In November 2016, Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) got a report that during that year’s leadership election, 618 members had been “auto-excluded”, and 1,038 members had been and were still suspended. We know no definite figures for the similar purge during the 2015 leadership election, but surely many more were “auto-excluded” or banned from membership then.
Many of the excluded had been Labour members through the Brown and Blair years, marginalised no doubt, but not threatened with expulsion. Now they were “auto-excluded” because they had spoken at a meeting of a left-wing group, or “liked” a left-wing Facebook event, or were accused with no further specifics of some association with such a group. Vastly more people have been “auto-excluded” for left-wing associations than the few who have been expelled for antisemitism.
The “auto” in “auto-excluded” meant both that they were “automatically” excluded, and that they were deemed to be “self-excluded”. To associate with a left-wing group — usually Workers’ Liberty, Socialist Appeal, or Left Unity, but there was and is no actual “proscribed” list to be checked or questioned — meant you’d excluded yourself. No due process was necessary. You just got a letter telling you that you were out, without precise charges, without a hearing, without an appeal, and with a ban on reapplying.
Since late 2016, “auto-exclusions” have been many fewer. A few of the “auto-excluded” have even got back into the Labour Party. Now the question of the “auto-excluded” has been reopened, paradoxically, by the summary “auto-exclusion” of the old Blairite hatchet-man Alastair Campbell for announcing that he voted Lib Dem in the Euro-election on 23 May.
Few Labour members are sad to see Campbell go. But an online survey by Labour List (informal, but, as their answers to other questions indicated, of a generally pro-Corbyn crowd) had a large minority, 43%, opposing Campbell’s expulsion.
Maybe because 28% of the Labour members responding had voted Lib Dem or Green themselves.
The Labour machine has now announced that Campbell’s case will be reviewed, and hinted that other “auto-exclusions” could be reviewed too. Every “auto-excluded” person should slam in an appeal now. CLPs and unions should send in motions demanding that all the “auto-excluded” be amnestied, and excluded again, if necessary, only after due process.
The Labour List survey also showed that only 30% of the Labour members responding want a new contest for Labour leader this year, despite the evident wide discontent with Jeremy Corbyn’s performance on Brexit and increasing moves from the circles close to Corbyn to boost Rebecca Long-Bailey as a successor candidate. 63%, however, want a new contest for deputy leader, presumably motivated by resentment at Tom Watson’s moves to regroup the dishevelled Labour right around himself.