At least eight elected lay officials in Wales have had their party membership suspended in the wake of a report into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, published last October by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.One has since left the party, but the other seven are all members of the Welsh Labour Grassroots group, the Welsh affiliate of the Momentum organisation, which was formed to support Jeremy Corbyn during his leadership of the party.Among those suspended are officials of constituency parties in Cardiff North, Cardiff West – represented at the Senedd by First Minister Mark Drakeford – Ceredigion and Brecon & Radnorshire, as well as the secretary of Machynlleth branch in the Montgomeryshire seat.
Clive Haswell, who chaired Cardiff North Constituency Labour Party has been suspended after allowing two motions to be debated by members – one expressing solidarity with Mr Corbyn, who had the Labour whip withdrawn at Westminster after he suggested concerns about anti-Semitism in the party had been exaggerated, and the other raising concerns about freedom of speech within the party.
Mr Haswell said: “It is my duty to ensure that members are able to discuss issues of concern to them.“For many people, the ability to have open debate about important issues of the day is one of the reasons why people join the Labour Party.“In allowing these two motions to be discussed, I was simply giving members the right to express their opinions and performing the role required of me as the chair by Labour Party rules. They were both passed overwhelmingly.“There was nothing anti-Semitic in the motions or offensive in any way. I fully support the party leadership’s drive to eliminate anti-Semitism from the party.
"But I disagree with my suspension and cannot accept that my actions have been ‘grossly detrimental to the Labour Party’, to quote the rule that is being used against me.”
In Cardiff West, two party officials have been suspended after a motion was passed expressing alarm at “the increasingly restrictive instructions… relating to what local parties can and cannot discuss, the most recent of which defines so loosely the category of motions considered unacceptable as to make almost anything relating to internal party matters potentially out of order."
The motion also expressed "attempts to silence and intimidate prominent party figures who have spoken out on recent developments, such as Jess Barnard, the recently elected chairman of Young Labour, who was instructed to take down a social media post conveying a solidarity statement agreed by the Young Labour National Committee; and the declaration by the party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, in a speech on November 29, 2020, that she would be willing to suspend ‘thousands and thousands’ of party members if this were deemed necessary to enforce the party’s instructions.”
Welsh Labour Grassroots secretary Darren Williams said: “There is widespread demoralisation in the Labour Party as a result of the actions of the UK party leadership in clamping down on free expression in party meetings.“The restrictions imposed by the general secretary are completely unprecedented and suggest that party members aren’t trusted to engage in comradely and respectful debate.“If the situation isn’t addressed soon, it is likely to have a detrimental effect on Labour’s capacity to campaign for the Senedd elections.”Dozens of similar suspensions have affected Labour members in England.
A Labour Party spokesman said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures.”It is understood that only one of the suspended Welsh party officials – not Mr Haswell – is under investigation for alleged anti-Semitism.In relation to suspensions for breaches of instructions issued by Labour’s general secretary, it is understood that local parties and branches have received guidance on conducting discussions about the Equality and Human Rights Commission report and its impact.