From Jeremy and Corbyn, Chapter Thirteen – order now on Kindle
‘I wanted to attend the branch tonight,’ said Amalia, the red marks still merging with the freckles beneath her eyes, ‘so I could explain myself what has happened and show I have nothing to hide about my conduct or my politics.
‘I think the branch should know what’s happened to me – that I have been expelled – not only because the branch has the right to know, but because you are the people in the party that know me best. If anyone should decide I should no longer be a member, it shouldn’t be some unelected “Compliance Unit” but you – who know how I have been involved in the Labour Party since I came to this country.
‘I’ve campaigned for the party knocking on doors in the general election; I’ve attended the branch meetings and CLP meetings and women’s meetings,’ said Amalia. ‘The branch officers even talked to me about becoming a delegate to the General Committee.’ She stole a glance at Simi, who was staring at the floor.
‘I proposed doing stalls because I thought we could go into the street and attract young people to the party.’
They had nodded politely and ignored that suggestion, but she thought it worth saying.
‘I ask the branch to please discuss whether you would be happy to vote for my expulsion. Here is the letter.’
She held it up for all to see and summarised the crimes it listed.
‘Simi said I should send her the details, but I didn’t want to send sensitive information out by email and not know where it might end up. But here it is.’
She passed her expulsion letter round the group. Simi eyed it greedily.
‘Please, I’m happy for you all to read it, pass it round and decide for yourself whether you think I should be expelled.’
‘From the beginning I have never hidden my politics. I’ve always said that I am a socialist, and I helped Bob sell the Revolutionary Newspaper – I’ve done that since I joined. It is not against the party policy to sell a paper, and the Revolutionary Newspaper is not a banned publication. In fact, I find it a quite worrying idea that any socialist ideas should be banned. If we disagree as a party, then we should discuss our differences, not start expelling each other.
‘I joined Labour when I arrived in this country because it was the party of the working class in Britain, the same as Syriza has become the party of the working class in Greece. As for Scotland, I think we need to discuss what has happened to the Labour Party there. To me it seems similar to what has happened to PASOK in my country. But what won’t resolve anything is people paid by the Labour Party to snoop on my social media accounts to check up on what I’ve been doing because I might have a different point of view. Those are the actions of a party that is afraid.
‘That’s why I support Jeremy Corbyn – because he is the socialist candidate and he’s not afraid to say it. He is standing up for lots of people and by doing so he is making them less afraid, too. I think he has the potential to attract a lot of individuals to the party and to help the fight for socialism.
‘So, the more I think about it, the more I think it is not an accident that I’ve been expelled.’
She looked at Bob and he nodded, the only one who would meet her eye.
‘The expulsion is political. It’s happened here because I support Jeremy Corbyn, just like others are being expelled around the country. You can talk about newspapers. You can talk about Syriza and Scotland. But the only real reason I’m expelled is that those who oppose Jeremy Corbyn cannot beat him in a real debate, so they resort to all sorts of dishonest manoeuvres to defeat him. But that won’t solve their problems, not in the long run.
‘So that’s why I think I’ve been expelled. In one way it is disappointing to me, but in another way I should not be surprised. I’ve seen in my home country this summer how people who stand up against the establishment are treated. They disregard us. They try to sweep us under the carpet and write us off as an anomaly. The question I ask is this:
‘When does the anomaly become so frequent that it stops being dismissed as an anomaly, and recognised as the new rule?
‘I’ve always voted Labour since I came to this country, I intend to continue to vote Labour whether I am expelled or not. Because it is the party of the working class, and I think that the working class are the only ones that can make socialism happen.
‘I ask for the support of the branch. If you think it unfair that I should have been expelled then please let me continue to attend meetings until I am reinstated.
They thanked her and she left.
Simi opened the discussion about what the branch should do. John proposed a letter in support of Amalia be sent from the branch to the Compliance Unit. Mel said that she thought Amalia was terrific, and that we should back her because she did not just show up to vote, she got stuck in with the branch and had helped during the general election and everything else besides. Old Neville nodded in agreement and repeated what he said before about the ‘igh-ups. Geraldine said nothing supportive of Amalia personally, but agreed they should send the letter.
Bob said that neither Syriza nor the Revolutionary Newspaper could be considered banned by the party, nor in opposition to the party. Gareth the councillor responded by saying that being a member of Syriza was in opposition to PASOK, the Labour Party’s sister-party in Greece, and as Amalia was Greek she could not vote in the general election, meaning she was not on the electoral register, and therefore ineligible for party membership.
She was an EU citizen said Bob, and therefore was on the electoral register, but added that arguing that working-class immigrants can’t be members of the Labour Party just because they haven’t got a vote was a scandalous thing to say. Every worker had something to offer the party. At the end of the day it’s the Labour Party that should be offering something to them, he said, not the other way round. Neville liked that.
‘You know what Amalia’s crime is? It’s not being Greek or videoing some SNP thing on the internet, and it certainly aint for selling the Revolutionary Newspaper. I’ve been selling it here for years and none of you have said a thing.’
‘Well Bob, people have asked questions about it actually,’ interrupted Geraldine.
‘Well, if anyone has any questions, they should be asking me. I certainly haven’t heard anything,’ he said, staring Geraldine straight in the eye until she looked away and slunk back into her seat.
‘If you lot let them expel this comrade, it’ll be a crime against the party. What’s more, they’ll come for the rest of you next, just like in the eighties.
‘I mean, what’s next? Expelled for buying the WI calendar? They’re testing the waters with the likes of Amalia to see what they can get away with.’
No one disagreed with him openly; they had agreed to write the letter and most just wanted the business to move on.
Then Bob repeated the proposal that Amalia had made: that she be allowed to attend as a guest until the matter was resolved.
They turned in their seats uncomfortably and grumblings were made that the meeting had run on far too late already, and that there was still the political discussion to be had.
Some were very insistent that such a proposal should not be discussed, but Bob pressed them, and eventually got Neville to second his proposal.
They raised their hands. The vote tied four-to-four, and so the proposal fell. Then they decided not to have the political discussion as time had run on.
Toward the end Patrick arrived, a man in his fifties, and slight of character. They updated him on the events of the meeting. Having only joined the party himself because of Jeremy Corbyn, he was privately intrigued to hear that a real-life expulsion was being discussed in his local party. But all he asked, rather meekly, was whether she had broken any rules.
The discussion had caused them to grow sick of the sight of each other. The man’s question received abrupt and conditional answers, and the meeting was declared closed.
Thank god for that, thought Bob.
From Jeremy and Corbyn, Chapter Thirteen – order now on Kindle