Letter to Labour Party NEC: Suspended for writing a poem

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Dear Brother and Sister,

January 12 2018

Until very recently the political balance on Labour’s National Executive Committee meant that decisions concerning suspensions and referrals to the NCC appeared to be rubber stamped.

Following today’s elections of a further 3 constituency members it is widely hoped and expected that there will now be a socialist majority on the NEC. From now on there is no longer an excuse for the witch hunt of socialists.

Nothing can be more ludicrous than the suspension of poet Kevin Higgins for writing a satirical poem about Tony Blair. It is only the most oppressive countries that persecute poets. Nothing can be more unjust than members left suspended, often for months, without information as to charges against them, without regard or due care for the effect this has on members lives and reputations.

We know of a number of members in this situation who have been put at risk of severe depression and suicide.

As you know, at the present time the cases of Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth are going to the NCC. Nothing can be more absurd than a socialist party seeking to expel Jewish, Black and life-long anti-racists for the ‘crime’ of having upset the supporters of Zionism & Israel.

The fact that these suspensions are so avidly reported by Britain’s most racist tabloid press – the Daily Mail, Express and Sun – gives the lie to the suggestion that these suspensions have anything to do with ‘anti-Semitism’. Does anyone seriously believe that papers which employ Richard Littlejohn, Katie Hopkins et al are seriously concerned about anti-Jewish racism?

Shami Chakrabarti, in her Report recommended that ‘The Labour Party should seek to uphold the strongest principles of natural justice, however difficult the circumstances, and to resist subjecting members to a trial by media.’ Eighteen months later these Chakrabarti proposals have not been applied in any meaningful way to the disciplinary process. Members being processed by the Compliance Unit have been subject to repeated leaks to the media, in a clear breach of the Data Protection Act.

We call for a freeze in all disciplinary actions as and until the Chakrabarti Report’s recommendations on due process and natural justice in regard to the disciplinary process have been debated and implemented.

In Solidarity

Jackie Walker – Chair, Labour Against the Witch-hunt
Tony Greenstein – Vice Chair, Labour Against the Witchhunt

The curious case of Kevin Higgins, suspended for writing this poem

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Poet Kevin Higgins has been suspended from the Labour Party for over 18 months, apparently for writing this satirical poem about the Blairs. For background to this case see here.  

What Did The Politician Get His Wife?

after Bertolt Brecht

And what did she get, the girlfriend,
from the student union meeting
at which he rose to his feet
and realised he could speak?
From that meeting she got
the Snickers bar he forgot to eat
so busy was he watching them listen;
and that speech, unabridged,
every other night for thirty five years.

And what did she get, his new wife,
from the time he first used a party
conference microphone to agree with both sides?
Those okay with the Moslems/Mexicans/Gypsies being here,
and those who want them kept over there.
From that microphone she took away their
invitation to dine with the Deputy Mayor
and his not new wife.

And what did she get, his no longer new wife,
when, at the second attempt,
he won that seat on the City Council?
From his election she got to drink Pinot Noir
and go swimming in their private club
with the no-so-new wives
of those who got the contracts
to make the paving stones and install
the pay-and-display ticket machines
during his years as Chairman
of the relevant committee.

And what did she get, his well-maintained wife,
the night he was elected to the big shiny
parliament? From that night she took away
an architect to re-design their new three storey pad
in the priciest possible part of the capital,
and an article about herself
in the Daily Express lifestyle pages.

And what did she get, the no longer new MP’s
no longer new wife, the morning
they made him Minister?
That morning she got to go horse riding
with the Leader of the House of Lords’
fourth (or fifth) wife..

And what did she get, the no longer new
Cabinet Minister’s wife, the night the landslide
made him Prime Minister? That night
she got to hold to her breast
invitations to break foie gras
with the Sultan of Brunei, the President of China;
and the chance to write husband’s speech
announcing the crackdown on beggars
who accost hard working
families who stop to ask for directions
en route to the nearest funeral parlour.

And what did she get, the ex-Prime Minister’s
no longer new wife, from all the depleted uranium shells
he had dropped during the Battle of Basra, all the soldiers
he sent to meet improvised explosive
devices in far Mesopotamia in the hope
of getting rid of something bigger
than the beggars and prostitutes
at Kings Cross. For these she got
white night terrors
of him on trial for all their crimes,
and the desire to never again
look out the front window of their fine
Connaught Square house
at the tree from which, it’s said,
they used to once string
traitors.

KEVIN HIGGINS

30-12-2017

To whom it may concern,

On June 27th 2016 poet Kevin Higgins was suspended from the British Labour Party, of which he is an overseas member in the Labour International CLP (http://www.labourinternational.net/).

Kevin’s offence was, apparently, that he had written satirical poems about several of Jeremy Corbyn’s then critics in the Parliamentary Labour Party. This occurred at the start of the unsuccessful attempt to force Corbyn to resign as Leader in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum.

After receiving what he describes as a “peculiar series of emails” from UK Labour HQ in early 2017,  on March 15th last Kevin wrote to the party’s Governance & Legal Unit informing them that he wished to make a Subject Access Request under current UK Data Protection legislation. Under this legislation the UK Labour Party are legally obliged to disclose to Kevin, within forty days, all documents relating to him in their possession. Nine months later they have yet to respond to Kevin’s request, putting them in clear violation of their legal obligations.

In April UK Labour HQ invited Kevin to be interviewed by telephone about the accusations against him, one of which was announcing on social media that he had rewritten Bertolt Brecht’s poem ‘Ballad of the Soldier’s Wife’ and turned it into a satire on Tony and Cherie Blair. Kevin’s interview was to take place on Tuesday April 18th but was cancelled by UK Labour HQ when Theresa May called a General Election that morning. Continue Reading “The curious case of Kevin Higgins, suspended for writing this poem”