THE GUTTER PRESS has for months been full of stories of bullying at Labour Party meetings, and claims that these are not safe spaces. Most of these, on inspection, turn out to be entirely false; but this is indeed the experience faced by the left at meetings of Walthamstow CLP, as a result of appalling behaviour from the right, with the active assistance of MP Stella Creasy, council leader Clare Coghill and CLP secretary Philip Creasy.
Despite a growing membership, eager to be involved in many local and national campaigns, the general committee (GC) only meets four times a year. Since one of these is the AGM, this effectively means that all political discussion and campaign mobilisation must be squeezed into three meetings. And since at these meetings branch delegates are regularly outnumbered by those from unions and affiliated societies (some very dubious; let’s hope that implementation of the Democracy Review regularises this), there is very little space for members to have their say.
Branch and GC meetings regularly experience organised barracking of speakers, in an attempt to silence left voices and intimidate activists. In the branches where the left has won control, this behaviour is generally swiftly stopped; but at the GC, still under the control of the anti-Corbyn right, it has been given almost free rein. Additionally, some delegates - particularly young women - have complained about intimidation by muttered comments and hostile glares from older people in positions of authority.
In a bizarre inversion of logic and political reality, we have also seen Jewish members being accused of antisemitism, women being accused of misogyny and anti-fascist activists accused of “capitulation to fascism”. The bullying reached such a pitch that several members left the September GC early.
One delegate, who had brought her daughter because of childcare problems, said that the child was very stressed at the adult misbehaviour, and others noted that the GC was far from a “safe space”. This bullying is repeated in other areas.
Several left activists who have been elected to the CLP executive have refused to stand for a second term due to bullying on the EC. Others have been unwilling even to stand after seeing the experience of David Watson, suspended from party membership after beating Stella Creasy’s mother for the post of fund raising officer over two years ago, and still waiting for any explanation or hearing.
In the run-up to the branch and CLP AGMs this year, reports were received of members standing on the left slate for GC delegates being bullied over statements in the left leaflet. All of this harassment is taking its toll, with many left activists becoming stressed and forced to be defensive, at a time when we should be promoting our positive agenda and challenging the government attacks. We need a Labour Party for the many not the few!
If you are suffering from bullying in your CLP, please write in to Briefing