Corbyn whip row: Labour HQ is told censorship will just spark more debate
Adviser warns party it has taken a ‘risk’ in hardline approach to members’ discussions
04 December, 2020 — By Calum Fraser
Professor Thom Brooks: ‘People have gone on different platforms to talk about this and it has quite possibly even spurred some people to speak about this issue because it is taboo’
A LEADING Labour Party adviser says trying to silence debates over Jeremy Corbyn’s treatment will just spark more questions.
Professor Thom Brooks, the dean of Durham Law School who has advised both Mr Corbyn and Sir Keir Starmer, told the Tribune that the new leadership has taken a “risk” in its hardline approach to Labour members.
Several diktats have been issued banning discussions in constituency meetings.
Last week it was deemed that discussions around the Islington North MP’s suspension, reinstatement or removal of the whip could be a “flashpoint” which may make Jewish members feel uncomfortable.
Prof Brooks, who is also a committee member of the Fabian Society but was speaking in a personal capacity, said: “I can’t think of anything like this happening before. I would also say I would hope it would be a one-off.”
He added: “The risk of this approach is they won’t be able to stop debate happening amongst members forever.
People have gone on different platforms to talk about this and it has quite possibly even spurred some people to speak about this issue because it is taboo.”
This week deputy leader Angela Rayner, speaking at the Jewish Labour Movement conference, said she was willing to suspend “thousands” of activists if the rules were not followed.
But unrest is brewing and among the criticism one Islington Labour councillor said: “I thought Jeremy was supposed to be the communist? It’s Keir and Dave Evans [David Evans, the party’s general secretary] who have been acting like Stalinists with this type of censorship.”
Scores of branches nationally have passed motions supporting Mr Corbyn, including in Hampstead and Kilburn where two senior members were then suspended.
Prof Brooks, who is also a director of a group of professors known as the Labour Academic Network, added: “There must be some calculation made that this firm line was worth taking.
“For those who think the party needs to take solid action and do more than words, it has done that. Of course, this will come at a price.
“While there will be criticism from various quarters, I don’t think it is going to go anywhere and Keir has my full support.”