to Disputes, the Chief Executive Officer and every member of the National Executive Committee. I got one reply – from Keir Starmer saying he’d reply when he was less busy – and thanking me for my patience. That was a month ago.
So I’m in limbo. I can’t fulfil the campaigning aspect of my role or speak on behalf of the members I represent. Labour has been criticised locally for not publicly opposing the appalling handling of the pandemic. I used to do that!
My suspenders are being paid by our membership fees. The party is still taking my money, but just like my dental insurance in a pandemic, it’s no use to me! Like the ragged trousered philanthropists I’m altruistically subsidising my oppressors and I’m beginning to wonder why I am.
I still can’t tell you why I was suspended or tell you my name as I sin doubly or even triply if I tell you, but it’s really trivial by anybody’s standards outside the party.
But I do know it’s going on all over the country, especially EC post holders, all getting more desperate and furious as they hear politicians on telly in a virtual conference shouting about justice, equality and solidarity. Where’s ours?