by Rob Marchant
Welcome to the modern Labour party, where it appears that, after less than 18 months of penitence, an anti-Semitic comment can be forgiven. Then, er, unforgiven shortly after, once the story’s been published by Guido Fawkes.
The story: Sepember 2014, Kirby is suspended from the party after offensive comments comparing Israelis to Hitler. Not to mention a tweet from her Twitter account regarding Jews and big noses, as Tom Harris, sometime of this parish, noted in the Telegraph.
March 2016: It is discovered that Kirby has been reinstated. When this appears in the media, she is suspended again.
While we might be glad that, in the end, the unpleasant Ms Kirby will be prevented from spreading hatred around her fellow activists, the whole episode shows that existing membership controls have become a shambles.
Right now, control sensibly exercised by the party machine is clearly being overridden by the NEC; but that may just be the opening salvo in a war over the party’s “border controls”.
What happens next? The situation will, by definition, continue until either (a) the NEC stops reinstating suspect members – requiring a change in the balance of power between left and right on the NEC itself, and possibly a conference rule change – or (b) the Head Office executive powers to suspend them in the first place are relaxed.
Given that Head Office changes are easy for the party leadership to make and changes at the NEC level are hard, it is easy to see that the most likely outcome is (b), that the Compliance Unit at Labour HQ will be weakened or even removed, as John McDonnell proposed two weeks ago. Along with such a move would go all the party’s defences against people like Kirby rejoining.