An appeal against a perverse, unjust and unwarranted expulsion

JVL Introduction

JVL member Andrew Hornung has been informed that this membership of the Labour Party “stands terminated”.

Last month we published his strong protest against the Notice of Investigation he had received with its novel interpretation of the term “support”.

It contained, as he pointed out,  “Draft Charges” and items of “evidence” but with no attempt to link the two so it was left to him to guess what any given item is evidence of. In other words, it invited self-incrimination, which, unsurprisingly, Hornung refused to do

One month on, Hornung finds himself appealing against his expulsion. As he points out, all he did was protest at the proscription of Labour Against the Witch-hunt. The fact that he protested an injustice is wrongly read as support for LAW as an organisation.

It is, in effect, an attempt to rule out protest as such, to say that to question any decisions taken by the Party is to undermine the Party’s ability to pursue its aims.

To accept this would leave the party bureaucracy with untrammelled, Kafkaesque powers.

Andrew Hornung writes

I have been informed in an email from the Disputes Team received on 20th December that my “membership of the Labour Party … stands terminated”. Starting with this hideous piece of Newspeak, a piece of linguistic dishonesty with which it announces its purpose, the email announces that a Panel of the NEC has decided that I “committed a Prohibited Act pursuant to Chapter 2, Clause I.5 of the Labour Party Rule Book”.

The letter specifies that my complaints about the proscription of Labour Against the Witch-hunt “amounted, in the opinion [of the Panel], to the sort of support [my emphasis] for Labour Against The Witchhunt that is prohibited by Chapter 2, Clause I.5.B.v of the Labour Party Rule Book.”

But is this true? Does Chapter 2, Clause I.5.B.v of the Labour Party Rule Book prohibit protesting that a person or organisation has been treated unfairly by the Party? No, it does not. The clause prohibits “the sort of support” a person gives when they hold membership of an organisation, contribute to it financially and by serve on its committees.

My relationship to LAW is non-existent. Significantly those making the allegation on which my expulsion is founded are unable to provide evidence of any organisational connection between myself and LAW. That’s because there isn’t any. What is most shocking is that they and the Panel judging me see nothing wrong in this lack of evidence. They don’t see it as relevant. Have I ever distributed LAW’s literature? Did I ever propose a motion of support for or affiliation to that organisation? Is there a single thread of connection between me and LAW?

You might argue that the purely organisational definition of support in Chapter 2, Clause I.5.B.v is followed by the phrase “or otherwise supporting (as may be defined by the NEC)”, giving the General Secretary, the NEC or any panel of the NEC the right to invent categories of a quite different nature from those mentioned explicitly in the Rulebook. Of course, this would be to debase the very idea of a rulebook. It would mean that members wouldn’t know what key concepts meant until they were convicted of having been in breach of them.

Thus when the letter announcing my expulsion claims my actions constitute “the sort of support for Labour Against The Witchhunt that is prohibited” it is quite wrong. There is in Chapter 2, Clause I.5.B.v not a trace of the notion that support is demonstrated by either agreeing with an organisations aims and even less, since this is the accusation made against me, that support for an organisation is demonstrated by objecting to its being defamed or otherwise wronged.

I repeat a point I have already made to the Disputes Team: “I am not nor have I ever been a member or supporter of the Communist Party, but were someone to claim that it was a terrorist organisation and arrest its members under anti-terrorist legislation with consequent loss of certain rights on the part of those accused, I would oppose the claim and oppose the resulting injustice….This conflation of organisational support, like-minded thinking and defence against injustice is precisely the basis of thought-policing.”

The Party has recently taken several steps which are both mistaken and damaging both to its effectiveness and to its reputation. Locally, vexatious accusations of anti-semitism have proved corrosive of trust and co-operation; it has led to a shrinking in the number of activists and of viable branches. Nationally, the picture is the same. As a socialist and a long-term Party member I see, for example, the expulsion of Ken Loach, the proscription of LAW, the treatment of Jeremy Corbyn and of many of my fellow JVL members as unjust and destructive. I see it as my duty therefore to do what I can to call those making these decisions – often contrary to Party rules – to order.

How do I do that within the rules, if protesting prior to a final decision is ruled as “not competent business” on the orders of the General Secretary and if protesting after that decision is considered grounds for expulsion?

One of the first duties of a socialist is to pursue justice. In this my heroes of recent times are the supporters of the Hillsborough campaign for justice, those protesting against the use of the police and courts against striking miners, the Shrewsbury pickets and the Greenham women.

And this is a public duty. When Chris Mullen (then MP for Sunderland South) fought a long and ultimately victorious campaign for the release of the Birmingham Six not even the right-wing press called him a supporter of terrorism. The success of that campaign strengthened British justice where silence about its miscarriage only weakened it.

So what drives me to protest against the NEC’s damaging mistakes? What presumably led to the founding of LAW? It is the conviction that authority – that of the Party or the state – is not infallible. It is a belief that democracy is more than an insistence on a right to self-expression, it is an organisational necessity. Allowing protest is a check on institutional hubris.

In this particular case, I was particularly angered by the charge made against Labour Against the Witchhunt to justify voting for its proscription, namely that it is “clearly anti-semitic”. This is a slander, which I challenged as soon as it was made and which, being unsubstantiated, led me to formalise my protest in the way our Party members traditionally express their concerns, that is, by proposing a motion in line with standing orders for consideration by an all-member CLP meeting.

I therefore appeal against the decision to expel me on the grounds that in the case under consideration, the NEC has arbitrarily expanded the meaning of Clause I.5.B.v and disregarded the criteria currently understood and explicitly exemplified to define “support” in that part of the Rulebook. (It is my view that, had those advocating the adoption of Clause I.5.B.v meant to include as evidence of “support” the expression of opinion – whether in the form of a resolution or otherwise – they had a duty to say so and state that clearly in the Rulebook.)

This question of the definition of “support” was to have been discussed at the last NEC meeting and has been re-scheduled for the January meeting. Whatever the result of that discussion, the very fact that it is taking place is incontrovertible evidence that the current Rulebook is insufficiently clear on this matter. Does the Rulebook really give the General Secretary and the NEC carte blanche to create new and ever expanding definitions of “support” and “sorts of support” whose criteria are known only to them, or does it limit support to those organisational acts normally associated with the concept and well-understood in our movement and the public at large? And in relation to my own case I ask, why, if the Panel knew that there was contention over the matter of the definition of “support”, it rushed ahead to expel me before the matter was discussed by the NEC?

As to the twaddle about confidentiality that your email enjoins me to respect, let me be clear: in a case like mine maintaining confidentiality has the effect only of concealing the multiple injustices of the Party’s leading committees, teams and panels and of stopping me from seeking support from those who, unlike the Panel members, know my record. Confidentiality suits you: those taking the decision I dispute are unknown to me, the means by which they are chosen are unknown to me, the names of my accusers are unknown to me, what consideration there has been of the other vexatious allegations made against me is unknown to me. This confidentiality suits you but it does not suit me. Indeed, it is a weapon against me and I reject it. It is also a weapon against those who might be future victims of your judgements: members should know what you do and why you do it. I can understand that the Party’s functionaries and its leading faction do not wish to make it known that they have no respect for natural justice, that they defame honest socialists (particularly anti-Zionists – particularly Jewish anti-Zionists!), that they ignore the advice of such documents as the Chakrabarti Report etc. This confidentiality has nothing to do with respect for privacy and everything to do with gag acts, nothing to do with decency and everything to do with shame.

So far I have focussed on my grounds for appeal and on other aspects of the email sent to me. It is in the nature of such things that the appellant is forced to deal with the minutiae of the phrasing of rulebooks and codes of conduct, on their contradictions, their inexactness, irrelevance or abuse. This is playing your game and, while I believe that even on the limited basis of arguing about the Rulebook your Panel’s decision is wrong, I want to make it clear that my case should be seen within the context of a witch-hunt against what the leading faction of our Party sees as the pro-Corbyn left.

That witch-hunt, driven by the fear of the success of a radical anti-capitalist project, has soiled itself with a weaponisation of anti-semitism, aided by those who fear a break with Labour’s historic support for Zionism. This witch-hunt seeks to drive out not only what is thought of as the pro-Corbyn left but anybody who seeks to defend them against malicious charges. The result is grotesque: a Party leader trained in the law who countenances the idea of breaches of the rules before those rules came into effect; a General Secretary who declares his hostility to party democracy; a Party which expels lifelong anti-racist activists for allegedly undermining the Party’s invisible fight against racism; a Party that with disproportionate frequency charges Jewish members with anti-semitism; a Party which creates teams and panels of adjudicators with the power to expel and suspend which has so far failed to wage a fight against current Tory moves to damage the right of protest, a Party which silences itself – the Forde investigation disappears – and silences its critical activists.


Comments (31)

  • jacob butler says:

    More weirdness from the Starmer gang. Perhaps we’ll see the back of them some time in the new year.

  • Roshan Pedder says:

    Yet another brilliantly articulate repost from Andrew Hornung. But the unanswered question hangs in the air. What do we do about these ongoing blatant injustices? Count me in for support if anyone comes up with a good answer.

  • Jim Cooper says:

    Astonishing, but no longer surprising. It would be interesting meeting these wreckers who are using a rule book to silence socialism and particularly anti-zionism. The quote that “confidentiality” is actually used to “gag” individuals strikes a strong chord.

  • michael murray says:

    Informed, eloquent, to the point. Thank you, Andrew for taking the time, making the effort to give a voice to the innumerable, wronged – and now exiled members of the once “broad church.”

  • Richard says:

    I was charged with posting two memes about the weaponization of Antisemitism the irony is just pointing out what is happening in the current Labour party is enough to get you investigated suspended or expelled. Hence, I have labelled the party Bureaucracy the Stasi for obvious reasons, the truth is being suppressed by an authoritarian dictatorship running a Kangaroo court whose leader was trained as a lawyer. So many ironies.

  • Dr. Steven Cowan says:

    Such a simple and clear rebuttal of the actions of the N.E.C. hit squad. Beautifully argued and presented. I ask myself if I would really want people like those who are making such decisions, to be anywhere near to offices in Government, especially relating to the Home Office and the Courts. The step from behaving in such a flagrantly anti-democratic manner within Party and then behaving and acting similarly when in Government, is a small one.

  • Judith Kelman says:

    Totally ridiculous, isn’t it? Labour Party hierarchy has gone completely insane.

  • Gordon says:

    I am an associate member of JVL and proud to be so. The explanations for the absolute Stalinist/Mcarthyite manoeuvres of the Labour Right should surprise nobody.
    What annoys me to the core is that many on the Left predicted this was inevitable, if Corbyn and Left Unions did not strike against them, when the iron was hot.
    Placating the Labour Right was going to have disastrous consequences, as it has proven to be. Mandatory reselection dispite supported by 70% of Conference CLP delegates, when on the table was booted into touch. Give the Right an inch and they will take more than a mile. Goodness haven’t they just.
    By the way these dafties don’t bother me one iota. If any 12 year old’ journalist’ hacks from the usual Right wing Jewish outlets, gathering fallacious information on people that the New Blairites use as pathetic ‘evidence ‘ for these purges, bothers me, please think again, I am not quivering..Come ahead for me if you dare. I have enough dough to fight you believe me and would not hesitate.
    I’ve been a Party member since 1970, before feeble anti Corbyn, Streeting was born and the Miners Strike passed him by.
    My main point however is that the Left under Corbyn were far too soft. If we don’t accept that, history will repeat itself time and again.

    Anyway have a splendid Holiday break. The fight will resume. All power to JVL.

  • John McGarrie says:

    Five years ago I encouraged my daughter’s partner to join his local Labour party. He did, then said to me meetings were all about rules etc. My reply was the struggle in Labour party is conducted through the ownership of the rules. The minutiae as Andrew calls it.
    I was faced by a similar situation, accusations by an unnamed source of anti semitisim. An informer, the antithesis of democratic accountability. I refused to take part and demanded a retracton and an apology. They backed down partially, informed me they would be (my words, watching me for 18 months). Sitting reflecting, at a tangent, I think the Soviet union failed in part due to the inability of communists worldwide to recognise the degeneration. I suggest life-long members of Labour party are at a similar point. Solidarity

  • David Margolies says:

    Thank you Andrew for articulating the issues. The expulsion of anti-zionist activists can only serve to undermine the Party. Insistence on maintaining untruths destroys credibility and alienates supporters.

  • Alfie Benge says:

    A very powerful statement. Absolutely spot on

  • Roger Southall says:

    If Starmer and his gang have the temerity to attempt to shut down Patel’s swingeing attempt to prohibit political protest, it will be totally hypocritical. We need Orwell back.

  • Kuhnberg says:

    All these punishments are deliberately unjust, aimed at creating an atmosphere than will prove intolerable to anyone but the most craven conformist, and thus drive out of the party all these quarrelsome socialists that insist on following the dictates of their conscience. Don’t leave, we are told, that is exactly what they want you to do. Maybe so, but it is a serious error nonetheless. Starmer should bear in mind the ancient curse, ‘May you get what you wish for.’ In creating a vapidly compliant membership that will allow him to move the party into the colourless centre, Starmer is stripping out its unique electoral appeal. The signs are already there; the final proof will come at the next General Election. At which time, of course, the ones responsible will blame the very people they have driven out.

  • Nick Elvidge says:

    the mangling of truth and the debasement of language (the house of being – from buhdda to heidegger) are what makes me want to die – bread alone? etc.

    the anti-dote to the broken-ness of death is Solidarity Comrades!

  • Alan Marsden says:

    More power to your elbow Andrew. A political party that expels articulate, men of principle like you is in deep trouble. Happy New Year.

  • Stephen Richards says:

    The fight against anti-Semitism must now be seen to be done. Look how many anti-Semites we’ve expelled!

  • Colin Lomas says:

    Thank you Andrew for a brilliantly argued analysis of the Labour Party “justice” fiasco.

    In frustration, I have a ready-prepared email I send to my MP and Mr Starmer whenever I hear about yet another grotesque misjustice by the party.

    The last one I sent concerned Diane Neslen’s outrageous mistreatment.
    I point out to Mr Sarmer that he is about to lose a “moderate” from the party. I never supported Corbyn and even supported Kinnock in the 1980s.

    The mystery is, what on earth does Starmer expect the outcome of the purge to be? The unjust treatment of thousands of members will not regain a single “centrist” vote for Labour, as confirmed by recent elections.

    I hope Andrew Hornung takes his case to court. Legal challenges may bring the party back its senses since fairness and justice appear to mean nothing to the current party leadership. I’ll willingly contribute.

  • ian duncan Kemp says:

    sure hope that the new year is better. false anti Semitism and the weaponization against the the left must be confronted and exposed
    Have a good new year all. JVL

  • Graeme Atkinson says:

    Well said, Andrew.

    They aren’t fit to tie your shoelaces.

  • Marie Dickie says:

    I despair of the bureaucratic nightmare that has set itself the task of destroying socialists in the Labour Party.

  • Ruth Appleton says:

    A monumental rebuttal which serves as an example of how to deal with the imposters calling themselves our leaders. BRAVO!

  • Adam says:

    I’m with Gordon, above. Another good article. Happy Midwinter to you all.

  • Raymond Kelly says:

    Keith Starmer accepted without reservation the ten pledges drawn up by the Board of Deputies. Pledge 5 states that anyone defending someone suspended or expelled over a matter concerning antisemitism should themselves be automatically suspended.

    This is the principle that informs and drives a witch-hunt. In the 1950s, anyone defending someone accused of being a communist was themselves accused of being a communist for defending them. This is the same principle.

    It creates a domino effect where everyone is afraid to put their head above the parapet to speak out against abuse and injustice. The purpose behind this practice was to silence or remove those with left-wing views from positions of influence in America. Hollywood was a particular target. One didn’t have to be a card carrying member of the Communist Party to be accused. McCarthy invented the catch-all category of “fellow traveller”.

    The Labour Party now stands accused of practicing this same principle, not because it is part of Labour Party rules but because, to its shame, it has accepted the suggestion of an outside body that has no interest in democracy or free speech.

    McCarthyism was defeated because people rejected en masse practices that were deemed to violate the first amendment of the American constitution, namely, the right to free speech.

    In contrast to the definition of antisemitism we need our own definition of a witch-hunt and show that the Labour Party now stands accused of it.

    It is ironic that this case, against someone who criticised the treatment of Labour Against the Witch-hunt, should be punished using the principles of the witch-hunt.

    Since he is not member of that organisation and hasn’t even endorsed it’s actions, he would be classified as a “fellow traveller” in the McCartyite lexicon.

  • Keith White says:

    What I find fascinating about this witch hunt is the way in which people are being chosen for the purge. Reading Andrew’s eloquent rebuttal of the charges against him I can see that what he has done is quite mild compared with some I know who have done much more and never been touched. So what is the logic of it all, why some and not others? Is it simply random or is there some method in the madness?

  • Mr Nigel Haines says:

    Gordon’s comments absolutely nailed it. Those around Jeremy, not least Corbyn himself, should have had sufficient experience of Labour’s right-wing over the decades not to trust them as far as they could throw them. In my time as a Party member in the days of Gaitskell and Harold Wilson to Neil Kinnock and beyond, these careerists have used the Labour movement as a cover to enhance their own positions. Enquiries into their personal financial rewards, earned “for services rendered”, is beyond dispute.
    That they would take the revolt against their rule in the Party leadership election of 2015 lying down, though initially taking them by surprise, soon showed itself in swift challenges to Jeremy’s leadership. Though initially sternly rebuffed, they soon changed tack and turned to knifing the unprepared Corbyn “revolution” in the back, not least from some within the shadow cabinet itself. Everything that’s transpired since is all part and parcel of taking back firm control of the Labour Party into the hands of right-wing, careerist MPs and Party officials.
    Calls for justice against expulsions and their false, lying claims of “ant-semitism” should continue to be pursued as a means of educating the rank and file in struggle against these political self-seekers. Further than that, however, I believe the Labour Party is now becoming a lost cause and socialist minds should be turned to encouraging as many as possible to seriously consider building a movement to attract forces from disgruntled Party members and within the trade unions to forge a new, revitalised socialist party free from the dead hand of right-wing opportunist, careerists who have no answer to the covid-fuelled, economic and political crisis the Tories have plunged us into and to which the Starmer leadership have no realistic answers.

  • John Noble says:

    Would someone please write to Starmer and explain in words of one syllable what anti-Semitism actually is and see if he offers a public apology for his stupidity.

  • Rosa says:

    Brilliant article Andrew. You have been found guilty already by a faceless committee of a trumped up breach of some unspecified offence. Wonder what Labour’s antisemitism Czar, John Mann, makes of all this? The same John Mann who published a blatantly racist guide on how to get rid of Roma/Gypsies/Travellers. Somehow that never came to the attention of the Stasi.

  • Barry Derbyshire says:

    The Labour Party has become an unrecognisable place of Mccarthyistic witch hunts, anti-democratic, fear and secrecy. Any party which can countenance expelling a single Jew for antisemitism has completely lost its moral way. The weaponising of antisemitism as a means of expelling leftist members is a disgrace and a disservice to Jews everywhere. Also, no country should be above criticism. Israel is a nation ruled by politicians who have taken it in a direction which would be condemned by most of the world were it happening anywhere else. If the Labour leadership really cared about antisemitism, rather than using it to turn the Party into a safe pair of hands for neoliberalism, they would also be as vehemently fighting Islamophobia and racism.

  • Paul Hubert says:

    Andrew Hornung, solidarity. It seems that your transgression is the same as your rebuttal – that is to say, making a clear argument why the conduct of the party bureaucracy including the NEC, regrettably, is wrong in principle and unjustified in its use of the rulebook. I hope your statement will be widely read as an exposé of the Kafkaesque situation we find ourselves in, and which has already led so many good comrades to leave in disgust in addition to those victimised.

  • Professor G W Bowman says:

    Readers may wish to read the Board of Deputies’ Ten Pledges which now appear to have been removed from its website. A bit of browsing will recover it. Pledge five reads “Any MPs, peers, councillors, members or CLPS who support, campaign or provide a platform for people who have been suspended or expelled in the wake of antisemitic incidents should themselves be suspended from membership”

  • People should be expelled for querying why anyone is expelled. In any appeal, it should be made clear that you can be expelled for querying why you too are being expelled. But then, as people have discovered, it’s much simpler to expel yourself.

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