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Is Labour’s door closing on open debate?

27 August, 2020 — By John Gulliver

Sir Keir Starmer

CAN political arguments be settled behind closed doors to the point where party members feel satisfied? Can contentious subjects really be resolved without open public debate?

In an age when, paradoxically – partly driven by social media – subjects once hidden away are now openly discussed, I find the Labour Party is closing the door on any form of open debate.

It all turns on the question of the degree of whether anti-semitism exists in the Labour Party.

While arguments raged during the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, the new broom of Sir Keir Starmer, former head of the Crown Prosecution Service, seems to have things in hand.

Having appointed a new general secretary, David Evans, to replace Corbyn’s appointee, Jennie Formby, a new edict has been made under which action can be taken against a party member – and such action cannot be discussed at local level. Questions cannot be asked. Names cannot be bandied around. It is as if the person noted by Labour head office is taboo – as if he/she has been accused of a crim­inal offence and any discussion would be sub-judice.

Bear in mind we are simply discussing a political point of view.

So, on the grapevine I hear that a well-known Labour Party member in neighbouring Islington has been “suspended” from membership because of alleged anti-semitic remarks. Now, I have looked into this and discovered he moved a motion in early August rejecting a definition of what constitutes anti-semitism as agreed by the higher echelons of the party sometime ago. I do not know whether the motion was approved by fellow members at that particular meeting.

I have heard he is a learned fellow, a lawyer, of a certain age, and is actually Jewish. If this is so his suspension becomes more intriguing.

But as I said, under new party rules – presumably agreed by the National Executive Council – a cloak of silence must hang over this particular suspension. No one can say a word about it. Presumably, it is assumed that sometime in the future the “suspended” member will go before some sort of a hearing at head office. The Labour machine moves tortuously slowly and this could take several months.

Meanwhile, he cannot attend meetings or seek support. In a sense, he no longer exists as a political being. We are in the new age of “Cancel culture”, almost of thought crime.

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