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Excluded from Momentum
I’m one of those who have been excluded from membership of the Labour Party and denied a vote I paid £25 for.
I rejoined the Labour Party after years of seeing it as an anti-working class Blairite rump! Like many older workers I’ve been enthused by the stand made by Corbyn, McDonnell and the thousands of young workers attracted by their anti-austerity policies.
I also joined Momentum, attracted to the idea of like-minded people coming together in fraternal comradeship to fight to defend our class against the austerity policies of the Tories and the Blairites.
However, here in Southampton, it isn’t like that. I’ve been excluded from Momentum.
They are happy for me to make donations, support their public meetings and give out leaflets in the hospital I work in. But not to be allowed to attend members’ meetings.
Councillors who make cuts locally and work against local trade unionists, any Blairites who fancy attending, members of other political groups like Socialist Appeal and the Green Party, in fact anyone is allowed in – apart from those associated with the Socialist Party, currently or in the past.
I asked if I could put my case to the meeting in a democratic manner, but that wasn’t allowed either. The battle ahead to reclaim the Labour Party won’t be won if Momentum joins the Blairites in a witch-hunt against people like me, who support Corbyn’s call to fight the cuts, and want to support anti-austerity Labour candidates fighting to defend workers against Tory attacks.
I call on all members of Momentum to allow us to work together, to make Labour democratic and socialist again!
Maggie Fricker, Southampton
Multimillionaire Mike Ashley’s ‘Victorian workhouse’, the Sports Direct warehouse at Shirebrook near Mansfield, is never far from the news.
Now Dave Forsey, Sports Direct chief executive and Mike Ashley’s loyal lieutenant for 32 years, has suddenly resigned. The press have speculated that this may be linked to an upcoming court hearing in connection with an alleged violation of employment law when 200 workers were fired at Sports Direct subsidiary USC in Glasgow.
It may also not be a coincidence that a woman working at Shirebrook sustained a fractured spine several weeks ago, allegedly after a steel cage fell on top of her. She had surgery and was recovering, but tragically developed a blood clot and has died.
Until this company – and every other similar employer – faces determined action by trade union-organised and backed workers, pay, conditions, and health and safety will remain Victorian.
Jon Dale, Mansfield
Blairite joins Tories
The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) was criticised and treated with contempt for standing Seth Cruse, a socialist and education convenor for public service union Unison, as a candidate against Claire Jeffrey, the Labour parliamentary candidate in the Folkestone and Hythe constituency, at the last elections. She was Labour’s only councillor in the constituency, and a member of general union Unite.
However, we knew that she was a Blairite red Tory, despite her protestations that she came from a working class background.
When asked whether she would oppose cuts such as the threats to close Sure Start and respite centres, her response was: “Difficult decisions will have to be made.” She has now made her true position clear, and joined her friends in the Conservative Party.
She has refused to stand down as a councillor despite winning her position on the back of work done by ordinary Labour Party members. She has shown herself to be a self-serving politician using the local populist organisation “Folkestone United” as a means to bolster her reputation.
One key reason that she gives for leaving the Labour Party is the right wing’s allegations of antisemitism, and incidents of abuse she says she has suffered.
If Claire Jeffrey was abused during an election, this is totally unacceptable. But it is not a reason to smear all Labour Party members and socialists as anti-Semites. In fact, we understand an alleged abuser turned out to be a Ukip supporter.
On the other hand, she argues that criticising the policies of the Israeli government equates to anti-Semitism, and berates and smears socialists and Labour Party members who raise such criticisms. To subsequently use this as a reason to join the Conservative Party – of all parties – is irrational.
Labour Party members and socialists will be meeting soon to develop a strategy to limit the damage that Jeffrey has inflicted on the local labour and trade union movement.
Eric Segal, Folkestone
Merton Council in south west London is nominally a Labour council.
If there is one thing the local Labour leadership is proud of, it’s not fighting to protect vital services, but having frozen the council tax since 2010, and promising to freeze it until 2019.
However, the best laid plans of mice (and Labour councillors) have gone awry, and despite savage cuts already, they plan to cut a further £20 million.
To give themselves some wriggle room they have now started a consultation on whether they should increase council tax to reduce the cuts to £18 million.
This is the day-to-day experience of the Labour Party, in spite of Corbyn’s anti-austerity leadership. He should use his new mandate to change the rules so council candidate selections aren’t controlled by group leaders, but are democratic. This would help to clear out the Blairite cutters.
Some councils will have all-out elections in 2017. This could be the opportunity to elect some anti-austerity councillors prepared to follow the examples of Liverpool, Clay Cross and Poplar, and show what an anti-austerity government could be like.
Disgusted of Mitcham
Further to my recent article reporting on the byelection in Mansfield Woodhouse, won by a Labour candidate, I wanted to say how this election differed from the Sheffield one with which it coincided.
Mansfield District Council Labour councillors aren’t yet in a position to make cuts, as the council is led, albeit with a narrow majority, by Mansfield Independent Forum. Sheffield Labour councillors, meanwhile, are already seasoned job and service cutters.
Jeremy Corbyn’s now-strengthened mandate should give him the confidence to instruct his Labour councillors to defy Tory austerity, and instead set needs budgets, while building a campaign against brutal cuts to our living standards. The people who voted for him have a right to expect this.
Liverpool councillors showed the way in the 1980s when they defied Thatcher’s pernicious austerity agenda, instead building schools, homes, and other essential amenities.
Working class people cannot wait for a 2020 general election.