I didn’t leave Labour. Labour left me.

JVL Introduction

This article reflects what many enthusiastic members who supported Jeremy Corbyn have experienced and are now feeling.

Long standing activist Ed Poole says: “If I believed that the Labour party was run fairly and democratically, I would have accepted votes we lost as I have always done and worked harder to win that argument next time. But I know that it is not. We all now know that it isn’t….”

Whilst respecting Ed’s decision to leave, we ask others not to do so. Take a break if you are tired and disappointed, but stay to help hundreds of thousands of like-minded members build a better Party. Do not abandon Labour to ‘dirty politics and bullying’.

Join the Don’t Leave Organise network. Millions of voters still need us.

And see the article and comments on our repost of What is the Point of a New Left Party?

This article was originally published by Edward Poole blogspot on Fri 3 Jul 2020. Read the original here.

I didn’t leave Labour. Labour left me.

After five years I have decided to leave the Labour Party. Unlike many socialists I pride myself on being succinct but I do have a lot to say. Thank you for bearing with me.

During my membership I have met dozens of the most hard-working and dedicated people imaginable. I have been inspired over and over again by these people’s relentless hunger for a better world. It has been an absolute honour to work alongside them.

I’ve held local executive committee positions in the Labour Party as Assistant Campaign coordinator and Vice Chair membership. I was elected to represent Enfield North at the 2019 Labour Regional Conference in London.  I was selected to stand as one of the candidates for Town Ward in Enfield in the 2018 local elections and I was nominated by Town ward to be the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Enfield North in the 2019 General election. I’ve always felt humbled and honoured to have been given that trust by members. It is something I will never forget. Nor will I ever forget those comrades who campaigned for me. I hope I’m not letting them down by leaving the Labour Party.

I have had some incredibly great experiences as a result of being in the Labour Party. The comradery and excitement of the second leadership race, where I got to know so many incredible local socialists as we campaigned to get Jeremy Corbyn re-elected as leader. And the brilliant victory party afterwards! Lennie’s amazing “BAME” event with placards of the faces of local activists of widely varied heritage and brilliant contributions from Chancy, Chrissie and Pat among others. Chancy’s youth event and my first turn as an invited speaker with brilliant debate from young members from across the movement. Canvassing as a candidate for Enfield Council, working along side so many great campaigners trying to get me elected, and speaking to voters about my ideas. Helping out Faiza Shaheen’s campaign in Chingford and Woodford Green. It was such a warm, hopeful , determined and very well organised campaign. It was exactly what the Labour Party should aspire to. All things I will remember fondly for a very long time.

I joined the Labour Party after signing up to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as leader. I knew that this might be unpopular with some existing members and felt duty bound to put my money where my mouth is and put the work in too. I was full of hope and joy at finally having my voice represented in mainstream politics after decades on the outside and having so many others in the Labour Party feel the same way. I also had a determination and an understanding that we had a mountain to climb in many ways. I was ready for a long hard fight. I thought I was ready for the reality that politics was a dirty business and that it was home to some dodgy dealings.  However, it was so much worse than I had ever imagined.

From the first meeting, I discovered Corbyn supporters were treated as hostile invaders by many members. Even those Corbyn supporters who had been members for years were treated as somehow not entitled to [a] view. In almost every single meeting the rules and the power of executives were used to shut down debate and stack the deck against anyone on the left who wanted a say or involvement in decision making. On more than one occasion I saw dozens of strangers turn up to vote, confer on who they were supposed to be voting for, vote and leave before the results were announced. When one vote was a draw there was a mad scramble to get them back for the second vote. I saw motions ruled out of order for flimsy reasons with no recourse, meetings arranged at short notice to make it hard for people to attend, emails mysteriously not reaching everyone and endless arguments about recounts and spoiled ballots. I heard rumours of worse, of driving round to hand out and collect postal votes and even of buying votes.

All the while we were cast as the villains in the media. I never met a group of sweeter people than Labour Party members who signed up to support Jeremy Corbyn. They were people from all walks of life and on the most part more likely to be women, Black, Asian or working class than Corbyn sceptics. But I’ve also never met a more ruthless set of unprincipled bullies than the forces in the Labour Party determined to stop us from having a democratic say in the party. The media’s picture was almost exactly the reverse. It was surreal.

I know people who stood up to those in charge and got death threats, had cars parked outside their homes at night, some were broken into. Many of these complaints were lodged with the relevant authorities, but rarely anything done to address it.

I saw no action taken, over an incredibly problematic local election; candidates’ selection processes: Candidates who failed interview, yet being allowed to run and then awarded a senior post in the local council and the deselection of all local Black councillors a shocking and clear ‘message’ to the borough and their constituents. No action at all was taken over horrific, racist and misogynistic “spoof” Twitter accounts that had been making appalling personal attacks on an MP, councillors, local officials and ordinary members. No action on bullying in the council on numerous occasions. We saw our selection process taken out of our hands to be managed by the NEC quango who quickly tried to secure the spot for their chosen candidate, without interviewing locally nominated candidates, almost any local candidates at all or anyone from the left.

But we stuck with it because we had won the arguments and the democratic mandate and we believed the ultimate goal was worth it. It was worth delivering leaflets for candidates who despised us and constantly worked against because it was still a step closer to getting Corbyn into number 10. We tried to keep complaints about the obvious massive dishonesty and moral corruption inside Labour’s proper channels in the hope that once we finally got a grip on the party machine we would be able to clear out the corruption and dishonesty. We had no idea that all hopes and hard work were being purposely sabotaged internally.

The leaked Labour report illustrates what the left were up against in the party, and everything revealed sounds all too familiar to Corbyn supporters who ever had to deal with a selection process or their region offices. With our own party against us we were never able to convince the electorate and we missed a once in a life time opportunity to get a politician of great integrity, compassion and honesty into number 10. I fear that chance will never come again.

After Corbyn stood down many people I know on the left stopped their membership and left the Labour Party when it became clear that Rebecca Long-Bailey’s leadership bid was going to be a very safe effort. Instead of setting out a radical agenda as the heir apparent to lead the massively Corbyn supporting membership she pitched a safe and meek vision about aspiration and agreed to sign, Board of Deputies inconsistent, unworkable pledges. A move that alienated many on the left who felt unfairly accused of antisemitism.  Corbyn’s leadership was not bold enough and he didn’t stand up for himself or the left in general enough. This was more of the same.

When Starmer refused to reveal his donors before he was legally required to and they turned out to be some characters who would not have gone down well with Corbyn supporters it was clear he was not going to fight an honest fight. Democracy, to me, is about empowering members to make informed choices and not pulling the wool over their eyes in a grab for power.  But even though I expected little from Starmer, perhaps a soft left approach like Ed Miliband, I have been horrified by the way things have unfolded.

Almost as soon as he became leader, he bottled it on supporting Kashmir’s right to self-determination, a policy freshly passed at conference and instead triangulated and caved to pressure to make positive noises to India’s far right leadership. One of more core principles, to me, is internationalism. It’s something the Labour Party has often failed on, but that’s an area Jeremy Corbyn excelled in. Socialists must stand shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed everywhere, even or maybe especially with those oppressed by our nation’s allies.

When a report detailing the incredibly vile and destructive antics of Labour staffers was leaked, the NEC firmly under Starmer’s control failed to suspend those accused of racism as was done previously and instead kicked the can down the road. The idea that those accused of antisemitism should be suspended but not those accused of anti black racism is vile and completely racist, but it seems in the Labour party there is a hierarchy of racism. All the while suspensions of left wingers for flimsy nonsense continue.

The report also detailed the lengths; staff in the Labour party went to undermine the efforts of members giving up their own free time to get a Labour government elected. It is incredibly difficult to justify putting in the work, that the party itself despises us whilst working hard to destroy our good work. Instead of publicly expressing solidarity for the Black MPs targeted for vile abuse revealed in the leaked report, he promoted MPs who had previously engaged in the same sort of abuse.

On the coronavirus crisis instead of calling for a hard and fast lock down, full financial support for everyone affected and an effective track, trace and isolate policy he mumbled about an exit strategy. When unions were calling for schools to close he said he’d have to look at it. A Labour leader should be on the phone to union leaders about their safety concerns long before he’s in front of TV cameras giving interviews about it.

During the Black Lives Matter protests he has effectively lined up against the protesters who removed the statue of mass murdering slave trader Edward Colston and even failed to call the far right counter demonstrators out for the racists they clearly are.

But it’s not just Starmer’s views that I find difficult to stomach,  it’s his whole approach. He is endlessly triangulating and seems to stand for nothing. He sacked Rebecca Long-bailey from the shadow cabinet for sharing an article by Maxine Peake in which she pointed out that racist policing was a global problem and highlighted the link between Israeli security forces and the US police. She was wrong in a couple of particulars and was accused of sharing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. This gave him a handy opportunity to demote a rival and yet he promoted Rachel Reeves who fawned over rabid anti-Semite Nancy Astor. If Long Bailey shared an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory why is she still in the Labour Party? What happened to zero tolerance? It is because Starmer is more concerned about avoiding a split than fighting anti-Semitism. It is all just a performance.

The last straw for me was when he dismissed the central demand of Black Lives Matter (to defund the police) as nonsense and to describe the movement as a “moment” about one police murder, then to reel off his hard man record of working with the police. All this a couple of days after it was revealed that police officers failed to find the bodies of two murdered black women but once found by the public the police took selfies with the bodies and shared them with their friends. A more disgusting show of contempt for black lives, it is difficult to imagine.

Leading figures on the left in the Labour Party have begged socialists to stay as members and fight. But fight for what? Fight for who? The Socialist Campaign Group mostly do what they did all through Corbyn’s leadership: silently accept regular beatings and wait for the bad people to go away. Where was the solidarity from higher up when my CLP Enfield North begged for help with the corrupt councillor selection process, when local high profile Black women were being abused on social media or when our Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Selection process was being hijacked? We can’t fight back if our allies are no where to be seen. I’m a volunteer with other responsibilities. I can’t dedicate my time and energy to fight for people too scared to fight for us or themselves.

Socialists aren’t welcome in the Labour party. Those that are members are on borrowed time. The Labour Party machine will make sure that someone like Corbyn never gets near the leadership again. They have already changed the NEC election rules pretty much by decree and open selections will never happen.

If I believed that the Labour party was run fairly and democratically, I would have accepted votes we lost as I have always done and worked harder to win that argument next time. But I know that it is not. We all now know that it isn’t. Every day in the Labour Party taught me that it is run in the service of people who will stop at nothing to forward their careers at the expense of the rest of us. The very people trying to break Corbyn as a man, on that day I stood with thousands of others in solidarity with him in Parliament Square, are now running the show.

I am not going to give up because we deserves a government that will put the people first but unfortunately at the moment it is not Labour.

Comments (20)

  • Kuhnberg says:

    I sympathize. I haven’t resigned my membership yet — I am waiting to hear what is to be done about the leaked report, but I am not hopeful that those who reviled the left as ‘trots’ and worked to drive us out of the party will be expelled or even reprimanded. The hint from on high seems to be that we are being ‘po-faced’ about the abuse visited upon loyal and principled socialists who have devoted time and energy to working for a Labour government. It’s hard to see how we can simply grin and bear it in the hope of better things to come.

    The situation in Israel is threatening to be another testing issue for the Labour Party. Starmer has groveled before the BoD and signed up to every one of the humiliating terms dictated by them; it is hard to see how he can effectively campaign against the latest Israeli land-grab. He declares himself a supporter of Zionism without qualification. In a matter of weeks we have gone from being a principled internationalist party to a lapdog of the Netanyahu administration. What can we do about it? I have no idea.

  • Rafi says:

    “ I am leaving on a jet plane “
    Sorry I am disillusioned, disappointed and demoralised!
    We will never win and always be seen as “the other” in political discourse.

  • Emma says:

    I am disillusioned too.The life has gone without Corbyn it seems.The cunning plan by some in labour worked in the end with the help of many in all areas and the media it seems they helped to prevent Corbyn reaching power in 2017,where is the democracy? Where is the decency? Shall we stay or shall we go? Perhaps it is best to fight as Corbyn did ,he achieved a lot in becoming leader perhaps someone else can do the same and be more wary of those hurdles and people who undermine and go on to defy them all and win!

  • Jack T says:

    Kuhnberg “What can we do about it?” One of the things we can do, is proclaim In whatever forums are open to us that Zionism is racism and because of Starmer’s declaration that he supports Zionism without question he is a racist.

  • Greg Douglas says:

    I’m in complete sympathy with Ed Poole and respect his decision. I have also considered leaving for the same reasons given by Ed, but I value my membership of JVL and as I am sure The issue of Justice for Palestinians will resume its importance in the Labour Party, particularly with regard to BDS, the influence of JVL on the debate will be of great importance.So for the time being I decline to leave the LP.

  • Mary Davies says:

    I totally understand how Ed feels.

  • Les Hartop says:

    Hopeless deluge of leavers…

    ” I supported Jeremy Corbyn”… but only when he was winning ??

    Has Jeremy torn up his membership card ?

    NO he hasn’t.

    He has NOT given up to focus entirely on making jam.

    So what kind of support is it when you leave when support is most needed ??

    There is work to be done… comrades to be defended from false allegations of antisemitism… Maybe soon to include the people who run this website.

  • Steven B says:

    Corbyn has been too weak.

    And the Labour right too antidemocratic and strong.

    Labour appears to me to be a vehicle to frsutrate and alienate the working class from politics. Not empower them.

  • Tamara Nikiforova says:

    After the period of disappointment, grief and anger at the stabbers& racists in the leaked report, and the ‘centrist/swerving right’ direction of the new leader, some reading and quiet reflection, I am definitely staying. Going to support fight with Tories and Labour Right, to vote in NEC summer elections, and so on. Corbyn has not left, quite the opposite, he is working as always, online and on the streets. I have been on ‘Arise Festival of Left ideas’ online webinar/discussions for several weks now. Cobyn made several inputs, together with many others, Left MPs and activists from UK and around the world. It was inspiring and clarifying my thoughts. It confirmed my intuitive urge not to leave Labour, with thousands of activudt doing the same, however tempting some new groups outside it are. The Left Labour people are working art rebuilding our roots in communitures. By joining carioud lrotest movements and workers struggles. At present it is the world wide Black Movement, started in USA, that was the point of our discussions on Monday meeting. 5000 activists and Labour members were participating from different countries.
    Join join forces and do not feel alone and discouraged.

  • Carh says:

    I have followed Ed on social media for a number of years and i know how passionate he is. For someone like him to leave the party is a huge loss and it says something that he felt the need to, I’m undecided if i should renew my membership or not because Labour is getting more the Tories every day.

  • My comments may seem insultingly simplistic but it is my Party and I am not leaving (although I will cry if I want to). As a Socialist and a Jew and a woman and a foreigner, I have had moments of hope and solidarity within the left groupings of the Party over 40 years plus membership; but I have never thought we were “okay”. The Party machinery was always mired in hierarchical and unfit for purpose bureaucracy; slates were often developed bypassing democratic process; and too many stale pale male and some female elected representatives thought that they had a job for life and did not deliver for us. But I am staying to fight with my last breath.

  • Linda Meehan says:

    Ed, you have written this eloquently and factually. Very similar tactics were used in my ex-clp as in Enfield. Labour left all socialists, and like you I’ve left them as I will not be part of a machine where there is a hierarchy of racism and where Afriphobia is so commonplace as to almost be normalised.

    I am waiting for a party that supports all colours of the rainbow & embraces all religions, that’s who get my vote

    Be well.

  • I left the party as soon as I saw the leaked report and saw Starmers reaction to it .I have now joined George Galloways workers party ,I did so after watching a few of their meetings on utube and was impressed by them especially when it comes to antisemitism ,I left labour but did so with a heavy heart but staying in a party that will throw people out for nothing but do nothing to the ones mentioned in the leak was enough for me.

  • Vera Lustig says:

    I’m staying, because we have to unite and defeat the Tories. Thank goodness for JVL, as a corrective to the new Labour orthodoxy.

  • steven iskra says:

    AS a now ex labour member i agree with every word that Ed has said

  • Barbara Shiels says:

    I knew it was bad Ed, but the goings on behind the scenes is something I cant quite put into words.
    Its unbelievable the way theyve behaved.
    To think we were naive enough to campaign for them.
    I’ve always supported Labour.
    But the corruption, starting with grass roots and CLPs.
    Is beyond anything I ever imagined.
    No one with any decency would want to stay.
    It stinks from top to bottom.
    I’m still trying to come to terms with it.

  • DJ says:

    Nobody said the struggle for socialism would be easy. Jeremy Corbyn has devoted his life to the cause. His stance on international issues showed enormous courage. This is the main reason why he was vilified by the British establishment.

  • DJ says:

    If you have decided to leave the Labour Party there is no reason to stop supporting this site.

  • Ed D says:

    I couldn’t have put it better myself, Ed. I had been waiting for someone like Jeremy for more than 40 years. At my age, I don’t expect I’ll live long enough to see a socialist government in this country. I fear for the world my grandchildren will inherit.

  • rob gardiner says:

    I can’t disagree with any of the comments I have just read through. And I am experiencing the same dilemma and painful choice. Each week it gets more difficult, with the divorce reaching the decree absolute stage, through the gradual evidence accumulating that Starmer is not to be trusted. My nausea level rises as Wes Streeting and/or Liz Kendall suddenly appears on the TV Screen representing the Party I am currently paying my dues to. Lloyd Russell-Moyle has just been forced out, with Rebecca already gone. The tone , the content, the substance, the music , has changed, like that film “the invasion of the body snatchers”, when they looked like human beings , but the empathy and humanity had been drained away. Also, like another contributor, I am too old to wait around for another messiah or second coming, and in terms of the second option I am thinking it will be more like Yeats’s poem . I may stay to vote in the NEC elections, for the Grassroots Alliance, and Jo Bird and Matt White. I will remember the 12th of December last year , in Peterborough, when the rain was pouring down in cascades, and I was the Driver, and in my car there were 4 gorgeous young people. And like the Keystone Kops we drove up and down the mean streets , jumping out at intervals in order to knock on doors and remind people to vote. C’est la vie. There’s always XR…

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