It had to happen sooner or later; the signs have been there all along – it was only a matter of when.
Andrew Fisher, an aide to Jeremy Corbyn, has been suspended from the Labour Party and faces ‘calls for his expulsion after suggesting people should back a Class War candidate in May’s election instead of Labour’s candidate’. It’s worth quoting the BBC report because the details are important:
[Andrew Fisher] had faced calls for his expulsion after suggesting people should back a Class War candidate in May’s election instead of Labour’s candidate.
Mr Fisher apologised but critics accused him of showing “contempt”.
Mr Corbyn has said he still has “full confidence” in Mr Fisher amid reports the aide was still working for him.
Channel 4 News said Mr Fisher had been suspended for “administrative” reasons.
Labour former ministers Caroline Flint and Siobhain McDonagh, who complained about the tweet, said in a joint statement they were “pleased” the party was enforcing its rules.
They said they had been acting “on behalf of those hard working members who were offended by Mr Fisher’s activities which included supporting a candidate against Labour.
Mr Fisher’s appointment is one of a number to Mr Corbyn’s close circle that have proved controversial among Labour MPs.
The economist and former trade union official posted a tweet in August 2014, which has since been deleted, saying “if you live in Croydon South, vote with dignity, vote @campaignbeard” – the Twitter name of the Class War party candidate.
Class War, an anarchist group, has suggested that there is “no difference” between any of the Westminster parties.
Labour’s official candidate in Croydon South, Emily Benn, granddaughter of Mr Corbyn’s political mentor Tony Benn, lodged a formal complaint about the tweet.
BBC: 6 November 2015 (my emphasis)
Firstly, let me make it clear that I have no personal involvement in the above and I know none of the ‘actors’. My observations are based on my past experience as a shop steward and full-time trade union representative as they relate to the operation of disciplinary procedures.
Such was my experience in representing members and negotiating disciplinary procedures that after I burned-out and changed careers, my employers required me to write training courses for managers on this subject. Managers were making serious mistakes and the human resources staff wanted them educated in how to operate the procedures properly and fairly. Later, when I trained as a psychotherapist, the same issue arose around interpersonal boundaries – we need them.
We need to put boundaries around peoples’ behaviour because some behaviour is directly harmful. And if someone purposefully engages in harmful behaviour, especially within an organisation such as the Labour Party, then it is quite correct that disciplinary procedures should be invoked for the sake of everyone. So I agree with Caroline Flint and Siobhain McDonagh, it is a good thing that Labour is enforcing the rules, but only up to a point.
When I was first being trained to represent members at disciplinary hearings, the point made by the tutor, a full-time TU official, was that procedures were there to ensure the panel did their job properly. Many a management attempt at imposing disciplinary sanctions would fail if it could be shown the procedures had not been followed; that the penalty was too harsh; and/or disciplinary standards were being applied unevenly or unfairly. This last point is particularly relevant in Andrew Fisher’s case.
The Pot and the Kettle
As I understand it, during last May’s election, Andrew Fisher sent a humorous tweet suggesting in folk in Croydon South vote for Class War candidate. The official Labour Party candidate for that constituency was Emily Benn, granddaughter of Tony Benn, who was aggrieved at Fisher’s behaviour and complained about him. Yet following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader, the very same Emily Benn posted a ‘retweet’ to her Facebook account suggesting women should leave the Labour Party and join the Women’s Equality Party instead.
Given that Ms. Benn had already complained about Andrew Fisher’s behaviour earlier in the year, it would be reasonable to assume that she was fully aware that the Labour Party has rules about encouraging members to join another non-affiliated political party yet, despite her recent encounter with this rule, she retweeted the recommendation following Jeremy’s election.
If Labour’s rules are applied to all party member’s, I await Ms Benn’s disciplinary hearing in due course, particularly if Mr Fisher’s punishment is to be expelled. To fail to call her to account for her actions would bring Labour’s disciplinary procedure into public disrepute. I would hope that both Ms. Flint and Ms. McDonagh concur, after all that’s what rules are for, aren’t they? Ms Benn’s misconduct carries a greater gravitas because she herself had complained about Mr. Fisher – she knew the rules. What’s good for the gander is also good for the goose.
Labour Party Discipline
For those in Labour celebrating the suspension of Andrew Fisher, I would point out that if you start enforcing rules upon Corbyn aides, you will raise collective awareness that Labour has disciplinary rules and this means those same rules apply to you too.
At present and in matters of ‘uncomradely behaviour’, there is growing mountain of evidence that rules are not being applied equally across the membership. A harsher behavioural regime is apparently being used to ‘police’ party members who support Jeremy Corbyn.
We are being required to endure a level of aggression and highly personal disrespect from some actively anti-Corbyn members. Indeed I blogged about this only a few days ago. Whilst unfamiliar with the party’s disciplinary procedures, I would be astonished if the relentless insults I was subjected to by a former Parliamentary Labour Party Special Advisor did not fall squarely into the category of ‘uncomradely behaviour’.
Brimir’s opinion is that Corbyn is an unelectable disaster who will destroy the Labour Party. Over the course of the day he informed several of us engaging with him that we were ‘anachronisms’, ‘deluded sect members’, ‘off with the fairies’, ‘£3 tinpot Trots’, members of ‘the fruitcake permanent opposition party’ who were better expelled and, in my own case, ‘a deeply sad individual destined to be disappointed’.
I found it curious that within 48 hours of Brimir alleging Corbyn supporters were a ‘sect’, Tristram Hunt was saying something very similar. Indeed, Mr Hunt went on to inform Cambridge University students: “You are the top 1%. The Labour party is in the shit. It is your job and your responsibility to take leadership going forward.”
Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership of the Labour Party fairly and squarely – in all voting categories – by a massive majority. We could exclude all the votes from ‘£3 tinpot Trots’ and Jeremy would still have won the leadership by a massive majority. What does it say of the Parliamentary Labour Party that we now have leading members, with a very public platforms, briefing the media against their democratically-elected leader and hounding activists for mistakes that they themselves make? What interests me is whether this form of ‘uncomradely behaviour’ falls within the remit of the party’s disciplinary procedures and if it doesn’t, why not?
As news of Andrew Fisher began circulating on the social media, various other MP’s who have exhibited ‘uncomradely behaviour’ towards Jeremy are being identified. This points to the possibility of a witchhunt and, under the desistance rules I am bound to comply with, my social responsibility will not permit me to remain a party member under such circumstances. I am boundaried by law and disciplinary rules – to remain a member during a witchhunt would be to collude with a party that has no boundaries to its behaviour. It is my duty to society to remove myself from such politics. But there’s more…
Because I’d had to abandon my attempt to engage Brimir after Tristram Hunt’s speech has sent him into deep into offensive behaviour, I took time to reflect on what I knew about the messages he’d been tweeting to me and came to this conclusion:
Additionally, Brimir is fully aware he is promoting political policies which purposefully and knowingly exclude my voice, on the grounds of his exceptionalism and my absolute worthlessness. This is the same narrative being propagated by the Tories and the evidence says it is fatal to folk like me. It is also the same narrative currently used by the State of Israel when describing Palestinians. The resultant death-toll is of as much supreme disinterest to Israel as my kind of benefit-death is to Brimir. I wonder if he was at all aware of how much he was unconsciously communicating in the other realms of elementary intelligence?
And if Brimir is aware, then is it reasonable to assume that his behaviour is abusive? If it were to be determined that a Labour Party member was shown to be actively and purposefully attacking the existential value of another (more vulnerable) member up to and including state-sanctioned lethal outcomes, does anything get done about it?
I ask because both my conscience and my social responsibility as a desister forbids me to remain aligned with those of murderous intent because to remain is to condone such behaviour – I’d be putting my shot at social redemption at risk if I were to remain. The austerity narrative was why I could not align with Labour before Jeremy’s election. Further, Jeremy knowingly excludes lethal force from his narratives – something I am required to comply with as a desister. It’s why I rejoined. If, however, the practical expression of Corbyn’s Labour is to allow some members to target others with lethal narratives for the sake of a ‘broad church’, then I can have no part of it.
As a woman with considerable long-term professional experience in the field of discipline and boundaries, I see no reason to change my assessment. If Andrew Fisher is sanctioned whilst other offenders remain undisciplined, it will signal to me that Labour is not the democratic party it claims to be and in the court of my conscience, it will be found blameworthy and summarily dismissed for gross misconduct.