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Taking a broader perspective…

Defend the Lambeth Labour one….

I don’t intend to revisit the debate in this post about what Labour councils should do about the cuts. Regardless of where comrades stand on that question, I think there should be a degree of unanimity about basic democratic norms we adhere too. If we take that as something of a given the actions of Lambeth’s Labour Group in withdrawing the whip from Councillor Kingsley Abrams are totally unacceptable. Abrams only ‘crimes’ appear to be speaking in a forthright manner and voting against a draft budget that includes £37 million worth of cut backs to local services:

Abrams told cabinet members to “get yourselves real jobs”, and was told by leader Steve Reed that his behaviour was “disgraceful, coming from a Labour councillor”.

Quite why comrade Reed feels this way isn’t explained. Either he doesn’t like the way Abrams voted or the way he spoke; neither of which are cause for disciplinary action in a democratic forum. True, Abrams may have been being a little angular but I think we all can be at times and a robust and healthy democratic culture tolerates this and absorbs it. I find it hard to believe the Labour whip, Jack Hopkins, protestations that he is feeling heavy-hearted about this decision though given the fact that not only has he withdrawn the whip from Abrams but has referred him to his local party to see if any further action is merited.

Disgraceful is an adjective many would feel applies to Labour councils making these cuts in the first place. Nonetheless I have yet to see any serious arguments that all those who do should be subject to disciplinary action. Events in Lambeth seem to set a worrying precedent. Are all those local representatives who stand-up for their communities to be treated this way? You would hope not but you never know.  It really should not be the case that a case for the allowance of free speech and free action should have even to be argued for in this context. You would kind of hope it would be taken as a given. However, that seems still not to be the case even for the brave ‘New Generation’ and their Captain Miliband. The much-vaunted policy review process seems to be descending into high farce as the leadership does everything within its power to avoid consulting the membership.

Labour’s cultural grasp of democracy and commitment to it internally and externally  frankly leaves a lot to be desired still. This is not just a academic question but one of political principal and necessity. Labour will not become a government again by running the likes of Councillor Abrams over with the bureaucratic tank. It may be elected but it won’t be a government. Councillor Abrams should be reinstated immediately and something akin to a democratic revolution should be sparked to sweep through the Party and cleanse it of the utter nonsense spouted by messers Reed and Hopkins in Lambeth.

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Filed under: Labour, The Left,

4 Responses

  1. Alex Sobel says:

    Kingsley is a very long serving and respected party member who has lead our party’s BME wing, BAME Labour, I do worry that the whip has been withdrawn and hope the Group re-instate him.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by DarrellGoodliffe and Jane Watkinson, Broad Left Blogging. Broad Left Blogging said: On @Broadleftblog, @DarrellGoodliff calls for Labour members to defend the Lambeth Labour one….: http://wp.me/pXkBd-7b […]

  3. Tom says:

    Copies of the complaint were leaked to urban 75 and its pretty damming stuff, he threatened a fellow councillor to a fight, he leaked confidential information, told councillors to piss off, and told a cabinet member that he would make their life very difficult if they closed a library which sounds like intimidation to me. Sounds like he broke plenty of rules to me and deserved to loose the whip.

  4. darrellgoodliffe says:

    @Alex,

    Me too.

    @Tom,

    I only have a problem with the first and last of those charges, *if true*. If he leaked information in the service of a greater good then fair enough. Telling somebody to piss off also is not in and of itself a disciplinary offence in my eyes. People swear all the time.

    Of course, re the first and the last physical intimidation is unacceptable. *If* either of those are true and not trumped up then yes I agree with you that there should be some sanction applied.

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