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I've Been Purged from the Labour Party Leadership Election

I campaigned for the party at the General Election, but I've been barred from voting in the leadership contest.

by Bernard Goyder
21 August 2015, 10:00am

Labour Party members (Photo by Adam Barnett)

The email plopped into my inbox and gave me an aching feeling in the bottom of my stomach that I haven't had since, well, since Labour lost the election.

"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". "Rejected". Like a drunk at a nightclub, I was thrown out of the party.

The Labour Party's leadership election is being run under new rules that allow one member to have one vote, rather than the old system which was kind of like the leader being decided over a card game in a smokey room. With an unlikely candidate leading the polls, supporters like me are being weeded out under a rule which allows a party bureaucrats to veto membership applications.

The irony is I thought I was already a member of the Labour party. I'd campaigned for them at the last election, voted Labour and argued with left-wing friends who jumped ship to the Green Party. The link with the unions and Ed Miliband's zero-hour contract busting, landlord bashing credentials convinced me to back Labour at the 2015 election.

The day before the deadline to vote in the leadership election, I rang party HQ to check my new address was on the system ahead of the ballots being sent out. I was told my membership had "lapsed". I was asked if I'd like to renew and I said yes.

The first question is "why?" What had I done to merit a political eviction notice from Labour general secretary Iain McNichol?

It all goes back to my student days half a decade ago. I went to the most left-wing university possible. SOAS in London is the kind of place Theresa May has nightmares about – full of beard stroking, dreadlocks and dissent. And I tried to overthrow the government.

Back in 2010 we were the first university to occupy against the tripling of tuition fees. A month before the Millbank protest kicked off the student movement, SOAS students were already being arrested in government buildings for intimidating Vince Cable.

After the trashing of Tory Party headquarters at Millbank was disowned by a feeble NUS, a network of activists known as NCAFC (the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts) helped coordinate the protests, which swelled to tens of thousands.

Now hundreds of NCAFC activists are being told they're not welcome in the Labour Party.

One of the very few MPs to call for free education back then was Jeremy Corbyn. Now people who campaigned for policies he agrees with are being barred from voting.

I don't know if my links to the student movement were enough to get me kicked out – they didn't really bother to explain – but it seems many in the Labour Party machinery view any kind of extra-parliamentary politics as a form of witchcraft.

The show trials have begun. I'm not a member of a rival political organisation. I am on the mailing list of a revolutionary group called Counterfire, which I must have signed up to back at uni. They go in my promotions folder and I never read them. In any case receiving emails from a group doesn't mean you buy its ideas. I'm also on the mailing list of a hedge fund magazine. That hardly makes me a hedge fund manager. Ditto spam folder.

Confused, I consulted the party rule book, "The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party", Clause IV sternly begins, conjuring memories of the late Tony Benn, pipe in mouth, in a university lecture hall. But there is a little in the New Labour Clause IV that I disagree with. It's probably a little soft on the private sector for the tastes of your average Corybnista when it says that "The enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition are joined with the forces of partnership and co-operation to produce the wealth the nation needs", but I'm was happy to sign up for it in 2010 when I first joined that party and I'd stick by that decision.

All of this raises the question of why the party is having this leadership debate, if people who fall on one side of that debate are beyond the pale.

Am I an entryist? Of course I'm an entryist, if that's the term for someone joining to vote for Corbyn.

@bernardgoyder

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