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Sunday 24 January 2021

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Spelthorne councillors resign from Labour and join discussion on an alternative

Two Labour councillors on Spelthorne borough council, Veena Siva (representing Staines ward) and Jenny Vinson (Staines South), have announced their resignation from the Labour Party and opened discussions with TUSC.

They have been joined by the chair of Spelthorne Labour Party, Sue Bryer, who has also resigned from Keir Starmer's new New Labour party. In a press release the three explained their decision:

"After a great deal of agonising and soul-searching, we have been left with no option but to resign from the Labour Party".

"For some months now, we have been concerned about the direction the party has taken, as we see Keir Starmer and other members of the shadow cabinet row back on a number of policies in the Labour manifesto and pledges Keir Starmer himself made in his leadership campaign with respect to social and economic justice, human rights, and uniting the party to name but a few".

"The Labour Party is an anti-racist party with a long history of fighting for human rights and workers' rights. Hence we are extremely disappointed that Keir Starmer has adopted stances which contravene these values including: not taking appropriate action against Barry Sheerman MP for Huddersfield and Steve Reed MP for Croydon North for making anti-Semitic comments contrary to the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism or refusing to denounce transphobic comments made by Rosie Duffield, MP for Canterbury. Shockingly, Keir Starmer also described the Black Lives Matter movement as 'a moment' and claimed that the organisation's demand to reallocate police funding to preventative measures was 'nonsense'."

"We were horrified by his failure to oppose the so-called 'SpyCops Bill' which threatens human rights by allowing state agents to commit crimes in order to stay undercover, which could include murder, torture and sexual violence".

"And similarly the Tories' Overseas Operation Bill which implements a 'triple lock' of measures, designed to make it close to impossible to prosecute British troops five years after crimes, including torture and other appalling abuses have been committed - and then sacking three members of the shadow cabinet for voting against the Bill".

"Labour's 2019 manifesto stated that 'Labour will end and reverse privatisation in the NHS in the next parliament' and yet Keir Starmer felt it was appropriate to appoint a lobbyist for the private health sector as his director of communications".

Suppressing party democracy

"Furthermore, instead of uniting the party, Keir Starmer has succeeded in tearing the party apart by taking controversial decisions such as endorsing the party's decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn, a much respected leader and MP for Islington North who still retains huge support amongst the membership, and whipping MPs to abstain on abhorrent Tory legislation which clearly contravene human rights. As a result, a number of Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) have passed motions of no confidence in Keir Starmer and David Evans, the General Secretary of the Labour Party".

"The final straw which led us to leave the party has been the suppression of free speech, debate and democracy in the party. General Secretary David Evans issued emails preventing CLPs from tabling motions showing solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn or calling for the restoration of the Whip to Jeremy Corbyn despite the fact that Labour's National Executive Council found no wrongdoing by Jeremy Corbyn stating that he should be reinstated to the party and that the Whip would automatically be restored as a result of his suspension being lifted".

"Keir Starmer unilaterally decided to keep the withdrawal of the Whip under review. CLPs and members have been threatened with suspension if they exercise their democratic right to table these 'forbidden' motions or even discuss the topics concerning these motions".

New council group

Councillor Veena Siva says: "We were elected by voters who support the policies in Labour's Manifesto and we cannot in good conscience remain in the party when these policies are not being honoured. We believe in these policies and will be carrying out our term following through on the principles of social and economic justice, human rights, and working in the best interests of residents".

Councillor Jenny Vinson believes "Keir Starmer does not want the party to be an opposition to the Tories, in fact he comes across as their cheerleader. We consider that we can no longer remain as representatives of the Labour Party as it does not represent the best interests of the vast majority of people in this country".

Ex-Spelthorne Labour Party chair, Sue Bryer, considers that "with the direction being taken by the leadership towards a more neo-liberal stance, it is right that the executive baton of our CLP should be handed over to those that share the direction of the leadership. I hope under a new leadership the Labour members in Spelthorne will actually receive communications and election leaflets that reflect their wishes".

Jenny Vinson and Veena Siva have formed a new council group and will sit on Spelthorne council as the Independent Labour Group. They will continue to defend the policies promised to their ward residents in the 2019 elections.

And all three are engaging in discussions with the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition regarding standing under the TUSC banner in the forthcoming county council elections.