An Open Letter to Labour’s NEC

JVL Introduction

The dismay and disillusion about how key members of Labour’s bureaucracy behaved after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader is palpable.

Party activist Luke Farley captures this very well, describing the commitment of the thousands and thousands of local and constituency activists who gave their all for a Labour victory in 2017, only to find now that their very own party machine was working actively to sabotage a Labour victory.

 

This article was originally published by Tribune on Mon 13 Apr 2020. Read the original here.

An Open Letter to Labour’s NEC

“Labour’s members – who dedicate their lives to campaigning for the party – will not tolerate staff on six-figure sums undermining their efforts from within.” A CLP chair calls for an investigation and decisive action.

Dear comrades,

I am writing to you as a Labour activist of 10 years: someone who has pounded the pavements until my shoes have fallen apart, someone who has received more papercuts and dog bites than I can recall, and someone who has been loyal to my party, the Labour Party. An unpaid volunteer. A foot soldier, if you will. Someone who has dedicated most of his adult life to the party.

I must confess, when Theresa May announced the general election in 2017 my heart sank. While many newer Labour members were ecstatic with the prospect of the election and a Labour government, all I could see were the terrible polls that showed Labour on the brink of oblivion. I sincerely hoped they were wrong, but I also remembered the three years of slog towards 2015 and the massive disappointment of the result both locally and nationally.

I knew this announcement meant that I would once again be giving up two weeks of annual leave to go out and volunteer for Labour. Prior to the announcement, I had spent a couple of weekends in Manchester Gorton, volunteering for the upcoming by-election – as I did in Copeland and Oldham before that. I did all this because I sincerely believed – and, perhaps more importantly, still believe – that only Labour can fix the injustices and inequality in this country.

During the election, I worked hard in my own constituency, Elmet and Rothwell, despite a huge Conservative majority, delivering leaflets, organising volunteers, knocking on doors, and everything else. On top of all this, I visited 10 other constituencies across the country, supporting candidates from across the party – from Tom Watson in West Bromwich East to Laura Pidcock in North West Durham; from Doncaster Central knocking for Rosie Winterton to student voter registration for Alex Sobel in Leeds North West.

As the campaign progressed, we saw our efforts pay off. The polls started to climb. I even dared to hope that we might manage to prevent the Conservatives making gains. Our volunteers, our candidates, our local councillors all played their part to make an effective campaign. We were joined by people of every age group – from students at university labour clubs to members of decades standing. We stuffed thousands of letters, made nearly as many calls and spent day after day, hour after hour talking to people about Labour’s policies on the doorstep. We were united by Labour’s positive message that the UK could be run for the many, not the few.

Polling day arrived quickly. I woke up at 4am, had breakfast and was out of the door for 5am. I was the first volunteer to arrive at Richard Burgon’s campaign office in the neighbouring constituency of East Leeds. They started somewhat earlier than my CLP, so I decided to go and help get some leaflets out for sunrise. Once I had finished, I returned to my own constituency, and then proceeded to spend the next twelve hours doing as much as I could to win votes for Labour. We finished up just before 8:30pm, with the sun setting.

But the day wasn’t over for me. I was at the Leeds count for around 10pm. The exit poll had come in. I was surrounded by Labour activists, the lifeblood of our party, who were incredibly proud. They were exhausted, but their work had been justified. They could see a real prospect of a Labour government – if not now, sometime soon. The next several hours were spent sampling, only interrupted by cheers from colleagues when ‘Labour gain’ flashed on the television screens.

In Elmet and Rothwell we didn’t win. But in Leeds North West we did. In Crewe and Nantwich we did. In Peterborough, in Colne Valley, in Keighley we did. We even won in Kensington and in Canterbury. The result was testament to our much-derided policies. It was testament to brilliant candidates who gave everything. But before all that, it was testament to the hard work and effort of thousands of Labour activists in every part of the country.

It was with that memory in my mind that I read the contents of this weekend’s leaked report. I would ask all comrades in our party to please try to put yourself in my shoes. Imagine what I, and all of the thousands of other activists, must be feeling when we read about senior staff in our own party rooting for Labour’s defeat in that election.

Consider how heartbreaking it must feel to have given up spare time and annual leave to learn that your efforts were being undermined. Better still, think about those who were in desperate need of a Labour government – to transform their lives, get rid of the bedroom tax, properly fund health and social care, and bring about both social and economic justice. How must they feel today? What can we say to encourage them to stay in this party and this movement?

Clause I of the Labour Party Rule Book states:

  1. Its purpose is to organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.
  2. The Party shall bring together members and supporters who share its values to develop policies, make communities stronger through collective action and support, and promote the election of Labour Party representatives at all levels of the democratic process.

Do the actions of our senior party staff comply with this rule? I don’t believe so.

Even when Labour parliamentarians have said or done things I profoundly disagreed with in the past, I have lobbied and tried to change things, but when push came to shove, I have still gone out to campaign for them and the party. I – alongside the thousands of amazing party activists – have given it my all, because I am loyal to my party.

It is sickening, gut-wrenching in fact, that people paid six-figure sums to work for the Labour Party cannot say the same.

There is more to this leaked report even than that. Appalling cases of bullying and harassment, of racism and sexism, which will turn members’ stomachs in every part of the country. I will let others, hopefully those victimised, lead the calls for justice in those cases – and support them when they do so.

But our party members need justice now too. People who dedicate their lives to campaigning for the party will not tolerate staff on cushy wages undermining their efforts from within. We cannot simply sweep this report under the rug, our members won’t abide it.

I urge my comrades on the National Executive Committee to take this matter with the seriousness it deserves. Launch a proper investigation and take the decisive action necessary to restore faith in our party and allow us to move forward as a united, fighting force.

Most sincerely,
Luke Farley
Chair
Elmet and Rothwell Labour
(In a personal capacity)

Comments (8)

  • Anti-fascist says:

    All of those who systematically stabbed the party “in the front”, as one of these characters put it, should be expelled from the party.

    Their stance of wanting the party to be defeated and getting their wishes fulfilled will do untold harm to millions of decent working people.

    In another Comments section, a poster labelled them as “scabs”. He was right. They can no longer be tolerated in party they hate.

  • Doug says:

    Luke Farley and others
    We thank you for your service

  • Alexander Gavin says:

    My heart goes out to you and all the others who strived so hard only to have your hopes dashed by hidden parasites.
    I joined the Labour Party in support of Jeremy Corbyn, here at last was the real thing, no more voting with the government or perhaps worse abstaining which characterised the said parasites.
    I can’t see things changing and have cancelled my membership dues. I doubt labour will ever form a government, they will play the part of opposition and that’ll be it and the parasites will carry on sucking the life blood from such good people as yourself and others. My only hope is that I’m wrong.

  • rose challands says:

    thank you for your letter …..hopefully there will be some justice done

  • Ruth van Straten says:

    I’ve cried a lot this weekend… From reading the Sky leak on Saturday night to reading, watching and listening to everything I could on Sunday and Monday. And your letter made me cry too. I feel for you and for all of us who have been so terribly betrayed. We were so close. I don’t think there’s going to be a happy ending to this story. I’ve cancelled my direct debit but will wait to see what happens in the coming days and weeks as to whether I’ll reinstate it. The faith, hope and trust has gone. Keir has a huge amount of work to do to try to heal this mess and first impressions are not good. Good luck Luke x

  • Teresa Steele says:

    Thank you Luke, and to all those in CLP’s up and down the country who gave so much to the GE campaigns, especially in the December 2019 campaign, activists getting drenched daily selling an election in the last weeks in the run up to Christmas. We were literally robbed, and the enormity of what we lost is still sinking in. I have cried this past few days, tears of despair and anger. What have they done? and what will be the punishment.

  • Nick Jenkins says:

    Well said, Luke. Here in Calder Valley, we came within about 600 votes of kicking out our useless Tory MP. Hundreds of volunteers worked tirelessly (both in 2017 and 2019). We knew we weren’t getting any support from head office in 2017, but to learn that HQ was actively working to prevent our success is devastating.
    Like you, I think back to the moment we saw that exit poll, to the gains during the night, to actually winning Kensington, where I once lived and fought for a Labour victory many years ago. And now we read that while we were ecstatic at those moments, the people we employed to help bring about a Labour government were disgusted and appalled… this affair MUST be dealt with properly. I genuinely think the future of the party depends on it.

  • Billie Dale Wakefield says:

    The only thing Keir Starmer will do is investigate and hunt out the person who leaked the report, and authorise a white wash. They are in control now, and I cannot see anything changing

Comments are now closed.