Labour has expelled Mark Sandell, who was elected to chair the Brighton and Hove party at the annual meeting in July.
Fifteen other party members have been suspended. They are believed to be mostly – but not all – either supporters of Jeremy Corbyn or on the left wing of the party.
The Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party – the largest “constituency Labour party” in the country – is to be broken up.
It will be reconstituted as three constituency parties aligned with the parliamentary boundaries of Brighton Kemptown, Brighton Pavilion and Hove.
The break up was agreed by the party’s National Executive Committee yesterday (Tuesday 18 October).
The local party was suspended five days after the annual general meeting (AGM) in July after several complaints were lodged with party bosses.
Among the complaints were concerns about the security of the vote. Members used the traditional method of putting their votes in buckets but there were claims that some had taken more than one ballot paper.
The election of a new local executive committee elected at the meeting was voided. Most of those who won, including Mr Sandell, were regarded as supporters of Mr Corbyn. Mr Sandell has been a supporter of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL), an organised proscribed by Labour.
The existing local executive committee was reinstated, with Lloyd Russell-Moyle resuming the chairmanship of the city party.
He has since been elected to Brighton and Hove City Council. This morning (Wednesday 19 October) he said: “A variety of members from different parts of the party have been suspended. Fifteen out of 8,000 members is a very small proportion.
“We hold no details locally of the suspensions – just the names and branches.”
He said that some members locally on the left wing of the party had been calling for the city party to be broken up.
He said: “The left were calling for the break up of the city party only a few months ago.
“It is a bit frustrating that it comes about like this, top down, but they are the following the national rules.
“There will still be a city Labour party. The local campaigns forum will be reconstituted.”
Older members would remember them as local government committees, he said, and the move in part anticipated proposed boundary changes.
The city party was formed when there were far fewer members as a way of encouraging the local membership to be able to work more effectively.
The break up should, he suggested, be seen in the same light given the huge growth in membership.
He added: “Some people may regard this is a bit draconian but it’s putting things on a regular footing in line with rest of the country.
“Brighton and Hove does things differently to every other part of the country.
“What we have to do now is work together and realise that we agree about more than we disagree about and concentrate on fighting the Tories and not each other.”
Greg Hadfield, who was elected secretary of the city party in July, was among those to lose his place on the executive when the ballot was voided.
He wrote today: “Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have called a public meeting of Labour Party members in Brighton and Hove after it emerged one of the party’s leading figures has been expelled.
“The move – triggered by the expulsion of Mark Sandell, elected chair at the 6,200-member party’s annual meeting in July – comes as it was revealed that at least 15 other members have also been suspended.
“One member was suspended – for a Facebook post made in December last year – only days after he had voted for Mr Corbyn in the most recent leadership ballot; as a result, his vote for Mr Corbyn was cancelled.
“To protest at the expulsion and the suspensions, a public meeting for Labour Party members and supporters will be held as a matter of urgency.
“Labour Party branches across Brighton and Hove are also being urged to pass motions calling for all expelled and suspended members to be reinstated immediately.
“Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party (the ‘City Party’) – the biggest party unit in the country – has been suspended for more than three months, even though allegations about ‘spitting’ and ‘abusive behaviour’ at the meeting at City College on (Saturday) 9 July have been proved to be untrue.
“Members of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) met yesterday to discuss the secret findings of a three-month investigation into BHDLP.
“They decided to force the City Party to be divided into three separate constituency parties although this is unlikely to be possible before January next year.
“Mr Sandell was secretly filmed by Channel Four Dispatches criticising Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove, for not joining junior doctors on picket lines and for not supporting calls for railways to be brought back into public ownership.
“In a statement, Mr Sandell – who first joined the Labour Party in 1986 – said: ‘My expulsion is a direct attack on the hundreds of Labour Party members who attended the annual meeting of Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party (BHDLP) on (Saturday) 9 July.’”
Mr Sandell said: “Members voted overwhelmingly for me and other supporters of Jeremy Corbyn as the new leadership team to represent more than 6,200 members across our city.
My Labour year. Voted Corbyn, elected chair BHLP AGM, AGM annulled, voted Corbyn again, expelled, BHLP broken up. Bad losers! But we'll win
— Mark Sandell (@mark_sandell2) October 19, 2016
“Those who lost the election could not accept this decision. They immediately spread lies and false allegations — about spitting and abusive behaviour – all of which have been shown to be untrue.
“Within days, BHDLP was suspended and banned from nominating Jeremy Corbyn. It is now being run by the old executive committee, which is mostly made up of those who lost democratic elections so badly.
“My expulsion is another desperate and undemocratic manoeuvre by those in the Labour Party who have lost the political argument against Corbyn and who want to silence the majority of Labour Party members.
“This small clique of career politicians and spin doctors will never accept socialist politics that put working-class people’s interests first.
“They want to return to the Labour Party of Tony Blair and are willing to crush party democracy in order to achieve their goal.”
Mr Kyle has said previously that he did not join a junior doctors’ picket line as he was told not to by the party leadership.
And that he has not opposed calls for railways to be brought back into public ownership. He is just trying to bring about improvements under the current set up as there is little likelihood of any imminent renationalisation.Councillor Caroline Penn said: “The formation of our city party was a long and painful process. I sat through hours of meetings as secretary of Hove and Portslade CLP (Constituency Labour Party).
“I’m really proud of all it achieved – not least a Labour council and a brilliant Labour MP. But what worked when we were 1,500 doesn’t as 6,000.
“Over the next few weeks, no doubt we’ll see certain people full of outrage, shouting loudly about how this is a disgraceful NEC decision.
“But the truth is, they are exactly the same people who tried to hold up and frustrated the move to the city party in the first place.”
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