Thirteen members of Labour's ruling National Executive Committtee staged a pre-planned 'walkout' on Tuesday morning in protest at Keir Starmer's leadership and his decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn. The protest was reportedly led by former MP Laura Pidcock and Howard Beckett of the Unite union. As the meeting was virtual we can only assume they merely hung up their Zoom connections.
Both Pidcock and Beckett raised points of order prior to leaving, criticising Starmer. Embarrassingly, the walkout allowed a new chair to be appointed - a decision that riled up the left even more. Veteran MP Margaret Beckett was voted into the position unopposed, but the left had assumed that the role would have automatically gone to the vice chair. Ian Murray (not to be confused with the MP of the same name) was vice chair and as a representative of the Fire Brigades Union is also a strong supporter of Corbyn. However, he was reportedly also one of those who walked out, so could not voice his opposition at the decision.
|Laura Pidcock and Margaret Beckett|
The Corbyn loyalists later pointed out that the chair was usually appointed on a rotating basis whereby the vice chair would automatically assume the position. They have now complained to Labour's general secretary David Evans. Perhaps if they hadn't staged their petulant walkout they could have prevented it!
Their letter is reprinted below.
As proud members of the NEC we find ourselves unable to stay in today’s meeting.
As you will be aware we recently wrote to you to request that you admonish the leader of Labour, Sir Keir Starmer, for his decision to undermine the role of the NEC by withdrawing the whip from Jeremy Corbyn MP.
The withdrawal of the whip directly undermined the legitimacy of the NEC decision to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn’s membership. It was made worse by Keir Starmer subsequently permitting his shadow cabinet members to make commentary on media that was clearly intended to undermine the legitimacy of the NEC process.
At today’s NEC the agenda item of election of the chair and vice-chair of the NEC appears. It is a matter of disagreement as to whether these agenda items can be heard absent the officers agreeing the agenda.
But regardless it has become apparent that the longstanding protocol of the vice-chair being elected as chair is not to be followed. Instead the leadership has lobbied for Dame Margaret Beckett to be chair. The public reason for such lobbying is to be given as Dame Margaret being the longest-serving member of the NEC. This is not protocol and is another example of the leader promoting factional division within Labour.
We believe the true reason for the leader lobbying for Dame Margaret, and indeed the reason that had been given by senior party MPs in private, is because the vice-chair, Ian Murray, was a signature to the previous correspondence sent to you seeking admonishment of the leader.
The leader’s decision to again promote factionalism comes at a time when the historic relationship with trade unions is under tremendous strain. Already we know that the Bakers’ Union are balloting their membership as to affiliation and the decision of the Leader to lobby and brief against the president of the FBU taking the chair, as would be protocol, must be seen in this context.
As the general secretary of the Labour Party you should be stepping in to uphold the rulebook, maintain protocol, remind the leader that he is an officer of the NEC and prevent factionalism.We have decided not to remain in the NEC meeting today in order to show very clearly how factional the decisions of the current Labour leader have become. We will be returning to future NEC meetings to be the legitimate voice of the membership and to continue to demand that the party unite and reject the current factional approach of the leader".
How ironic that the same wing of the party that previously engaged in hate-filled purges of moderates is so quickly up in arms when they are on the receiving end.