Leah Levane’s response to her threatened “automatic exclusion”

JVL Introduction

As “Are you now or have you ever been……” reported on this website 3 days ago, Leah Levane is threatened with auto-exclusion from the Labour Party.

Her crime?

  1. We believe that you have engaged in the following acts and that these acts constitute support for LIEN.

8.1. On February 27 2021 you attended and spoke at the Labour In Exile Network virtual conference.

  1. We believe that you have engaged in the following acts and that these acts constitute support for LAW.

9.1. In January 2020 you signed an Open letter from LAW to Rebecca Long-Bailey.

We post Leah’s response here. A copy of the full letter from GLU is posted below that.


Leah Levane responds

Labour Party membership number: A143974
Case No: CN-12920
August 16th 2021

To the Officers at GLU

I acknowledge receipt of your email of Friday 13th August 2021.

This is my response:

I feel angry to receive this letter, but also feel honoured to be in the firing line at the same time and for the same reasons as many other excellent committed socialists. One question I have for the Labour Party leadership is why would you expect people in this country to trust with government a Party that treats its own hard working, committed, volunteer members with such disdain?

I wish to make it clear that you are threatening to force me out of the Party. (I am not autoexcluding, I neither chose this nor brought it on myself as I explain below.) What I most resent is the wicked crushing of hope and the danger this opens up for understandably disaffected people when politics, especially the Party that is supposed to represent them utterly fails them.

The accusations

You cite as “evidence” two acts, one relating to LAW and one to LIEN.  At the time of signing the open letter (LAW) and speaking at an online conference (LIEN), neither organisation was proscribed.   How can guilt be attributed retrospectively? The ostensible reason for proscribing these two organisations was that they were antisemitism deniers, which I strongly refute.  I am a Jewish woman with knowledge and experience of antisemitism, these organisations are not guilty of that.

I am also accused of speaking at a meeting organised by LIEN. I did, indeed, speak at the meeting you refer to but I would like you to note that I was a speaker on at least two occasions; you certainly seem to have missed one that took place on 12th December 2020 on the topic of Free Speech. This was either an oversight on your part or even you thought it was going too far to criticise me for speaking on that topic.

Your letter refers to the NEC advice about what demonstrates “support” for an organisation; this advice has not been taken to Party Conference and it means that Free Speech in the political sphere will be dangerously curtailed, directly contrary to expressed commitments to preserve this freedom in the Party rules.

In any normal setting, speaking at an event, signing a petition or signing an open letter, are not indicators of support for an organisation.

Furthermore, there is, to the best of my knowledge, no such category as LAW ’supporter’ nor a LIEN “supporter”; the accusation, therefore, is strictly of guilt by association, for which you are proposing I be retrospectively punished.  This is unimaginably distant from natural justice, which is the least members have a right to expect from a progressive Party, and one led by a Human Rights lawyer at that.

It is logically impossible for me to defend myself in the way you suggest because you are asking me to prove a negative, that I am not a supporter.  Normally the accused is presented with actual evidence, so in the absence of that, I expect you to withdraw the allegation.

In relation to the acts that you suggest provide evidence of my support, I confirm that, along with over 5,000 others, I did sign the open letter to Rebecca Long Bailey.  This is because the Board of Deputies pledges which leadership candidates were being asked to sign were and remain anti-democratic. They also formed part of the narrative that there was only one acceptable type of Jew and one permissible point of view on Israel/Palestine and on antisemitism in the Labour Party. I consider this assumption that all Jews think the same way to be antisemitic.

Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), which I am proud to Co-Chair has complained to the EHRC and to the Forde Inquiry about the Party’s treatment of left-wing Jews.  We will shortly be issuing a supplementary statement and will forward this to the Party when it is ready. Please note that none of the complaints about the antisemitism that our members have experienced, individually and collectively, have been taken seriously by the Party.  Despite its loud protestations to the contrary, this is, shamefully, not a Party committed to fighting antisemitism or making the Party a place where Jewish people feel safe and comfortable.

This attack on people like myself is one more example of Labour’s lack of democracy; most obviously exemplified by the General Secretary’s diktats to CLPs and BLPs about what we can and cannot discuss.  I believe that the exceptionalising of antisemitism has left many Black, Asian and Muslim members feeling betrayed and yet the Party continues to claim that it is fighting racism.  It is overwhelmingly the left in the Party, who, like me, oppose the antidemocratic actions being carried out by the Leader and the General Secretary, who are active in such struggles.

I oppose all witch hunts of Labour Party members and bans and proscriptions on socialist organisations. Neither I, nor JVL, have ever advocated for the proscription of any groups, nor for the suspension or expulsion of any individuals even when their views make me very uncomfortable.

I am extremely concerned about the strident moves to rid the Party of socialists; this treatment is unjust, unwarranted, unnecessary and dangerous; the latter because it leaves the people of this country – and beyond – without a viable opposition to this most pernicious of Tory governments with, for example, its ongoing attacks on the poor, on refugees, on Gypsies, Roma and Travellers and the Right to Protest, its cronyism and galloping privatisation, not least of our most revered institution, the NHS.

Annexe: A bit of background about me:

I am from an observant Jewish background although grew up in Southall, West London where Jews were rare, attending a small synagogue with a congregation too small to pay a Rabbi, so congregants did everything, including taking services.  I learned early about the importance of opposing all forms of racism and of standing in solidarity with our many Indian friends and neighbours who were, at that time, subject to overt racism from the Southall Residents Association.  Although my own family arrived long before the rise of Nazism, the lesson I was to draw from the appalling antisemitism experienced by Jewish communities throughout centuries, was the need for absolute solidarity with all victims of racism, that “never again” meant never again for anyone. It is simply inevitable that I also oppose the racism being meted out to Palestinians.

My parents and at least one grandfather and several Great Aunts and Uncles were active Labour Party members; two Great Uncles were Labour councillors, one in Oxford and the other was Mayor of Stepney in the immediate post war period.  My grandfather was a member of the No Conscription Fellowship with Fenner Brockway and was jailed for his beliefs. This threat of “autoexpulsion” is literally nothing in comparison with more than 3.5 months in Wormwood Scrubs and a further 2 years hard labour.  But I want you to know the sort of “stock” I come from so you know who you are aiming to force out.

I was an active member of the Labour Party for several years from first joining as a student in 1973. I represented Wales on the National Organisation of Labour Students National Committee.   I left the Party after some years, as far as I remember because of Neil Kinnock’s failure to support the Miners’ strike.  I re-joined the Party in 2015 because, like hundreds of thousands of others, I was enthused not only by Jeremy Corbyn’s progressive message but also by the enthusiastic response from large numbers of people, especially young people and people from racialised communities. I saw hope, optimism, ideas and a willingness to work hard to achieve change in the interests of ordinary people, rather than Corporations and the ruling class; a possibility for a programme based on peace, an end to austerity, for lifting people up and for international solidarity.  This hope has been destroyed and that is the most wicked aspect of these attacks on the left.

I have consistently contributed to the Party over the past 6 years; branch secretary, active campaigner in elections, street stalls and other such actions and was a councillor for three years from 2018 until May 2021 and Labour Group Chair for two of those years.

I have always been involved in the struggle for justice, equality and socialism.  I will never stop doing that and would be happy to remain in the Labour Party to try to pursue that struggle there or I will work for justice elsewhere as I did before.

Leah (Lesley) Levane

Hastings


The GLU letter (5pp. in all) – click on the images to enlarge and sharpen them

Comments (46)

  • Linda says:

    It’s a “heart, mind and SOUL” struggle here. Thanks to Leah and the others under the spotlight for their courage and witness.

    I am aghast (to the extent of almost being in a state of disbelief) at the evil you’re facing. I wish you all strength, resilience and vindication. God bless.

  • Dorothy says:

    Perfect response Leah! These “charges” would be laughed out of court in an actual legal setting. Guilt by association aka McCarthyism.

  • Helen Field says:

    I stand 100% in support of Leah Levane. Her reply to the Labour Party GLU email is excellent. Well done Leah for speaking up✊🏻

  • Andrew Hornung says:

    An uplifting response. Thank you.
    I note the Humpty Dumpty redefinition of a political party, cobbled together to suit the case the witch-hunters want to make. The Party leadership should issue the membership with an updated glossary with, the left-hand column the standard term (say, “Political party”, “Jew”, “anti-semite” “uncomfortable”, “inclusive”, “democratic”, “supporter” etc.) and in the right-hand column the specially contrived definition (“working definition, if you prefer” but this time legally-binding) with the date of its coining.

  • John McLaughlin says:

    Human rights lawyer and leader of the Labour party starmer, who stamps on the human rights of socialists in the labour party, starmer and all his supporters should resign from the Labour leader, because socialists they are not, so they should go and join the tory party as they are more akin to them than they are to labour.

  • John Bowley says:

    A strong, articulate, factual and informative response from heroic Leah.

    The charges are contradictory and fundamentally silly but are also antisemitic because of their narrow focus on an innocent and upstanding Jewish woman.

  • Alice Bondi says:

    The ridiculous actions being taken by Labour to ‘auto-exclude’ people on the basis of some association with certain small groups is so appalling, and so counter to any form of natural justice, that is hard to know what to say. So I’m very glad you have said it, Leah – excellent response and with you all the way.

  • Nick Pile says:

    An amazing account from Leah Levane, We have, I believe, all been inspired by those who have worked within the Labour Party and wider movement over the past decades (in my case more than five of them). People who cared, who fought and argued for their beliefs. Now, it seems, we have a Labour “Leadership”, which is content to throw this long history out of the window, and revert to the neo-liberal “I’m in it for myself” mentality.

  • bob cannell says:

    Starmer and Evans are digging a very big hole for themselves. And now they can’t stop for fear of being denounced as ‘soft on antisemitism’ by the BoD and allies. Sooner or later those people will lose interest, job done, Labour mortally wounded and insufficient time to heal before GE24. What then for Starmer?

  • Jack T says:

    Excellent response Leah you speak for many of us who are appalled at the way Socialists in the Party are now being treated to satisfy an attempt by the JLM to silence criticism of Israel’s racist actions.

    The membership card says that the Labour Party is a ‘Democratic Socialist Party’. Can anyone in the current leadership say that their actions comply with this description? The regime Starmer and Evans is running is more akin to that of a tin-pot dictator.

  • Tony Booth says:

    A brilliant response Leah. In solidarity and with thanks.

  • Sue Shaw says:

    How shameful to exclude someone for these principled acts campaigning for social justice, human rights and free speech. I stand with Leah Levane.

  • nicola Grove says:

    Bravo Leah. So good to read this eloquent attack..

  • Leah, you state: “It is logically impossible for me to defend myself in the way you suggest because you are asking me to prove a negative, that I am not a supporter. Normally the accused is presented with actual evidence, so in the absence of that, I expect you to withdraw the allegation”. To put it simply, you are dealing with a Party that has been hijacked by trash. In his clamp-down on his left-wing opponents, Keir Starmer stands out for his BIAS and SEVERITY, words that Wikipedia accords to Judge Jeffries, the 17th century “hanging judge”. I keep asking myself how Starmer could rise to be Head of the Crown Prosecution Service.

  • Margaret West says:

    I happened to be watching the UN Security Council on TV where Afghanistan’s UN Ambassador called on the UN not to recognise
    “any government that is not inclusive. ”

    Inclusiveness is recognised as necessary for good governance
    of any organisation so how ironic that this is something which is
    not true of the current Labour Party.

    There appears to be more stress on spying on current Labour Party
    members than on opposing the current Tory Govt – the most disgraceful I can ever remember.

  • MRS JUDITH C KELMAN says:

    Leah that is a wonderful letter from a wonderful lady. I am in solidarity with you as another Labour Member currently being investigated. Thank you.

  • Denis Grace says:

    Such a truely great, yet ultimately sad letter; because it is so true and shows how un-labour Labour has become.
    I would never have imagined how completely changed the party would have become from the one a few years ago when thousands upon thousands flocked to the party. To then see the leader undermined, ridiculed and denounced by those who were in the same party.
    I feel sad for what you have put into the Labour party and see how now you have also been hounded and smeared.
    It is those now in the present leadership who should hold their heads in shame if they had real morals or scruples.

  • Jenny Secretan says:

    Excellent response Leah! Spot on! Solidarity with you and with Graham, Roger, Diana, Glyn and others. The Party is morally bankrupt, idiotic and Stalinist in its current behaviour.

  • Richard Samson says:

    Leah Levane, I salute you.

    Your witness and example are inspirational.

    Mr Starmer and Mr Evans seem neither democratic nor socialist. They should resign now.

  • Duncan Longstaff says:

    I fully support your letter and hope you succeed.
    In solidarity.

  • Hazel Davies says:

    Leah’s highly cogent and principled reply will fall on deaf ears. The Leadership has abandoned all logic as well as natural justice. This is a power grab on Stalinist lines.

  • Les Hartop says:

    Warm solidarity to you Leah, and Graham and everyone being targeted by this cowardly attack.

    Too scared to proscribe JVL directly, the tactic adopted by Labour’s new dictatorship is it to attack individual JVL supporters indirectly, NOT FOR MEMBERSHIP OF JVL, but, FOR WHAT and WHO THEY SUPPORT.

    This is their attack on the whole of JVL.

    People who left the Labour Party must rejoin, and everyone who remains a member of the party must do everything they can to stop these attacks on free speech, and get Starmer out.

  • David Prichard-Jones says:

    Of course!
    You should have realised that one joins the Party, not to think, but to pay a subscription, canvass, and deliver leaflets, and, when you have lost any enthusiasm, and the ability to think independently, if you have not upset the local leadership, and are suitably docile, you may be rewarded by being allowed to run for some office which other sheep believe is fit for your talent!
    Is that really all there is to it?

  • Bruce Gomersall says:

    I absolutely love this. Every word resonates with my own beliefs, expressed more passionately and succinctly than I could write.

  • rod rippin says:

    Thank you Leah for articulating such sensible and respectful responses. I’m certain that you echo the thoughts of the majority of current and past members. I trust that you will be treated equally sensibly and respectfully.
    Kind regards
    Rod

  • Michael snook says:

    I am leaving the Labour Party whilst starmer is leader,I will rejoin when we have a true socialist leader like Jeremy Corbin.

  • ian Sharp says:

    Brilliant response in terms of exposing both the moral and legal bankruptcy of current position of the leadership of Labour Party

  • Shahab Mossavat says:

    While I recognise the sentiment and have sympathy for the indignation Leah Levane feels, I would merely observe there is no love lost – on my part at least – for the Labour Party.
    For most of its existence it has been a fraud.
    Democratic Socialists must move on from a mewling, lovelorn nostalgia for ‘their’ party by:
    a) Recognising it never really existed as anything more than a miasma – even under Corbyn;
    b) They should channel their energies and talents to setting up a new, independent party, which will defend and promote the principles of social justice without reference to corporations and Capital.
    The human cost of Starmer’s tactics are abundantly clear; purges never lead to any happy outcomes. However, Labour has shown how determined it is to make itself a marginal party – irrelevant in its narrative and of relevance not to the many, but the few. We, socialists should neither impede it nor encroach on its private grief.
    In that spirit, I quit the Party in 2018, after the NEC Elections demonstrated how the ground was being seeded for the Revenge of the Right.
    I suggest our leading democratic socialist strategists and intellectuals do the same. Instead applying themselves to creating a new platform from which to be heard.

  • Clare Holland says:

    Well done and said Leah. Im appalled at the action taken against you by the Gen Sec and ‘Leader’ of the LP
    Fight the good fight with all your might.

  • Miriam David says:

    What a brilliant reply Leah to a shocking form of retrospective gagging or McCarthyism. I give you my wholehearted support.

  • Mary Davies says:

    A brilliant letter. Love & Solidarity to all persecuted by Keir Starmer.

  • gordon says:

    I stand with leah levane.

  • DJ says:

    I am delighted to see this outpouring of solidarity with Leah and Graham. It proves that JVL has many supporters out there because it has taken a principled stand against the witch hunt and has sought to develop a united front against the witch hunters. JVL has demonstrated that it is not a”fringe” organisation and the Labour Party leadership are fully aware of this.

  • Elizabeth Wood says:

    I am very impressed by Leah Levane’s message and wish to express my support for her. I am a member of the Green Party, but Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership gave us hope for a renewed, socialist Britain, and I am very uneasy at the direction the Labour Party is taking under Keir Starmer.
    I am not Jewish, but have Jewish friends. I am sure I’d rather live under a Jewish regime than an Arab one, BUT I am horrified at the unjust treatment of the Palestinians under Israeli occupaton and apartheid regime. Criticising Israel is not antisemitic. It would be antisemitic to avoid criticising it simply because it is Jewish, when we would criticise any other, non-Jewish, state behaving in that way.

  • Malcolm Thwaite says:

    Well said Leah. Thankyou from someone descended from a Polish Ashkanazi family.

  • James Hemmings says:

    Leah, you are an inspiration to many of us disillusioned by the current leaderships campaign against any support for Palestinian rights.

    Thank you and stay strong.

  • Charlotte Williams says:

    Solidarity Leah and Graham.

  • Rosa says:

    Prove a negative? What fascist planet are these people from? I stand by you Leah

  • John Bowley says:

    I have now had a proper read of the post here by Shahab Mossavat and have found it more than interesting. Thank you Shahab and JVL.

  • Jane Lonergan says:

    Thank you for your commitment, and courage, to support our Labour Party, which is undergoing such a vicious attack by the right of the Party
    Jane Lonergan

  • Martin says:

    Shocking to read, utterly appalling behaviour on the part of the party machine. If Labour refuses to return to its democratic roots and Left Wing ideology, it has little or nothing to offer. I hope that Leah and the many others get an early resolution to these difficulties.

  • Antony R says:

    The LAW open letter doesn’t refer specifically to item 8 of the 10 BOD pledges:
    “Labour must engage with the Jewish community only via its mainstream representatives, and not through individuals and fringe organisations.”
    This provision means that specifically Jewish party members are not allowed to choose who represents them – a restriction that does not apply to other groups. Can anything be more overtly antisemitic than this?

  • Ruth Knox says:

    What a superb letter

  • Elizabeth (Liza) Dresner says:

    I am also a Jewish woman from a similar background although my parents were East End Jews and I now live in the centre of a very orthodox community in North London. My mother was an active party member until she died. I was in the young socialists (I wonder if they are called that any more) and have tramped the streets door knocking and canvassing. Unlike Leah, I resigned a few weeks ago. I can no longer stomach the behaviour of the leadership. I strongly support this letter and wish Leah and other members of the Jewish left strength to carry on this unnecessary and diversionary fight. While the attack on the left continues, membership, particularly of young people dwindles and the opposition to the disgusting Tory policies is no more than an apologetic whisper.

  • stephen coombes says:

    Don’t believe the lies guy’s & gals, believe your eye’s.

  • pam says:

    give up, its not a socialist party, move on, find another party

Comments are now closed.