Notes from the front 25-07-16
Tomorrow (Tuesday 26 July) the Labour right is challenging in the High Court the decision of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to put Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot paper in the current leadership contest. Having lost the vote at the 12 July NEC the right now wants a High Court judge to block Labour’s membership from being allowed to express its democratic view on who should be leader.
Michael Foster, who has made the court application, is hoping a judge will rule that Corbyn requires parliamentary nominations in order to stand. Foster claims that the NEC decision, to give the incumbent leader the automatic right to stand against a challenger, was not a proper interpretation of Labour’s rules.
For legal purposes the Labour Party is considered to be an unincorporated association, where the rule book constitutes a contract that members adhere to. The Labour Party Rule Book is not ambiguous. It makes no mention of an incumbent leader needing any nominations to stand against a challenger. When the post of Leader is not vacant, the rules only refer to a requirement for challengers to obtain nominations.
Labour’s NEC, which has powers to interpret the party’s Rule Book, decided on 12 July, by 18 votes to 14, that Corbyn requires no nominations to be able to stand.
This interpretation was backed by the legal opinions of two QCs, Michael Mansfield and Mark Henderson, who both concluded that Labour’s rules clearly mean Corbyn can automatically be on the ballot paper. An opposite interpretation of the rules, that Labour’s General Secretary arranged to have explained to Labour’s NEC by James Goudie QC, was not endorsed by Labour’s NEC vote.
The judiciary are not neutral so, despite the NEC’s decision and clear legal opinions supporting it, if it is possible for a judge to rule Corbyn off the ballot that may well happen. Should the High Court overturn Labour’s NEC it would be a clear affront to democracy and the decision would need to be challenged.
The number one priority for every progressive person in Britain this summer is to ensure Corbyn’s re-election as Labour Leader.
The right wing are determined to avoid genuine policy debate in this contest. Their candidate Owen Smith’s past employment with the drugs company Pfizer and support for: private sector involvement in health care, PFI, cuts to welfare, Trident renewal; and opposition to the imposition of women’s only shortlists on local parties etc etc; all point to a serious right wing policy framework. This is at odds with the more left and centre views of Labour’s current membership, hence the unwillingness to engage in real policy discussion.
So the right’s agenda for this election contest is focused on issues such as: their threat to split the party if the membership sticks with Corbyn, promoting outrageous falsehoods and exaggerated claims of intimidation, whilst presenting their candidate as somehow on the ‘left’.
Having denied a vote to the approximately 200,000 Labour members who joined after 12 January, the right hopes to further gerrymander the election, by weeding out as many pro-Corbyn registered and affiliated supporters as possible and suspending members on the basis of trumped up charges of abuse, anti-Semitism etc.
Corbyn, on the other hand, is running on a positive platform, having already started to demonstrate the effectiveness of his left-wing agenda. Getting Labour MPs to vote against the Tories’ austerity policies has forced a series of U-turns on the government and, prior to the right wing’s recent coup attempt, the rebuilding of Labour’s electoral appeal.
Under Corbyn Labour has secured government reversals in a number of areas including: forced academisation, disability payments, tax credits, Sunday trading, child refugees, trade unions and pension tax relief. By putting up determined opposition Corbyn has demonstrated Labour can wring concessions from this Tory government, because the latter’s small majority means it is weak and vulnerable.
Also he has shown that a Corbyn-led government is a real possibility, which is why the Tory press is so agitated against his leadership. He led Labour to winning the 5 May local elections in England, beating the Tories into second place. Labour advanced from 7 per cent behind the Tories at the 2015 General Election to one per cent ahead in the 2016 local elections – a relative advance of 8 per cent. Labour has won all four parliamentary by-elections and also the four Mayoral elections in London, Liverpool, Salford and Bristol.
Only in Scotland and Wales, where the local Labour leaderships stick with a right wing framework, is Labour failing to make similar electoral gains.
The current stage of the Labour leadership contest is that local constituency Labour Parties are making nominations up till 15 August. After that ballot papers will be sent out around 22 August. Labour Party activists should volunteer for the Jeremy for Labour campaign via its campaign website.
Key Dates in the leadership election timetable
Monday 8 August: Deadline for new affiliated supporters to join here (who must have been a member of a Labour affiliated organisation/ socialist society at 12 January).
Monday 15 August, noon: CLP supporting nominations close
Wednesday 22 August: Ballot mailing despatched
Wednesday 21 September, noon: Ballot closes
Saturday 24 September: Special conference to announce result
Donald Trump’s speech to the Republican National Convention was used to announce that he would be the most overtly racist nominee from either of the two main parties in the modern era. His politics are similar to those of the racist and segregationist George Wallace, who repeatedly failed to win Democratic Party nomination.
Trump declared that under his Presidency it will be open season on black people, Latino communities and what he calls ‘border-crossers’. The self-styled ‘Law and Order Candidate’ will allow the police and state forces free rein in their war on all people of colour and anyone else who gets in their way. In a familiar refrain he blames immigrants for the decline in US wages, rather than the failed policies of low taxes, low investment and deregulation which he has vowed to extend.
On foreign affairs, support for Israel will be the lynchpin of all policy while he intends to pursue an aggressive trade policy which shifts the burden of American failure onto it main trading partners. In this area, despite the bluster and name-calling, the foreign policy agenda may not differ greatly from that of Hillary Clinton.
The racist right has made political gains in Europe since the onset of the economic crisis. Now, America’s Le Pen aims to win control of the White House. He has a 60 per cent net unfavourable rating from the mass of the population, unprecedentedly hostile numbers. Almost any candidate would be able to win a landslide against him. But Hillary Clinton’s own record on racism, on the economy and US wars risks making her the exception.