In their fevered desperation to purge potential troublemakers and ‘entryists’ from the voting rolls, the Labour Party are eliminating people who have every right to take part in the leadership election
It was only a matter of time before the Labour Party’s scattershot and reactionary vetting process ended up turfing out someone who is so clearly and quintessentially Labour that the whole process was instantly rendered ridiculous.
And now, with the expulsion of Public and Commercial Services Union general secretary Mark Serwotka, it has finally happened: the political party created to carry the voice of trade unionism into Parliament has expelled one of those very same voices for failing to share the “aims and values” of the Labour Party.
From the BBC’s report:
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, voted for Jeremy Corbyn, but was told his vote would not be counted.
Mr Serwotka has previously publicly criticised Labour’s “move rightwards”.
Labour said it would not comment on individual cases but said people “who don’t share aims of values of the Labour party don’t get a vote”.
The PCS, which represents civil servants, is not affiliated to the Labour Party and is part of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, which stood against Labour candidates at the general election.
Just so we are clear: the general secretary of the main union representing public sector workers (you know, the kind of workers that Labour actually likes and supposedly exists to represent – contrast with ‘the bankers’) is being denied the opportunity to join the party and vote for its leader. Because to be a trade union leader and represent the interests of your members according to your conscience is now anathema to the values of the Labour Party.
This blog is no great fan of Mark Serwotka. But if someone like Serwotka – a union man through and through – is denied the opportunity to re-join the Labour Party and participate in its governance, one has to wonder what the Labour Party possibly still stands for.
Labour are making an example out of Serwotka not because he holds values which are incompatible with the Labour Party – if so, I defy anyone within the party to name the value that they do not share in common. No, this vindictive move is all about Serwotka being an embarrassment to the Labour Party by having remained more faithful to Labour’s socialist roots than the vacillating, virtue signalling party of Ed Miliband.
And Mark Serwotka is not alone – thousands of people, it seems, are now being purged from the Labour Party not because they hold antithetical views but simply because they became impatient with Labour’s slow-moving centrist approach and expressed their support for another party or candidate.
But if supporting Jeremy Corbyn too fervently marks one out as far-left ‘entryist’ and coming down too hard on the other side makes one a hated Blairite, who exactly does Labour want to come to their party?
As a reminder, here are the stated aims and values of the Labour party, taken directly from the party’s own website. I critique the values themselves – such as they are – here, in a separate post.
You can see that they are quite specific in their blandness, insisting that Labour Party supporters aspire to:
- Social justice
- Strong community and strong values
- Reward for hard work
- Rights matched by responsibilities
- Motherhood and apple pie
Okay, the last one was facetious.
But the trouble is: who among us does not believe in these things? Who doesn’t want strong communities, a responsible citizenry, hard work rewarded and decency to prevail? These “values”, such as they are, reside within all of our hearts – even Evil Tories like David Cameron or (gasp) Iain Duncan Smith.
In truth, Labour is not about the values stated on the website. The Labour Party is all about the means, not the end. We all want to see social justice and an end to poverty, but Labour want to bring this about through forced redistribution of wealth and income from the rich to the poor, while conservatives (at least those who think about it at all) want to build the poor up without tearing down the rich.
We all want hard work to be rewarded, but the Labour Party (and now George Osborne) looks at cases where hard work receives low pay and wants to correct it with the iron rod of a national living wage, while small government conservatives want to improve the quality and skills of the workforce to the extent that there is no longer a race to the bottom with unskilled workers driving wages and conditions ever lower.
The goals are often the same, but the means of getting there are different. Therefore Labour should be honest and admit that eliminating poverty and attaining social justice are not bright ideas unique to the Labour Party, but that Labour values are really about the method of reaching this promised land – i.e. through active, paternalistic state intervention.
Therefore, a more accurate list of Labour values might look something like this:
- Price and wage controls in the housing and labour markets
- Higher government spending to fund community services
- Confiscatory levels of taxation on the richest to bring down income inequality
- Decency enforced by Political Correctness and restrictions on freedom of expression and of the press
- The entitlement to uncapped welfare regardless of merit enshrined as a ‘human right’
If these all sound rather dystopian, that’s because they are. But they are also what the modern Labour Party is really about. All of this warm fluff about social justice and strong communities could apply to any political party. And in many cases, the Labour Party is more guilty than others of actively working against these aspirations. Has unlimited mass immigration, for example, helped to ‘strengthen communities’ up and down the land?
Labour cannot admit to its true goals in their publicly expressed values, because true Labour Values would be repulsive to vast swathes of the electorate, many of whom do not look to the state as an auxiliary, omnipotent parent. So instead we are treated to this elaborate ruse, with Labour trying to appropriate the basic tenets of human decency and pass them off as radical ideas thought up by the Labour Party. What will they claim next as a socialist invention – the theory of gravity?
All of this makes a complete mockery of the Labour leadership contest. By following the publicly expressed Labour Values to the letter, everyone in Britain who is not a confirmed psychopath should have the inalienable right to vote in the leadership election. The people now being culled from the voter rolls – including Mark Serwotka – are not guilty of failing to abide by these basic principles of human decency, but rather are being purged for having embarrassed the party at some point in the past, or for committing some as-yet unforgiven act of disloyalty.
Weeding out mischief-making Tories who are only in it to harm the Labour Party is one thing, but it is quite another to use the vetting process to eliminate members who are socialist to the core, but who have done something to upset the moralising, control-freakish, middle-class clerisy who have metastasised through the Labour Party like a cancer. And yet this is precisely what is now happening with the Labour Purge.
The Labour Party has brought this chaos upon itself – their woolly, meaningless “values” are plastered all over their website for the whole world to see. But to now attempt to use these values as the acid test when determining the worthiness of new members is doomed to fail, making the whole process seem orchestrated and cynical.
For in truth there is only one Labour value that now matters, and only one test that is applied, neither of which the party have made public, and with good reason.
The value question is this: Are you broadly happy with the direction of the Labour Party and the people in charge of it since 1994?
And the test: Have you offended any of the people doing the vetting?
I’m no fan of the Labour Party, but the start point on which this post is based is just not true. Mark Serwotka may be a union leader and Labour may have founded by the unions, but Serwotka is not “so clearly and quintessentially Labour” as all that. As you put up, the PCS is part of TUSC, a political party which stands against Labour candidates and did so at the election three months ago.
Now it may be that Serwotka himself has had a Damascene conversion in the last three months, and even though his union remains part of the other party, he himself is now a Labour supporter signed up to the values of the party. But I doubt it. If Corbyn had not got on the ballot paper, I doubt he would have paid his £3; if Corbyn doesn’t win the leadership, I’ll guess Serwotka will be backing the TUSC candidate at the next by-election that comes along.
I would happily see the Labour Party ground into dust, but it’s so disingenuous of lefties, who merrily supported TUSC, the Greens and others, to act as if they have a right to vote in the leadership election of a party they don’t support and certainly will not in future support if their favoured candidate doesn’t win the leadership. And I think a member of any other British political party would think the same if Labour’s processes were translated to their party.
Many thanks for reading and for the comment. I would take your point as fully valid if only the Labour Party was not conducting its purge on the specific and clearly stated basis that the victims do not share the “aims and values” of the party. Serwotka has recently supported another party as you say, but he and his union have clearly done so out of frustration that the Labour Party is not being “Labour enough”. You can argue that Serwotka did not share the same tactics as the Labour Party under Ed Miliband, but it is very hard to make the case that they hold genuinely different values.
Now, if the Labour Purge was being conducted on the grounds that people would be rooted out if they were found to be troublemakers, or disloyal to the recent party leadership, then there would be no grounds for complaint. Serwotka clearly thought nothing of Ed Miliband, and made his displeasure plain. But this isn’t what’s happening. Labour is kicking out supporters claiming that they don’t share the same values, when the only real offence is that they embarrassed the party and its perceived lack of principle by daring to vote Green or criticise Labour on social media.
But then a lot of this comes down to the incompetent way the party leadership elections are structured, and the way that this campaign in particular has been managed. Tightening the wording or eligibility of criteria before throwing open the doors to hundreds of thousands of new members would have prevented all of this bad publicity from ever occurring.