Expulsion from the Labour Party - Ian Townson


On 16 February 2017 I received a letter from Sam Matthews, Head of Disputes, informing me that I have been expelled from the Labour Party. The reason given for this was that I had campaigned for 'Left Unity'. He quoted the rule under which I had been expelled:

"A Member of the party who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour Group or unit of the Party or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member, subject to the provisions of part 6.1.2 of the disciplinary rules"

 Given that I was no longer a member of Left Unity and had resigned prior to my membership of the LP none of the above applied. Here is the letter I sent to Sam Matthews in reply to my expulsion to which I got no reply:

 19 February 2017

My REF: Ian19Feb

Your REF: L1428579

 To Sam Matthews, Head of Disputes, Labour Party Governance and Legal Unite

 In response to your letter of 16 February 2017 informing me that I have been expelled from the Labour Party. I wish to appeal against this expulsion.

 First of all let me register my disappointment at the Compliance Unit's decision. I was looking forward to canvassing in the forthcoming Stoke and Copeland by elections. I was also scheduled to attend my first ever LGBT + Annual General Meeting and a local Road Safety event with members of Battersea CLP. All are now impossible because of my expulsion.

 You quoted Chapter 2.1.4.B of the Labour Party's rules as grounds for my expulsion. I wish to contest the evidence that has been produced in support of the claim that I have broken these rules. To quote the rules:

"A Member of the party who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour Group or unit of the Party or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member, subject to the provisions of part 6.1.2 of the disciplinary rules"

The only relevant part of the above is my alleged dual membership of both the Labour Party and 'campaigning for' Left Unity. The evidence you produced, a photograph showing my involvement with Left Unity, purports to confirm this 'conflict of interest' hence grounds for expulsion. Let me be clear about the event portrayed in the photograph.

This was the 'Reclaim Brixton' event held on the 25th April 2015 in Windrush Square. I joined the Labour Party on the 10th of October 2015 after I had resigned from Left Unity. Hence this event took place approximately 6 months before my membership of Labour and there could not possibly have been any conflict of interest.

Since my resignation from Left Unity 16 months ago (see attached letter) I have been a solid and active member of Battersea Labour Party. This includes canvassing and foot slogging for Sadiq Khan in the London Mayoral election, likewise for Rosena Allin-Khan who won the Tooting by election and Aydin Dikerdem who was recently elected as a Wandsworth councillor. I was also actively involved in a very successful stall outside Tooting Broadway station against Justine Greening's proposal to introduce Grammar schools and I took part in our recent day of action to defend the NHS. I managed to persuade a good number of people to remain in the European Union at our stall outside the Co-op and did house to house leafleting for this. There are probably other events I have forgotten about. Not sure how many people I recruited because it is difficult to accurately gauge whether people stick to their promise to join having given out many membership forms. I have also contributed money and attended fund raising socials for Battersea CLP. Please see the attached evidence for most of these activities and the accompanying letter from Councillor Dikerdem confirming my commitment to and involvement in building the Labour Party. 

I want to secure Labour's victory at the next General Election as the party of socialism under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. With that and the above in mind I request that you withdraw my expulsion from the Labour Party with immediate effect so that I can get on with the business of building the Party and getting rid of the Tories.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Townson 

I also include in this my campaigning for Neil Coyle in the general election for the Bermonsey & Old Southwark constituency to prevent Simon Hughes (Lib Dem) from regaining his seat. 

Several individual members of my CLP wrote to Sam Matthews supporting my reinstatement and despite being informed that I had the full backing of Battersea CLP Executive Committee for my reinstatement (and subsequently the whole CLP) in a very supportive letter there was still no communication from him or the Compliance Unit.

I contacted on separate occasions Ann Black and Christine Shawcross to take up my case, both members of the NEC, but to no avail. I have since then contacted another, hopefully sympathetic, member of the newly elected NEC and copied in Jennie Formby the new LP General Secretary for yet another attempt to resolve my case.

Someone clearly had trawled (or is it crawled) their way through my facebook account and found a photograph in my features section of when I was a member of Left Unity. This was the 'evidence' they used for my 'auto exclusion' from the party. It is only through making a Subject Access Request that I found out what was really behind their intransigence. There were moves afoot by the Compliance Unit to possibly reinstate me but here is the final judgement from one of them in a heavily redacted communication to exclude names:

"The photo was taken a short time prior to Mr. Townson's application to join the Labour Party (he means 6 months before I became a member and after I had resigned from Left Unity). It was however made the first photo in his featured photos on 6th June well within his membership. The photo in question remains a featured photo today and has done for the entire intervening period including the general election. I am happy to go back to Ian and clarify this with him again but I do not think it would be appropriate to rescind the AE (auto exclusion). Just so you are aware of the context, this wasn't one of the leadership election auto-exclusions. It was a complaint from a member sent on to us from another NEC member."

To which another Compliance Unit member replied:

"Fair enough, having looked again at the FB (face book) stuff. The least he could have done is take the photo down..."

No-one got back to me and had they done so I would have had no objection to removing the photograph. So... I was auto excluded on the basis of uploading a photograph as a souvenir of my past involvement in Left Unity. Admittedly it was open to the public to view and within my LP membership period but to deduce from that that I was still actively campaigning for LU is ludicrous. I had simply forgotten all about the photograph and was by then a highly motivated and active LP member and still am despite this nonsense.

Given that several thousand Corbyn supporters were auto excluded prior to the  leadership election campaign I suspect that the real reason behind my exclusion is that I am also a Corbyn supporter and a socialist. Despite the limitations of bourgeois justice at least there is the right of appeal in accordance with due process and natural law. Not apparently with the Labour Party. At no time was there any communication from the Compliance Unit apart from the initial expulsion letter and no right of appeal.