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To Labour’s disputes panel: please don’t unleash a wave of witch hunting

pg-1-labour-andrew-fisher-1Everyone knows that Andrew Fisher’s accusers see him as a way of undermining Jeremy Corbyn. The Party members who have publicly said much more damaging things regarding the Labour Party are legion and include some of Andrew Fisher’s accusers. I do not believe that anyone entertains the illusion that this move is motivated by a desire to maintain party integrity and unity. It is a way of getting at the leader.

We don’t have to believe that Andrew Fisher is a brilliant economist. We don’t have to defend the actions of which he stands accused. The first point is frankly irrelevant and the second is pointless. He sent some stupid tweets. He is the subject to disciplinary measures for one reason and one reason only: he is an aide to Jeremy Corbyn. He has since apologised and has closed down his social media accounts. That is enough. Now let’s move on.

Were the Disputes Panel to institute disciplinary action against Andrew Fisher (beyond possibly a simple admonition) they would open a terrible can of worms within the Party. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have warned against witch hunts against the right or the left. That however is exactly what the Disputes Panel would be in danger of unleashing if Andrew Fisher were to be expelled or to be subjected to serious disciplinary measures. I fervently hape that its members have the good sense not to go down that path.

Ann Black is Chair of the Disciplinary Committee which should ensure that it is under good guidance. I wrote the following email to her to express my opposition as an ordinary Party member to any action being taken against Andrew Fisher. I hope that thousands of others are doing something similar.

Dear Ann,

I write to you, in your capacity as Chair of the Disputes Panel, as an ordinary member to express my concern about the suspension of Andrew Fisher.

Andrew Fisher wrote some stupid tweets. I don’t want to get into arguments about what was a joke and what was not. The tweets were stupid and if taken seriously would have been harmful to the Labour Party. But then exactly the same thing can be said of many (leading) Labour Party members including, as I am sure you are aware, some of Andrew Fisher’s accusers. Well known Labour figures have been openly attacking the Party leader and openly calling for plots to remove him despite his clear support from members. Others have called for support for another Party and even suggested that any Labour MPs who are deselected, for whatever reason, should stand against the Party as independents.

Your job as NEC members, a I see it, is to preserve the integrity and unity of the Party. This will not be achieved by continuing the suspension of Andrew Fisher and even less by expelling him.

He has recognised the foolishness of his social media comments and has apologised and closed down his accounts. That is surely enough. Anything beyond perhaps an admonition would take us into the territory of factional witch hunting. You must be aware that this could afford some very rich pickings. For example one of my local councillors wrote on a local forum that at least one of his votes would be for the Greens were he in another ward (see screen shot with name removed – I have no interest in pursuing this, but merely wish to illustrate the can of worms that disciplining Andrew Fisher could open). The field for disciplinary proceedings is potentially very large indeed. I fervently hope that the Disputes Panel members will have the good sense not to unleash that potential.

Finally, the moves against Andrew Fisher clearly are motivated by a desire to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. That much is transparently obvious to everyone I should think. Corbyn is leader with huge support from the membership and supporters. To try to get at him through disciplinary action against Andrew Fisher would look very much like war on the membership from an entrenched group at the top of the Party. This would be, I hope you agree, a very bad move indeed.

I look forward to seeing this whole episode closed as quickly as possible with the restoration of Andrew Fisher to Party membership.
Yours fraternally

David Pavett

(member of Brentford & Isleworth CLP)

16 Comments

  1. John P Reid says:

    The party members have said much more damaging things,such as?

    Is suspending Fisher a way of under mining Corbyn,surely Jeremy knew ,fishers history and that employing him,his past would come out of fisher had just said rude things about Tory policy or even that he disagreed with many polices of Ed miliband it would be accepted,a respected view,but surely we have to accept that fisher has said things contrary to the rules and that this sort of bullying he’s leashe doubt is just the beginning of a witch hunt against the moderates in the party

    1. David Pavett says:

      You follow the news presumably so I’m not sure what you need to convince you. We could start with

      Emily Benn (the source of the complaint against Fisher) who tweeted

      “Anyone disappointed by Corbyn’s male-dominated line-up should consider joining the Women’s Equality Party.”

      Or Frank Field calling for any MP’s deselected (according to LP rules) to stand against the Party as “independent Labour”:

      “If candidates are picked off [deselected] they will stand as independent Labour, cause a by-election immediately and a whole pile of us will go down there to campaign for them.”

      Peter Mandelson added his own personal brand of vitriol not by criticising anything Corbyn has said or done but by describing him as “Worse than Miliband” and recommending that people wait for an opportune moment to remove him (and all this within days of Corbyn’s election before he had had a chanced to do anything.

      “In choosing Corbyn instead of Ed Miliband, the general public now feel we are just putting two fingers up to them, exchanging one loser for an even worse one. We cannot be elected with Corbyn as leader.”

      You could also try reading Simon Danczuk’s Mail on Sunday outpourings of bile against Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. I am not talking about reasoned criticism but a stream of political abuse.

      1. John P Reid says:

        Frank field having survived a militant, ousting 27 years ago, perhaps went too far, but maybe he knows how big the deselection business is going on, I e heard dagengam are trying to fry rid of Cruddas,and Emily benn, didn’t endorse the party, if I was to say to a trot leave join respect,it would be within the rules, there’s plenty of quotes telling blairites to join the Tories ,
        Mandlesin did t say anything out of the ordinary, and many labour parliamentarians write for the Mail, baroness Doreen Lawrence us always writing in it.

      2. Sue says:

        well said David.

  2. Robert says:

    Well said David, let hope this get resolved fast because it will start to damage labour before long.

    The right wing pratt’s who think he should be removed should remember their own advisers, the best being September the 11th the Twin Towers and the remark this would be a good bad news day.

    God help us if people start to reopen the Advisors for new labour and Brown, the two twits that wanted to attack Tories with lies. and had to step down but not leave labour.

  3. David Ellis says:

    We need to have the civil war now four and a half years out from the election. The worst thing would be bumbling along compromising until the general election, somehow winning it without offering a clear, radical alternative and then getting sabotaged by endless New Labourites resigning from the cabinet because Corbyn doesn’t want to reduce the top rate of tax.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Dealing with a civil war because it is launched reactionary forces which one cannot control is one thing. Advocating it a means of making progress is lunacy.

      1. David Ellis says:

        Why is that? Is that an objective law? Postponing the inevitable is just helping the right.

  4. Sue says:

    I think this article is sensible which ever position you take on the political spectrum. Social media is relatively new and very new to many. It has pitfalls if years after tweeting something you then end up in some sort of important political position. It’s a learning curve for everyone. So my answer would be to set guidelines but always to ignore tweets etc from prior to a persons shift into a certain job etc. Andrew Fisher made his tweet over a year before being employed by Jeremy. In my view it is a vindictive complaint rather than cause for real concern. It needs stamping on quickly because if not it will escalate out of control. My final point is ——- is that what the right wants? It wouldnt do them any harm would it?

  5. gerry says:

    David Pavett – JC should focus on the important stuff, admit he made a mistake in appointing Fisher (and Milne), let them go, and then appoint decent non sectarian lefties to those jobs. On his team already are Neale Coleman, and Simon Fletcher, both from the Left but not divisive or sectarian and so not opposed( or able to be) by anyone from Labour First or Progress: that is good politics, it really that is simple.

    I want Labour and JC to focus like a laser on the economy ( now there is clear water between us and the Tory/Lib Dem/UKIP Thatcherite consensus), and also on immigration and Europe if JC sticks with his original politics and advocates a Leave vote in the referendum.

    All this would be a massive vote winner for us, and be a political game changer.

    Fisher – with his puerile tweets and YouTube clips fantasising about bashing James Purnell – has alienated all of those who backed Cooper,Burnham, Kendall, and also alienated party members like me who voted Corbyn: theres no way back for him. He has damaged JC, but not fatally. He should resign if he has any principles.

    1. Rod says:

      “if JC sticks with his original politics”

      It is JC’s original politics that are at the root of the Blairite campaign to remove Fisher.

      If Corbyn was pro-NHS privatisation, pro-austerity, pro-military intervention, pro-Trident etc there would, as David suggests, be no campaign to remove Fisher.

      Corbyn and the Labour membership must remain resolute and stay strong. Corbyn and those who share his policy priorities must not allow themselves to be side-tracked by Blairite carping.

    2. David Pavett says:

      I go along with some of what you say. As a Corbyn supporter I do not have to believe that his sense of judgement is always spot on and I don’t. However, having made his judgements he cannot and should not accept that they are overturned by administrative means. If that were accepted there would be no end to it. The moves to expel Fisher are malicious and should be resisted for the reasons I gave above. With that out of the way I would want team Corbyn to listen to voices like yours, and mine, calling for appointments to be made in a way that is understood and supported by the majority of Party members.

  6. Mervyn Hyde says:

    What matters above all else is that the membership stand firmly behind Jeremy Corbyn, he is winning already, his detractors make fools of themselves every time they open their mouths.

    In my view the membership must take control of the party, we should call for an extraordinary conference that reinstates the annual conference as the policy making body and MPs should only have one vote like any other member of the party. If they want take a stand against the membership they should be made aware of the consequences, we have seen this all in the past, remember Ramsay MacDonald.

    1. Richard Tiffin says:

      For Kinnock to take control of the party he needed his Militant moment. He needed to define the nature of the party by making war on the other half of the party. Remember the Liverpool taxi speech?
      Like or not Corbyn will need to do the same, but from the left and going left rather than from the right and going right. Every day we accommodate them they get stronger. They have the press behind them so we cannot reach our support in the wider community.
      We don’t need to expel as Kinnock did, but if Corbyn doesn’t rally the troops with some inspirational leadership then the right get the platform to themselves and if we lose badly in the elections next May then the right might even attempt a coup, they might even succeed if our support loses confidence.

      1. David Ellis says:

        Absolutely right. And do you know what the cost of the victory of the right will be? It won’t be another lame right wing Labour government which is at least marginally better than a Tory government. No. It will be the death of the Labour Party. That would not be a problem if it was replaced by a new radical socialist party free of the right but in all likely hood the Labour right will take the Labour left to the grave with it especially if it continues to roll over.

  7. Sue says:

    Reading through some of the comments again I’d like to add that I really like Fisher! I think appointing him was spot on. He’s a solid ongoing campaigner who wants all people to have a stake in the wealth of this country. For him it isnt acceptable that anyone is left behind —— disabled, elderly, unemployed and so on. I’m sure there are many who feel as I do. No appointment is ever going to please everyone. However it does seem that only the right wing have the power of the press behind them to stir up a storm in a teacup!

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