Labour is pricing out the people they were created to defend
Members who joined from January 2016 must pay £25 to vote in the leadership contest
Last week a majority of Labour’s National Executive Committee voted for a membership freeze from 12th January 2016.
This means if you became a member after this date, you aren’t eligible to vote in the upcoming leadership elections unless you pay a £25 fee. As I’ve been a member since I was 17, I don’t fall into this category. I won’t have to pay £25 to exercise my democratic right – but over 100,000 people will if they want to have any say in the ballot box. Furthermore they only have a 2-day time slot to sign up as a registered supporter, which last year would have only set you back £3.
What really disgusts me is that a party formed on the basis of democratic socialism, is now pricing out the very people it firstly sought to defend. The average person living off minimum wage or benefits can’t spend £25 and not feel any impact. That could be the difference between eating proper meals or living off packs of ramen noodles for a week. As a student, I know very well that £25 isn’t nothing. That is a lot more money than your average weekly food shop – especially if you live near an Aldi.
So that’s the demographic being priced out of democracy, those living on the breadline and us students. It was a positive that almost instantaneously members were very vocal about their disgust towards the elected bodies ruling, and were posting ways around the £25 fee.
However since last week, the other options such as BAME Labour and joining Unite as a community member have all been slashed through by the NEC: it’s £25 or simply “no room at the inn”. This freeze applies to every element of Labour and its affiliated supporters who have joined since the six month cut off date. Jeremy Corbyn has now threatened legal action against his own party because of all this injustice, his opponents have been somewhat quiet on the matter.
Many on the left of the Party have been arguing that this is a direct plan of action to plot against Corbyn, whether this is true or not, that isn’t the point. The point here is that members have signed up months beforehand, probably thinking it’s unlikely they’d be voting on anything for a while – and now they have had their electoral rights stripped from them.
They won’t all be Corbyn supporters, so would this be true it’s a classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. The whole idea is completely nonsensical and just highlights how disengaged Labour officials are becoming with the electorate and members. This isn’t about Jeremy Corbyn, nor is it about Angela Eagle or Owen Smith, this is about the complete disregard towards new members and ignorance towards the false pretences these members paid and signed up on.
A Crowdfund was set up to contribute towards paying the £25 sign up fee for those who can’t afford it. It only set out to raise £5,000, but it exceeded this, reaching over £14,000. The campaign was shut down by the NEC, and all contributors must now have their donations returned. This makes me thankful that I’ve just voted for the new NEC, although I’ve been disappointed to find out one of the candidates I voted for, Ann Black, actually voted for the membership freeze.
The NEC have also banned Constituency Labour Party meetings, so members’ voices are being silenced. All within the same week of CLP’s declaring their votes of confidence, or lack of, in either their leader or MP’s. Ironically, Wallasey CLP put forward a motion of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn in the same week their MP declared she would stand against him.
Labour is currently at its highest level of membership in years, exceeding the numbers Blair held in his majority governments. It’s time Labour stepped up to the plate and started regarding its members over the minority of officials in both the NEC and government. Labour is a social democrat party, and it’s about time it lived up to its own ideals. Yes, a leader can’t work without their support of MPs, but if the MPs are no longer representing their constituents and members, then one must ask why they are MPs at all?
To the members who have joined in the last six months, the rest of us members haven’t all forgotten about you. We will get justice eventually, and I hope one day the Labour Party becomes the defender of those who created it and the workers who made us happen once again.
The window to pay to become a registered supporter opens today, and will close on Wednesday. Website crashes are likely, as those who can afford the fee rush to the page at peak times. This will only entitle you the right to vote in this coming leadership election. Before now I’d advocate that only becoming a fully paid member will guarantee you further privileges, the NEC would suggest that this is not the case.
A Party formed out of the working class – even all those years ago – should not be hitting those who financially suffer the most; it is completely and utterly wrong and it disgusts me that my Party which I have loved for such a long time would have anything to do with these practices.
If you wish to gift a member £25 to pay for bills they can’t any longer afford due to unlawful NEC rulings, please donate here.