Saturday, August 22, 2015

What goes around comes around

Yesterday on Facebook I saw a shared link to a web-post, "I've been purged from the labour party leadership election" by a gentleman called Bernard Goyder who had been a member of the Labour party and actively campaigned for them in the 2015 election.

Mr Goyder says that he discovered when checking his eligibility to vote in the leadership election that he had inadvertently allowed his membership to lapse and reapplied. He then received an email which told him, in what reads to me like a standard form or words,

"We have reason to believe that you do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party or you are a supporter of an organisation opposed to the Labour Party and therefore we are rejecting your application".

My first reaction to this was that Labour's attempt to verify who really supports them and should be allowed to vote for their leader has descended into complete farce, making snap judgements on thousands of people without much in the way of due process or adequate checks, with the result that some "Tories for Corbyn" not to mention some trotskyists, at least one cat, and at least one car were sent ballot papers while some genuine Labour supporters have been blocked from voting.

I still think that, and if they cannot run a leadership election better than this, why on earth should any voter in his or her right mind think Labour can be trusted to run the country.

But when I read Mr Goyder's article a little further, my sympathy for him evaporated. Not because of his views on policy per se but because of he appears to infer support for non-peaceful protest against policies which he disagreed with.

The process Labour has put in place to vet membership applications seems to be summary, arbitrary, and highly flawed.

However, if they had a proper process in place to vet whether people are in agreement with the principles of a democratic socialist party, Mr Goyder's own comments about intimidation and his condemnation of the National Union of Students as "feeble" for disassociating itself from the violent attack on Conservative headquarters by student protesters would have posed reasonable questions for those conducting such an inquiry to ask him about his commitment to the "democratic" bit.

All three main political parties have imposed or increased student tuition fees, but the Conservatives have done it once without breaking an election promise, the Lib/Dems have done it once which was a broken election promise, and Labour has done it twice, breaking election promises on both occasions.

Mr Goyder referred to the arrest of students at his college "for intimidating Vince Cable" in a way which carefully stopped short of expressing an opinion for or against such intimidation, but the only reasonable interpretation of his criticism of the NUS as "feeble" is implicit support for non-peaceful protest.

It's a great pity that there wasn't a proper inquiry into the people Labour is now excluding, as I'd love to know how he would have answered questions which might have been put to him about this, Labour might well have wanted a clarification of his views, though they probably would not have worded it the way I would, e.g. "since you criticise NUS for disowning what you call the 'trashing of Tory Party Headquarters' over an increase in tuition fees which was not a broken election promise, what would you say if someone vandalised Labour HQ over the introduction of fees and then top-up fees which broke two?"

If he said he would support a similar attack on Labour HQ it is hardly surprising that they would not want him: if he didn't he would effectively be saying that he sympathises with the vandalism of rival parties' Headquarters for reasons other than the ostensible cause of the protest. Either way he appears to give reasons for doubt about his commitment to the peaceful expression of divergent views.

So here we have the irony that an arbitrary, incompetent and unjust process designed to prevent saboteurs from joining the Labour party has inadvertently caused the departure from the party of a genuine supporter whose commitment to democracy gives rise to legitimate questions.

What goes around comes around.

POSTSCRIPT

According to Tim Shipman of the Sunday Times, 50,000 applications will not be checked because Labour cannot process them in time. Ouch!

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