Richard Burgon is the Labour MP for Leeds East and the shadow Justice Secretary. On the 27th of August 2016 he summed up what the Labour Party civil war is all about when he said:
"I believe it's important to stand up for Labour members. MPs are not 'a cut above' the membership. Myself and other MPs are just ordinary members who have been given the privilege of serving as representatives of our communities."Contempt for the membership
A look at the behaviour of the Labour Party establishment since September 2015 Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the party with an astonishing 59.5% of the vote in a four horse race provides plenty of proof of the contempt that a lot of Labour Party elitists have towards the ordinary members.
- A number of right-wing Blairite MPs petulantly defied the will of the majority of Labour Party membership by flatly refusing to participate in the shadow cabinet from day one, then set about constantly briefing against the party leadership to the press, openly parading their elitist attitudes and even accusing the Labour Party membership of petulance!
- Other right-wing Labour MPs agreed to serve in the cabinet but secretly plotted to try to overthrow the members' choice of leader with a series of pre-planned resignations. They were so confident of success that they even briefed the Daily Telegraph about their plot two weeks before they launched it.
- In launching their plot to bully the members' choice of leader into resignation in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum, the coup-plotters completely spurned the best opportunity to attack the Tories in decades.
- When Corbyn made it clear that he would only leave if he was defeated in a democratic election the coup-plotters tried to have him excluded from the ballot because they suspected that the Labour membership would vote for him again.
- Certain coup-plotter MPs have taken to distorting events and outright lying in order to paint ordinary party members as a violent mob of bigoted brick-lobbing thugs. Angela Eagle is a particularly egregious offender in this regard having brazenly misrepresented the "notorious brick" incident, refused to correct allegations that she suffered homophobic abuse at a meeting she didn't even attend and outright lying about an even being cancelled due to "threats" when in reality the venue owner pulled the plug because he didn't want a political event in his hotel.
- The coup-plotters then decided to retroactively disenfranchise some 130,000 Labour Party members from participating in the leadership election in order to rig it in favour of their Anyone But Corbyn candidate.
- When numerous local Labour constituency parties began holding votes of no confidence in their coup-plotter MPs the party establishment quickly imposed a complete lockdown on local party democracy to prevent them.
The deputy leader Tom Watson clearly expressed this contempt for the party membership when he described the decision to introduce a properly democratic One Member One Vote electoral system within the Labour Party as "a terrible error of judgement".
All of the above things demonstrate that certain Labour Party politicians see themselves as "a cut above" ordinary party members, but this disgusting elitist attitude is best demonstrated by the ongoing Labour Party purge.
The contrast between the standards of behaviour being applied to ordinary party members and people at the top of the party couldn't be starker.
Ordinary members are being purged from the party for all kinds of spurious reasons, perhaps the most of all being the woman who was slung out of the party for posting "I fucking love the Foo Fighters" on her personal Facebook wall. Many others have been suspended with no explanation of what they are supposed to have done wrong other than generic "comments on social media" or "comments on Twitter" meaning they have pretty much no means to appeal the suspension because they don't even know what they stand accused of saying.
The fact that Labour Party minions are trawling through people's social media activities to search for reasons to exclude them from voting in the leadership election is bad enough in its own right, but the contrast between the trivial "crimes" committed by purged Labour members and the unpunished behaviour of members of the party elite couldn't be stronger.
Here are a few examples:
- The millionaire Labour donor Michael Foster writing an article for the Daily Mail in which he called members of the Labour Party "nazi stormtroopers" and a tide of other insults - Not suspended.
- The Labour Party adviser John McTernan bringing the party into disrepute by threatening to fight an MP from another party - Not suspended
- The Labour Party MP Tom Blenkinsop turning his Twitter feed into a tide of cry-bully abuse in which he yelled "idiot" and "entryist" at anyone who disagreed with his appalling behaviour, including a life-long Labour voter - Not suspended
- Another coup-supporting MP to turn his Twitter feed into a severely damaging tide of abuse against the party leadership and other party members is the Labour MP Ian Austin. He was also allowed to get away with telling the leader of his party to "sit down and shut up" when he was speaking about the damning findings of the Chilcot report.
Another reason the Labour Party establishment have come up with for slinging ordinary members out of the party is "disloyalty". Several people have been purged for Twitter comments in favour of other political parties such as the Green Party dating from as far back as May 2014, long before they even became members of the Labour Party.
Contrast the ludicrous attitude that ordinary members who used to support other parties are unwelcome with what members of the Labour Party establishment have been allowed to get away with despite being high-profile members of the party.
- The unelected Labour Peer Lord Sainsbury gave a donation of over two million pounds to the Liberal Democrats in the second quarter of 2016 - Not suspended
- In 2015 the Labour Party adviser John McTernan made an appearance at the Tory Party conference for the right-wing thinktank Progress. During the presentation he described Margaret Thatcher's toxic political legacy as a good thing! - Not suspended
- During the EU referendum debate the Labour Leave faction accepted hundreds of thousands of pounds in funding from a bunch of Tories in order to campaign against the official party line. Evey single one of their declared donations came from either a major Tory donor or a Tory afilliated organisation! - No suspensions at all
- Tony Blair openly declared that he'd rather have the Tories win the next General Election rather than see Labour win on a genuinely left-wing platform - Not suspended
It's utterly preposterous that Tweeting about having voted for the Green Party years before they even joined Labour is considered a "crime" that ordinary members must be suspended for, while people within the party establishment go completely unpunished for bankrolling rival political parties to the tune of £millions, appearing at rival party conferences and endorsing their political agendas, accepting Tory cash to campaign against the official party line and openly declaring that they'd rather Labour loses the next election to the Tories.
It's also worth considering the party establishment's attitude towards defectors from other parties.The fact that Labour has repeatedly accepted defectors from other parties shows how remarkable their double standards are. If you're party of the political club you can switch allegiance immediately, but if you're an ordinary person you can be barred from the Labour Party for having voted for another political party years previously.
It's also worth considering the party establishment's attitude towards defectors from other parties.
- A Lib-Dem councillor who stood against Labour at the last local election welcomed into the party with open arms, with no condemnation of the fact she was a member of the Lib-Dems just the day before!
- During the Blair era numerous Tory politicians defected directly from the Tory party to Labour. Probably the most high profile was Shaun Woodward who defected to Labour in 1999 and was pretty much immediately put in charge of Labour's 2001 Election campaign. He was then rewarded by the party elite by being parachuted into the ultra-safe Labour seat of St Helens.
It's beyond doubt that a large number of people in the Labour Party establishment (politicians, party donors, advisers, party administrators ...) see themselves and their ilk as "a cut above" the ordinary members. The coup plot has proven their contempt for the will of the party membership clearly enough, but the abject hypocrisy of the ongoing Labour Party purge is absolute proof that these people have the same mentality as elitists across the political spectrum, that there should be one set of rules for the little people, and an altogether more lenient set of rules for members of the elite inner circle.
The battle for the future of the Labour Party isn't really so much about policy (Owen Smith is blatantly pilfering Corbyn's policies) and neither is it about personality (If Corbyn is "unelectable" because of his lack of media training then putting up a gaffe-prone blunderer who pretty much nobody has heard to challenge him is utterly ludicrous).
What it's really all about is whether the Labour Party membership believe that the party is best run by a managerialist elite who see themselves as a "a cut above the lower orders", or whether they think it's best run in the actual interests of the Labour Party members and voters.
Another Angry Voice is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.