Labour Leader Mr Corbyn shortly after being elected last year. Photo: Flickr
Freya Marshall Payne
The Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party has been suspended by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and its recent election results have been annulled amid controversy over a recent branch AGM.
The local Labour branch’s AGM on 9th June which saw the Brighton, Hove and District membership elect a new executive committee with supporters of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dominating across the board. This city’s Labour branch is one of the biggest in the country with 6,000 members, and he branch’s website says ‘over 600 members’ voted, resulting in the new executive committee winning with a 60% majority. This result has since been challenged.
The recently elected Secretary, Greg Hadfield, has shared the letter by which the party branch was suspended. The letter was penned by the national party’s head of disputes and discipline, Katherine Buckingham, and read: ‘Following the recent Brighton and Hove AGM, many reports and complaints of concern have been made to the National Labour Party. These allege abusive behaviour by some attendees, as well as reports that the ballots results were not properly reached. We are particularly concerned that the safety of members at the meeting was compromised.’
The letter continues: ‘the decision of the Chair of the NEC’s Disputes Panel is that the results of the AGM be voided.’
With the newly-elected executive committee suspended, the previous commitee have been reappointed. A statement posted on the Brighton and Hove Labour Party twitter page said: “The 2015/16 Executive remain in place until a new AGM is held. This does not affect Labour councillors, individual members or their ability to vote in the NEC or Leadership elections.”
The statement concluded: “We will be making no further comment pending the investigation, and all enquiries should be directed to Labour South East Regional Office.”
In addition, the letter from the NEC which Mr Hadfield has shared stipulates that “no CLP meetings may be held during the contest. Brighton and Hove Lbour Party is also procluded from meeting to make a supporting noination, or any other business…This also procludes Brighton and Hove Labour Party from organising any leadership hustings.”
Mr Hadfield wrote on Twitter “democracy in labour just died” and has announced that the executive committee elected on 9th June will continue meeting. He tweeted on July 14: “Meeting of new @bhlabour EC to go ahead on Tuesday [July 19] at GMB offices in Church Road, Hove at 7.30pm. All support welcome. #VoteCorbyn.”
At the time of writing, the tweet had been shared by 101 people, and The Badger expects a high turnout of supporters at the meeting. A petition has also been started by local labour members demanding that the suspension be lifted and the executive committee reinstated.
Mr Hadfield also wrote to the local membership: “600 witnesses. If you were there, please email your experience [at the AGM] – of any kind –toBHDLabourParty@gmail.com“, not only to the NEC carrying out the investigation into “bullying allegations.”
The Badger spoke to a Sussex student who attended the AGM, Max O’Donnel-Savage. He said: “I didn’t see any intimidation.” The Badger has also reached out to the University of Sussex Labour Society for comment.
Mark Sandell, the elected chair until the results were annulled, said: “the atmosphere throughout was cordial and good-natured. The subsequent count was conducted by party members who supported different sets of candidates and a variety of individuals. No complaints were made from either side about the integrity of the voting or count.
“The suggestions that the meeting put members’ safety at risk is absurd. Any allegations of intimidation or poor behaviour are untrue.
“There is no doubt this draconian and undemocratic intervention by the NEC has been taken because of the overwhelming success of candidates who support Jeremy Corbyn — an outcome that was simply unacceptable to the leadership of the Labour Group on Brighton and Hove City Council and and to the party’s national executive.
We demand the suspension of the Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party is lifted and the election results of the annual meeting are recognised.”
There are also allegations of misconduct against party members who did not support Mr Corbyn. Greg Hadfield used the information-sharing site Medium to leak a ‘limited circulation’ email which was sent to a ‘tiny minority of our 5,200+members” by Councillor Warren Morgan, leader of the Labour Group on Brighton and Hove City Council. The email, which was sent on July 1st, was titled “Can you help?” and urged members to support a list of candidates compiled by Cllr Morgan.
Cllr Morgan wrote: “Our City Labour faces a takeover by a group of individuals from Momentum [a group which defines itself as independent yet supportive of the Labour Party, and as the “successor of the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader campaign”], TUSC, the Aliance for Workers Liberty and other fringe left wing groups, including people who have repeatedly run against Labour candidates… This Party has faced down Militant before. I’m asking you to do that again, by coming down to the City Party AGM at 4pm on Saturday July 9th in City College. Don’t forget your party membership card. If you can bring other members who will stop this far-left takeover please do. I would ask you to support…” A list of candidates follows. The full text of Cllr Morgan’s letter can be read here: https://medium.com/@GregHadfield/the-enemy-within-trying-to-take-over-brighton-hove-and-district-labour-party-by-warren-d91eb0e837a8#.5gb58se10
Cllr Morgan has said that he is not commenting on the letter at the present moment, instead issuing a statement calling on the party to investigate Mark Sandell, the newly elected chair of the City Party.