For a party that abolished fox-hunting, the blood lust inside the Labour Party seems to know no bounds. My scoop on the Tower Hamlets Labour Group meeting earlier this week in the House of Commons has flushed out some of the 'hunt' both here and on Twitter. The twisted thinking that they give vent to highlights a profound problem for all political parties in democratic societies. How do they cope with members who have minds of their own?
For right-wing Labourite commentatators such as Paul Richards and Luke Akehurst, the decision of Lutfur Rahman to run as an independent candidate for the elected mayoral post in Tower Hamlets meant not just automatic expulsion, but a denial of 'natural justice'. Labourpaul aka Paul Richards twittered:
@PeterKenyon basic democratic principle: if you join Labour, you can't back other candidates. Unity is strength, etc.
To which I replied:
@Labourpaul Basic democratic principle you ensure natural justice.
In a rapid fire exchange that followed Luke Akehurst delivered a triumphant blast on his hunting horn:
@PeterKenyon You could have made the natural justice argument if he hadn't run vs Lab. By doing so Lutfur destroyed own case.
So there you have it from Labour First recruiting sergeant and member of the Hunt extraordinaire, we will hunt you down whatever.
Luke had set out his reaction to the news of Labour's defeat last Thursday here, the following day. As a former NEC member, I urged caution:
As a member of the NEC that read the complaints lodged at short notice and some 72 hours before the close of nominations for candidates to run as for the position of elected mayor of TH, I urge you to focus on the allegations.
Either uphold them or dismiss them observing due process and the entitlement of all parties to natural justice.
I hope you have better luck than the previous NEC did over the Erith and Thamesmead ballot box break-in and voting paper tampering.
This goes to the nub of a problem facing Labour's new Leader: how can you aspire to mass-membership when at the first whiff of independent thinking there are other members baying to hunt down and expel them? For me the answer is simple. Labour has to have robust processes in place to protect all members' rights. The Lutfur Rahman case presents a real opportunity to examine member baiting, hunting and 'slaughter'.
I'm glad to see I am not alone in pressing for the inquiry proposed and voted for at the NEC on 21 September to be completed.
Trial by Jeory's recent post suggests:
Which way new party leader Ed Miliband nods his brainy head will be crucial. The feeling among senior Labour figures is that he will lay off Ken, but I suspect he will also order an investigation into the so-called “Abbas dossier”, which in fact was authored not only by Helal Abbas, but also a number of others involved in the shambolic Labour selection campaign.
If that investigation finds the dossier was as weak as some suspect and, depending on how Lutfur acts and performs as an independent Mayor, it is not inconceivable that he and others two years or so down the line could be readmitted into the fold.
Given the baying from the hounds in Westminster as reported earlier today by Paul Waugh of the Evening Standard, Ed Miliband's obvious course of action is to insist the allegations against Lutfur Rahman are properly investigated and as a matter of urgency.
Those in the Parliamentary Labour Party scenting blood are right in one respect. Silence is not an option for our new Leader. Tally ho!