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Andrew Fisher’s suspension isn’t about rule-breaking – it’s about factional struggle

pg-1-labour-andrew-fisher-1So a couple of Labour MPs have made complaints against Andrew Fisher, Jeremy’s head of policy, and the NEC have moved to suspend him. His crime? Among other things, publishing a tweet advocating a vote for our anarchist friends Class War over Labour’s Emily Benn in Croydon South almost a year prior to the general election. Not the political crime of the century by any means, but rules are rules. Or are they?

As with all bureaucratic organisations, there are rules covering pretty much every element of the operation. And the Labour Party is no different. There are rules for elections. Rules for members. Rules for affiliates. Rules specifying party structures. Where there are grey areas are rules for governing ‘them’, and rules for governing ‘us’. So it is that if you’re a powerful figure, rules can be flouted with seeming impunity.

The clutch of Labour MPs, for instance, who quietly agitated against Ken Livingstone in the 2012 London mayoral elections – no action. The repeated public attacks by MPs on Ed Miliband – no action. The contempt for the party ‘simple’ Simon Danczuk fills his Mail on Sunday column each week – no action. The uppity anti-austerity campaigner who sent unwise and politically foolish tweets? Throw the bloody book at him.

Let’s be clear here. This isn’t about rules and rule breaking. This is about factional struggle. There are elements of the Parliamentary Labour Party incapable of reconciling themselves to the situation they now find themselves in. They know that a frontal assault on Jeremy’s office is suicidal and means curtains for their careers, so they’re taking up position and sniping at the leader’s appointments. John McDonnell, Seumas Milne, Andrew Fisher, if they can be picked off the leader will remain permanently weak vis a vis the PLP, and therefore less able to get his agenda and – possibly – changes to party structures through. And it will encourage them too.

This week’s PLP elections give the 4.5%ers a weight entirely out of proportion to their real support in the party. They will also take heart from the selection of Jim McMahon for the Oldham West by-election. Jim was able to romp home in a CLP that had returned a key leftwing MP for 45 years. If a ‘moderate’ can win Michael Meacher’s old stomping ground, then perhaps there’s a wider appetite in the party for their brand of politics than they first thought.

Nevertheless what I find frustrating, if not appalling, is the timing of all this. The government are lurching from crisis to crisis at the moment. Their difficulties are our opportunity, and yet the selfish behaviour of idiot trouble makers divert time and energy away from making an effective opposition. Perhaps that’s the whole point. The last thing they want is Jeremy to turn that polling deficit into a lead, for Labour under his leadership to start appearing successful.

33 Comments

  1. Sandra Crawford says:

    An accurate interpretation of events.

  2. Bazza says:

    Yes but still a silly tweet and evidence.
    Self actualising but perhaps if I lived in the area would have been tempted.
    An old trade union saying was never give the bosses an excuse against trade union reps.
    Yes and some on the Right (Feilds) have said should stand as independents if deselected.
    If I was Labour Leader they and others similar would get first stage verbal warnings.
    Snake Mandelson is careful in his language although he was clutching at straws saying without trade union votes and registered supporters the 3 other candidate votes combined would have been more than JC’s but since 60,000 have joined since Jeremy’s victory kind of negates his desperate arguments!
    Millions of people are really hurting under the Grotesue Tories yet some Labour MPs go on TV to attack a Labour Leader elected by 60%.
    I don’t believe in performance related pay but if I did I think some Labour MPs may find an 80% pay reduction!

    1. Tim Wilkinson says:

      Mandelson’s arguments in that ‘leaked’ memo were highly misleading; he said that ‘only’ certain superficially small-sounding percentages of Corbyn’s supporters were from pre-GE members/the young, and then came up with some reasons why this mattered very much indeed. But in fact those were just the same percentages as found among the overall electorate, so Mandelson wasn’t just trying to smear Corbyn, but in his desperation to do so was deliberately misrepresenting meaningless stats as having significance. Maye he should be suspended?

      Mendelson’s other point was also a distrortion – Corbyn’s 1st prefs did fall short of a majority among members – by 0.41%! If the preferential vote system had been carried out for members only (as it would have been since obviously Corbyn was still way ahead of the others), he would have won comfortably. Polling indicates that of AB 1st pref voters, a third of 2nd prefs were for gave JC, while the same figure for YC 1st prefs was a quarter. The upshot being that Corbyn would have won by 60%:40%. On that basis, he won easily in every subset of the electorate (age, sex, region, voter type), with only 2 exceptions: among current members who joined before GE15, he won by only 52:48%, while among those who joined before Miliband became leader, he would it seems have trailed either AB or YC (too close to call) by 48:52 – i.e. still basically half of the vote.

  3. Robert says:

    Labour party or Tory lite, you pay your fees and take your pick, me I would take the labour party, but Progress are the main issue within labour.

    They are praying all this hassle is in the hope that they can get Corbyn to resign, and they the Moderates they like to call themselves are even happy to ensure labour is out of power.

    They cannot form a party themselves they need the name the labour party, although I’m sure Tory Lite would be far better.

    labour is looking more and more like the old Liberals.

  4. David Pavett says:

    I think Phil BC has it right: Andrew Fisher “sent unwise and politically foolish tweets” but that is a mere pretext for the action against him. his actions are as nothing compared to to the open calls to depose the Party leader from the likes of Danczuk and Mendelson. What is going on with the NEC? Who voted for this suspension and on what basis?

    I hope that this sorry episode will not excite demands from the left for suspension of right-wingers (however justifiable). That woud would be a tremendous distraction from the task of getting support for Corbyn’s policies from the base units of the Party. We should also be insisting on the rapid reinstatement of Andrew Fisher.

  5. James Martin says:

    Emily Benn is the perfect example of why socialists oppose hereditary entitlement. Her dad couldn’t wait to reclaim the family title and wrap himself in ermine when Tony was barely cold, while this right-wing investment banker who would be nothing in the Party without trading on her family name makes formal complaints about Andrew Fisher while at the same time encouraging members to join the Womens’ Equality Party that is planning on standing candidates against Labour. Pot and Kettle are items Emily is clearly unfamiliar with.

    1. Sandra Crawford says:

      Looking at the margins on this blog, the tweets from Emily Benn include advising others to vote for another Party as soon as Corbyn became leader.

      http://politicalscrapbook.net/2015/10/emily-benn-circular-firing-squad-andrew-fisher/

      When will she be suspended for breaking party rules?

      1. John P Reid says:

        She praised a different party,not told people to vote for them

        1. Rod says:

          Benn tweeted a suggestion that people should join the Women’s Equality Party.

          Perhaps she feels she is entitled to do this while other, less important, people should not be allowed to do the same.

  6. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    It scarcely matters from where I’m standing it’s all going to pot anyway.

    I was unimpressed to be canvassed this morning by absolutely the last person that I ever wanted to see being nominated as Micheal Meacher’s successor.

    But once again this is essentially just another CLP fait accompli, one which we’re all now expected simply to rubber stamp and which since Oldham is effectively a broken or rotten borough, is probably what will happen now.

    Anyway for anyone who hasn’t already lost the will too live by now this was my response.

    Dear Mr McMahon,

    I voted for Jeremy Corby but I definitely won’t be voting for you.

    Copied below is a brief explanation of why not, (if you’re even interested, which I doubt,) previously posted to Left Futures.

    I live in Oldham and MP Debbie Abrahams, (who was the first person to nominate the Andy Burnham, whom I strongly dislike, for the Labour Leadership,) and who was formerly involved in the management of the NHS privatization programs and who even ran her own private company doing risk assessments to cash in on it, (if recall correctly,) is now supporting Jim McMahon.

    As if he didn’t have enough problems?

    It’s not a pretty sight; under Jim McMahon’s Co-operative borough, (essentially Cameron’s, “Big Society,” but given a cheap coat of, “strangely blue,” paint.) Under McMahon’s leadership our councilors, (all 60 of the generally useless buggers,) have effectively now been stripped of all their initiative and authority, (they’re now being reinvented and marketed as, “Community Champions, which is a load of crap and not what I elect them for at all,) and are no longer even allowed to vote on financial matters until after they have completed a tedious, mandatory and doubtless expense accreditation program, (typically being run at a profit by someone’s, “mates,”) meanwhile McMahon’s , (or the council’s,) partner of choice; First choice Homes Housing Association are now laying off maintenance staff, (just before Christmas,) and probably other people; at the same time that their chief executive has just awarded herself a 12.5% pay rise and FCHO are apparently also keen to remove both our local councilors and the elected tenants representatives from their board of directors, on the tired pretext that this will somehow facilitate more effective management in a changing commercial environment, which most people I know regard as complete and utter bollocks.

    So Democratic socialists these people are not, not in any sense, and I for one won’t be voting for any of them.

    I hope this clarifies my entirely negative feelings about your nomination.

    Whilst I’m not so unrealistic as to expect our next MP to be as honest, concerned and professional as the late and already much missed Michael Meacher, if we can’t do better than an appalling apolitical ambulance chaser like you, we should probably just give it up.

    regards

    JPC-W

  7. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    Although to be perfectly fair his, (McMahon’s,) offensive and insulting comments about his sick, disabled and unemployed constituents would have finished him for me, but particularly about disabled people.

    But then my wife is disabled.

    I regarded them as being far more offensive in fact than for example Andrew Fisher’s recent use of expletive in an appropriate context.

  8. David Ellis says:

    Difficult to know what the Blairites and Brownites of New Labour hope to achieve. If they were to regain control of the party it would be the end of the party. They are a toxic brand. Nobody is going to vote for them. They will reduce Labour to something akin to the Lib Dems as they did in Scotland.

    1. Robert says:

      The left have a long hard battle ahead and it’s going to need looking for left leaning candidates to take over. where are they so far all I can see is Progress people getting the seats.

      1. John P Reid says:

        Is Yvette progress,or Lisa Nandy, and Jon cryer, Alan Johnson ,Cruddas Steohn Kinnock, all could unite the party

  9. gerry says:

    By appointing this person, JC exposed himself to all this – an avoidable own goal. He should have carried out due diligence on Fisher esp in his social media accounts and internet history, which would have revealed in a second his toxic history re Class War, support for Putin, puerile verbal abuse of other Labour members,etc. JC should admit he got this wrong, let him go off to Counterfire or the SWP, and appoint a decent leftwing policy person: they do exist!

    1. Rod says:

      Fisher was and remains an excellent appointment.

      Those who have read Fisher’s book “The Failed Experiment”* will know why.

      And those who have read his book will know why the Blairites, Tories and Tory media will attempt to undermine Fisher and Corbyn.

      Of course, the Blairites won’t oppose Corbyn’s policy position head-on because they know the Tory-lite alternative they favour will go down like a lead balloon with the electorate.

      So instead they attempt to derail Corbyn and, if they fail, work to prevent a Labour victory in 2020.

      * http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Failed-Experiment-Build-Economy/dp/1871204283

      1. gerry says:

        Rod – Fisher’s appointment has been a spectacular own goal, giving Labour First and every other party grouping the reason to say : he is divisive, sectarian, puerile, pathetic. And I havent even mentioned his awful pro Putin and pro Islamism views! So whilst his book may be great, his politics in so many areas are not -on one level it is quite funny/sick of him to attack James Purnell, Rachel Reeves, Yvette Cooper, Ed Balls, Miliband’s cabinet, Emily Benn, Simon Danczuk but really he can’t now be surprised that so many in the party are gunning for him!

        Why didn’t Jeremy appoint Jon Lansman or Owen Jones or even Left Futures’ authors like David Pavett or Phil Burton Cartledge himself who are great on policy and don’t have a thousand toxic articles tweets or youtube clips in their back history? He is better off in Counterfire or the SWP – he has lost (most of) the party already.

        1. Rod says:

          “his book may be great”

          That’s why the appointment makes sense.

          The Progress-heavey PLP will oppose Corbyn with all available means.

          Everything that can be dredged up will be dredged up. Every molehill will presented as a mountain. Every minor glitch will be described as a catastrophe.

          But when all is said and done it will all come down to policy: stick with neo-liberalism or develop an alternative to neo-liberalism.

          New Labour’s record tells us where they stand: tougher on ‘scroungers’ than the Tories, pro-austerity, pro-Trident, pro-military intervention.

          Want an alternative? Support Corbyn.

          1. gerry says:

            Support Corbyn – I do, which is why he must/will ditch Fisher asap, appoint a good leftwing policy person who actually supports Labour, and get on with making the economic case against neoliberalism and austerity: now!

          2. Rod says:

            Gerry: “Support Corbyn – I do, which is why he must/will ditch Fisher asap… ”

            Breathtaking naivety.

  10. Verity says:

    I think this will turn out to be a non issue. Fisher broke the rules and there was a complaint by a candidate about the ‘apparent’ public support for another candidate on her electoral prospects. An investigation of that complaint is to be made. In the meantime he continues his work – which is causing agitation to the 4.5%ers. This alone is a good sign of his solid Left contribution. Following a period of suspension he returns and much should be learned on the Left.

    So many solid figures on the Left have had to develop ‘personal’ (and occasional reckless) survival skills when having to stubbornly stand out from oppressive Blairism and ‘political’ isolation. Unfortunately some of these personal survival features have involved being loud, rude, careless and offensive. More personal discipline will go a long way as will the real chance to influence events.

    But surely in the future learning of the effects of this incident are needed and repeats by others will have only a marginal contribution on the Left future. We will also now need to ask for parity when it comes to the behaviours of the 4.5%ers. I am not bothered by the off-the-record contributions or tweets, it is the on-the record contributions in the main media which are destructive.

    I would personally be content for Momentum to ask Fisher to remain serious in every single aspect of his work and behaviour as it affects us. He has my confidence and full support.

    1. Robert says:

      Well of course this is a war within labour with Progress working for Corbyn to go, step down resign, and the more issue we have the more infighting we get the more chance that people will vote Tory at the next election.

      These tweets were a silly young person attempt to hit back at the right, you can do it far better by attacking the right wing of labour without backing other candidates.

  11. Peter Rowlands says:

    Compared to the treachery of Mandelson, against both Miliband and Corbyn, and many others to a lesser extent, the Fisher episode is small beer, but it does indicate that the right is still a powerful force within the party even if ‘New Labour’ has been disowned.
    The important point to be drawn from this however is that the left should not respond by threatening deselections and purges. Corbyn and McDonnell have made this clear, and they are right. If deselections did begin then many MPs in the centre who are currently going along with the Corbyn leadership would no longer do so, thus weakening it, and strengthening the right, who would claim ‘We told you so’. A civil war could ensue that would only benefit the Tories.
    The left should remember that there are some, and this was spelt out by Blair himself, who would prefer that Labour lost rather than win on a Corbynist basis.( Even though Corbynism so far is nothing more than fairly mild social democracy).
    The left must remain acutely aware of this. It must seek the maximum degree of unity, even if this means some degree of compromise. When we are stronger we can think about how we consolidate our position.

    1. David Ellis says:

      That is ridiculous. Of course we must start the process of de-selecting New Labour MPs that have no intention of expressing the will of the new mass party. So a selection meeting comes up and we are just to sit on our hands and give the right wing wreckers a free pass? If there is going to be a civil war now is the time to have it with four and a half years still to go before the election. We know for certain that New Labour would rather lose in 2020 than win with Corbyn. They will make sure that happens given half the chance. Let’s just get rid of them. If we don’t and they win the party is dead in anycase.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        That is exactly the sort of attitude that could result in losing the election and/or isolating the Corbyn leadership. I support Jeremy and John in wanting to make sure that doesn’t happen.

        1. John Penney says:

          It is a special, probably a unique, moment when I find myself agreeing with a David Ellis post – but on this issue I do.

          Those ,like Pete, repeating that age old debilitating mantra of the Labour Left getting ready for retreat just as victory becomes a possibility, of “unity above all else” are dooming us to repeat the political retreats of the late 1950’s, and late 80’s, which left the Labour Right firmly in the saddle, and Labour refashioned for a generation into a thoroughly pro capitalist party run entirely for the benefit of its entirely free enterprise capitalism supporting career politicians, not its working class supporters and voters.

          The Labour Right in the PLP (and local government too all too often ), nowadays thoroughly indoctrinated with the most extreme neoliberal ideology, and personally embedded in a self-enriching culture of post parliamentary career boardroom positions and other forms of enrichment in return for favours delivered whilst in Parliament, will NEVER accept a return to principled pro working class Left reformist politics on the Corbyn model. They will destroy the Labour party , on behalf of their Big Business sponsors, before they see it decisively move Left.

          In the face of such total Right wing obduracy the Labour Left has a simple choice – surrender into ever accelerating policy comromise , as labour did in the late 1950’s , initially around the familiar issue of unilateral nuclear disarmament, and again in the 1980’s, when the Bennite left eventually surrendered to the Right – leading to Blairism – and the root and branch importation of the Thatcherite neoliberal agenda into the heart of Labour.

          OR we can fight for socialism, for Labour to be the mass vehicle for that vital struggle – and that will require a fight to get rid of significant elements of the Labour Right – by deselection. Those yet again raising the bogus siren call of “Unity, Unity, always Unity ” are actually no friends of the working class or the struggle for socialism – despite their no doubt good intentions.

          1. Peter Rowlands says:

            What I am advocating is the Corbyn/McDonnell policy, and anyone who wants deselections is effectively undermining it and them.
            Their policy is the only possible way forward.What you are advocating would lead either to Corbyn’s isolation and defeat, or major internal conflict and probably a split, rendering the party unelectable for some time.
            In my view we do actually have a chance of success. Please let’s not blow it.

      2. John P Reid says:

        49.5% of members in the first round isntt the mass of the party,even with possibly up to 65% of the £3 supporters joining, maybe if there was a view of the current 232 MPs to deselect 80 of them who didn’t support Corbyn for leader, I would reflect the views of the voting ,ember

        I note 27% of of current labour members didn’t vote in the leadership

        1. gerry says:

          That old chestnut – after the (Corbyn) revolution, comes the comes the civil war!

  12. Barry Buckle says:

    As a new member, one who signed up after Corbyn’s win, I have to say that I’m appalled by all of this. I didn’t expect Corbyn to get an easy ride, but the almost suicidal infighting is starting to get to me. What the hell have I signed up for?

    I may be naive, but the calculated attempt to get rid of Corbyn, with a General Election win seemingly of secondary concern, makes my blood boil and also fills me with despair. I know I’m not alone in feeling like this.

    Is there a way out of this, short of just handing over the Labour party to a particular faction forever?

  13. On Friday, the 6th of November, Jeremy Corbyn’s political advisor Andrew Fisher was suspended from the Labour Party pending an investigation into a tweet sent in August 2014 which, it is alleged, advocated support for an anarchist party, Class War, in opposition to a local Labour candidate, Emily Benn. In fact, the tweet was clearly sent in jest, and part of a series of tweets sent by Andrew at the expense of the Class War candidate – who acknowledges that he didn’t have Fisher’s support.
    Andrew has been a Labour Party member since 1996, has stood as a Labour candidate and worked hard for the election of local Labour Party candidates in the election of 2015 (as he had in every previous election since becoming a member).
    He wrote a book in 2006 marking the centenary of the Labour Party and has been instrumental in persuading people to stay in the Labour Party and argue for the types of policies advocated by Jeremy Corbyn. He was instrumental in developing Jeremy’s policy platform during the leadership campaign in the summer. These are not the actions of someone who is anti-Labour or supports another party.
    Andrew was not an employee of the Labour Party at the time of the tweet, yet recognises that it was inappropriate and has therefore issued an apology for the embarrassment his joke may have caused. That should have been the end of the story. We believe the suspension is both unnecessary and damaging to the Labour Party at this crucial time in the political cycle. We feel there has been no violation of Labour Party rules and therefore, we call on the NEC to reinstate Andrew Fisher as a full Labour Party member with immediate effect.

    https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/labour-party-lift-the-suspension-on-andrew-fisher

  14. Graham BC says:

    Backing our right deselections is a suicide tactic except in one or two cases like Danczuk, however the plp does need to be reshaped and strangely the boundary changes may give an opportunity to do this much more subtly and less confrontationally. However Oldham is a very sobering situation. The left ideally need strong local prospective candidates.

  15. Red Sonia says:

    Labour’s catastrophe in Scotland in May WAS NOT ABOUT THE ECONOMY. Nomatter who were leader, Labour has a mountain to climb in 2020. It’s easy to throw stones and say this guy can’t win. Stop it! He is our leader. Those dividing the party are the would-be architects of our demise. We need to unite behind Jeremy. Andrew Fisher rallyied the rank and file admirably in Jeremy’s election campaign; we need his skills to help the PLP understand how out of touch with the voters they are. As for the ‘RULES’ they are made for the guidance of the wise and for the absolute obedience of fools.

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