Following a short hearing with officials of the Labour Party South East, I have received notification that I have had my suspension lifted and informed that I will be able to participate normally in Labour Party business.
I have to say I am absolutely delighted that my appeal has been upheld and that I can continue to campaign both inside and outside the party for the return of Jeremy Corbyn as our leader.
The assistance that I have had has been invaluable as has the support from thousands of rank and file members. My sincere thanks to my lawyer, Martin Howe who has given professional guidance and advice from the start and invaluable assistance in having this decision overturned.
Finally, I thank my own union, the Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union for their unstinting support and campaign for my reinstatement.
Now we need to ensure that the thousands of members who have been suspended have their membership reinstated and the opportunity to exercise their democratic right and to vote in the leadership election.
In a statement from Ronnie's solicitor, Martin Howe of Howe & Co Solicitors, said:
“Ronnie, and thousands of other Labour Party members, should never have been suspended for using robust language in the context of the white hot heat of political debate. Free speech is the lifeblood of democracy and the Labour Party should have no part in banning words without taking context into account . Context is everything. We need fair and even-handed investigations of genuine grievances. The blanket use of suspension before investigation - preventing members from attending meetings, theAnnual Conference and, most importantly, from voting in the leadership election - has no place in a modern political party that proudly brought the Human Rights Act to our statute books and where fairness and equality are at the heart of the movement. I call on the Party immediately to lift the suspensions of all other members who have also exercised their right to express robust political speech so that we can have a truly democratic leadership election that reflects the will of the whole membership.”
The BFAWU Executive Council welcomes the reversal of the Labour Party NEC’s decision to suspend our General Secretary, Ronnie Draper.
Although we are pleased that common sense has prevailed in this instance, we are extremely disappointed that the decision to suspend Ronnie was taken in the first place and we are very concerned that thousands of rank and file members have been refused the right to take part in this unnecessary leadership election. We demand that all paid up Labour Party members and supporters be reinstated and that this undemocratic and ideological purge is brought to an end. We call on the Parliamentary Labour Party and those who have wilfully and selfishly created chaos to end this civil war now and get on with the job of standing up for our communities, who desperately need a strong and united Labour Party. The focus should be on stopping this Conservative Government led by an unelected Prime Minister. The energy and passion should be directed at preventing Theresa May from her agenda of furthering inequality, not at vain, ego-driven, internal squabbles.
It is time for the Labour Party to start doing what it has always done best: standing up for workers; supporting the vulnerable and those in need; and helping to build a fairer, more equal society that gives hope and opportunity for all, not just the wealthy few.
National President on behalf of the Executive Council
On Tuesday 23rd August, I received an email from the Labour Party informing me that I have been suspended from membership. I am now blocked from attending Labour Party meetings, Annual Conference and, above all, voting in the leadership election.
The only explanation I have been given is that this is something to do with an unidentified tweet I have posted. I have not been given the opportunity to refute any allegations, or a date for any hearing.
I believe this flies in the face of natural justice. I intend to challenge my suspension robustly and am currently taking legal advice.
I do not seek any personal privilege based on my trade union position. I passionately believe that all members should be allowed to be heard, and be given the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice.
I am extremely concerned that suspensions and bans are being imposed in an arbitrary or politically motivated way in this election, and I will be raising the issue with the General Secretary.
This suspension will not stop me or the Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union from campaigning politically for workers' rights, including the £10 per hour rate and abolition of zero hour contracts.
The Executive Council (EC) of the BFAWU were disappointed to learn that our General Secretary, Ronnie Draper, has been suspended by the Labour Party, with reference to alleged, and as yet unproven, comments made on social media. The EC would like to express its support of, and solidarity, with Ronnie, who we feel has been treated disgracefully. We call upon the Labour Party NEC to immediately withdraw this suspension to allow the General Secretary, who has been a life-long member of the Labour Party and who represents thousands of low-paid workers across the UK, to exercise his democratic right to vote in the upcoming leadership election.
The BFAWU has been a long-time affiliate of the Labour Party, supporting all of its democratically elected leaders throughout our history, regardless of their political stance. While we may not always have agreed with the direction being taken by the Party, we have always been a friend, ally and supporter.
Politics is an emotive business and workers deserve to have a passionate voice speaking up on their behalf. Unlike others, who have not been suspended, our Union has not funded or supported other political organisations that were, or are, in conflict with the Labour Party.
National President on behalf of the Executive Council.
At our recent Annual Conference in June this year, BFAWU delegates debated the current and future state of the Labour Party. The unanimous position of the Conference floor, was that since Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader in September 2015, the Labour Party now represented and supported the aspirations of our members, working in the food industry. They also felt that the Labour Party was now fully in tune with the issues they face in the workplace, unlike during Ed Miliband’s leadership, where members felt that the party was way too apathetic and nothing more than ‘Tory-lite’. Jeremy Corbyn’s support for our £10 an hour campaign and his pledge to end the use of zero hours contracts, along with addressing the issue of heat in the workplace resonates very strongly with the people we represent. In addition, BFAWU members and representatives feel that the Labour Party’s performance in local, mayoral and parliamentary by-elections, along with substantially increasing it’s membership, forcing a number of governmental u-turns and winning the argument right across the piece in terms of opposing austerity, shows that the Party is heading in the right direction. All the more remarkable, considering the state of the Party after the bruising general election results of May 2015 and subsequent crisis of confidence.
The upshot of our Conference debate, was that delegates agreed; if there was any challenge to Mr Corbyn’s leadership, our Union would continue to support the current, democratically elected incumbent and the progressive policies he has put forward, that we believe match the hopes and aspirations of our members, and those who work in the food industry as a whole.
The attempted coup by the Parliamentary Labour Party and the resulting leadership challenge, all cheered on by the establishment media is based on nothing other than delusions, egos and vanity. It is helping no-one. At a time when the now Theresa May-led Conservatives are positioning themselves further to the right than even David Cameron’s government was, for the Labour Party to be spending it’s time and it’s members’ money laying itself bare in public and demonstrating such a blatant and brazen affront to democracy, is as worrying as it is saddening. A victory for Owen Smith’s challenge would only be a pyrrhic one, that would guarantee precisely nothing in terms of a general election win for Labour, nor will it help to address the real-world issues our members face, day in and day out.
These are the reasons why the BFAWU calls on all our members, supporters and affiliates eligible to take part in the leadership election, to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. His track record speaks for itself.
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
The 6th Annual Wigan Diggers Festival will take place between 11.00am and 9.30pm on September 10th 2016 at Gerrard Winstanley Gardens, The Wiend, Wigan.
The day itself will feature a historical digging re-enactment, over 50 food, book and other stalls, along with a beer tent, children's entertainment and live music.
For more information please click here
For the Facebook page, click here
The comments made by Owen Smith MP and claims he has made regarding a lack of campaigning on employment rights on the part of the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP, are as untrue as they are absurd. Mr McDonnell has been a champion of workers' rights throughout his political career and his record is exemplary, especially when it comes to the workers that we represent in the food industry.
John has led the way; either by submitting Early Day Motions in Parliament, or by organising/co-ordinating meetings between MPs, workers and their Trade-Union representatives. In 2008, it was John who stood alongside those facing redundancy and uncertainty, as a result of the collapse of the Lyndale Food Group and fought their corner at Westminster. It was he, who demanded an inquiry into alleged prior collusion between the company and it’s appointed administrators, along with a demand for a change in the law relating to the conduct of company directors. This led to workers in the food industry being represented at Westminster via the creation of the BFAWU’s Parliamentary Group which again, John co-ordinated.
It was John, who assisted the BFAWU in terms of setting up our fast-food rights campaign, with it’s aim of ending inequality for young workers and to help bring about an end to the use of zero-hour contracts, in addition to demanding Trade Union recognition and a real living/minimum wage of £10 an hour. This campaign has resulted in many young workers in the UK fast-food industry being given a voice and a forum for the very first time.
John has also supported our campaigns in relation to heat in the workplace and the call for a temperature cap that would protect hundreds of thousands of people working in factories, bakeries, schools and numerous other sites all over the country. John also attends and addresses our Annual Conference most years, meets with delegates, listens to their concerns and identifies with their aspirations.
Since John became Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, we have seen him challenge the Conservatives, provide credible opposition and start to win the argument in terms of the government’s needless and damaging agenda of austerity for the poor and tax-breaks for the rich. All this, despite a pro-right wing mainstream media and unhelpful, uncomradely, rebellious, undemocratic and potentially destructive conduct from certain sections of the Parliamentary Labour Party including ironically, Owen Smith.
We completely refute the claims made by Mr Smith and ask him why it is, that he has never supported the campaign to end zero-hours contracts until his current Labour Party leadership campaign? We’d also like to ask him, seeing as he has now positioned himself as a 'man of the people' and 'champion' of the working classes, if he still believes that austerity is right? a claim that he made only a few weeks ago on the Andrew Marr show. Some might say that Mr Smith is making cynical attempts to wear Jeremy Corbyn’s clothes, in order to somehow win over sections of his support base. All we know here at the BFAWU, is that we have asked for, but never received so much as a scintilla of support from Mr Smith in relation to the hard-working and undervalued people that we represent. At the last general election, Smith (unlike Mr McDonnell) never campaigned for a minimum wage of £10 an hour and never campaigned (unlike Mr McDonnell) for the abolition of youth rates. He did however (unlike Mr McDonnell), abstain from the vote on the Conservatives’ vile welfare bill.
Although we welcome Mr Smith’s sudden embracing of worker-friendly policies and championing of their rights on an 'anti-austerity' platform; to publicly attack the architect is very poor form indeed.
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
The BFAWU is an affiliate of the Labour Party, which entitles our members who support the principles of the Labour Party a right to vote in the leadership election that has been called.
Whilst we feel that this leadership challenge is an unnecessary distraction, when we should be holding this awful Tory government to account and comes at a time that people in communities are looking to politicians for stability in these uncertain times, now the decision has been made, we encourage all our members to take part. At our recent Annual Conference, delegates re-affirmed their support of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and committed to working with him on building a fairer more equal society. Our Union has formerly nominated Jeremy, a man who has stood with working people and our members, and has actively supported all our campaigns. Now is our opportunity to stand with him.
This leadership election is about offering hope for all, not just for some. Jeremy Corbyn's leadership election victory last September provided a refreshing change in UK politics: an honest, decent politician whose life’s work has been to defend the rights of people and to stand up for justice. He is a man who puts the interests of all people at the heart of his leadership. This election is also about upholding the principles of democracy that people have fought and died for.
We ask all of our members who have not already done so, to register to vote. They can do so by going to https://support.labour.org.uk/ Please note that registration must be done by noon on the 8th of August in order to be entitled to a vote.
Ian Hodson (National President)
The current crisis within the Parliamentary Labour Party is deeply regrettable and unnecessary. Last week’s vote to leave the European Union presents the entire labour movement with unprecedented challenges. Above all, we need to be fighting to preserve our members’ jobs, already under threat in several industries and across the public sector as a consequence. The government is in crisis, but already serious debates are taking place and decisions being made which profoundly affect the interests of working people.
Under these circumstances, our members and millions of others will be looking with dismay at the events in parliament. It cannot be right to seek to denude the Labour front bench at this time, when the government more than ever needs to be scrutinised and held to account by an effective and united opposition that does the job it is paid to do
Jeremy Corbyn is the democratically-elected Leader of our Party who secured such a resounding mandate less than ten months ago under an electoral procedure fully supported by Labour MPs. His position cannot and should not be challenged except through the proper democratic procedures provided for in the Party’s constitution. We urge all Labour MPs to abide by those procedures, and to respect the authority of the Party’s Leader.
While we have stated that we believe a Leadership election would be an unwelcome distraction at this time of crisis, if one nevertheless occurs through the proper procedures we would expect all parts of the Party to honour the result and pull together in the interests of the country, and working people in particular. The only party that can win for working people is a strong and united Labour Party.
Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite the Union
Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON
Tim Roache, General Secretary, GMB
Dave Ward, General Secretary, CWU
Brian Rye, Acting General Secretary, UCATT
Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA
Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF
Matt Wrack, General Secretary, FBU
Ronnie Draper, General Secretary, BFAWU
Chris Kitchen, General Secretary, NUM
Members and representatives of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union condemn the actions of a number of Labour MPs, who have chosen to start a civil war within their own party. Since Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election victory nine months ago, certain MPs unable to accept democracy, have sought to de-stabilise the party and undermine Mr Corbyn’s vision time and again, often through Conservative Party supporting outlets, including the Rupert Murdoch media empire.
In the space of nine months, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has increased its membership massively, gaining support from all sections of society, including students, the elderly, the disabled and previously disillusioned Trade Unions. His effective opposition has forced the government into U-turn, after U-turn on issues directly affecting ordinary people and he has performed solidly in local elections, winning important by-elections and mayoral elections, often increasing Labour’s vote share. It’s also worth mentioning, that Mr Corbyn is the first ever political leader to have a majority of females on the front benches. This is despite having inherited a broken and de-moralised party after the damaging 2015 General Election. The truth is that as leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn has achieved more in nine months than his predecessor managed in five years.
The justification the rebel MPs are using for this attempted coup, is Mr Corbyn’s performance during the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. This is disingenuous to say the least. 63% of Labour Party supporters voted to remain in the EU, with 75% of Mr Corbyn’s own constituency voting to remain. If Labour wished to scapegoat anyone, surely it would have been members of the party’s pro-EU campaign management team, which included the likes of Alan Johnson and ironically, Hilary Benn. The reality, is that this cabal of mainly Blairite MPs have been planning this for a long time and given the timing, it begs the questions; how much of this is about the imminent arrival of the Chilcot report and who may, or may not come out of it badly? How much of this is to provide distraction? Is it just a coincidence that many of the people who are calling for votes of no confidence in Mr Corbyn are notorious supporters of Tony Blair, who voted for the illegal war in Iraq? It certainly seems bizarre, that given the fact that the Conservatives are going into meltdown and the country is crying out for unity, that these people should decide that now is the time for a civil war within the Labour Party.
The crisis currently engulfing the country is one that originated within the Conservative Party. David Cameron gambled with the welfare of the country during the 2015 General Election by making the promise of an EU referendum a key part of his election manifesto, in order to prevent losing votes to UKIP, placate Tory back-benchers and to ultimately protect his own political position. However, rather than expose the Conservative Party and address the real issues now affecting the country, the media and the usual suspects within the establishment have decided to make Jeremy Corbyn the sacrificial lamb, for no other reason than that they see him as a threat to the status quo; in other words, a political leader who cannot be bought.
The BFAWU and its members are at a loss to understand the stupidity of these MPs. On Sunday, June 27th 2016, members and activists of our Union were gathering outside the head office building of Samworth Brothers to support Kumaran Bose; a worker sacked for exposing the injustices workers are experiencing in his factory. While we were out fighting for fair play and equality, well paid Labour MPs were acting like drones for those who created the ‘Brexit’ mess by knifing their leader in the back, crowing about it on social media and prostituting themselves to current affairs TV and radio programmes, in order to twist the knife further. This just adds insult to injury. That a number of Labour MPs seek to create division in such a treacherous manner and make it their priority, whilst our members face attacks on their terms and conditions, agency labour exploitation and zero hours contracts is beyond the pale. It makes you wonder what kind of Labour Party we’d be looking at, if the rogues’ gallery of Margaret Hodge, Hilary Benn, Ian Austin, Wes Streeting, Lucy Powell, Chris Bryant and all the other traitors of democracy somehow managed to seize power of the Labour Party.
The last two General Elections and the EU referendum showed that people in this country are fed up with Westminster and fed up of the politics of the past, including Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’. People up and down the country are angry, hurting and are crying out for change. For the first time since 1945, there is an opportunity to rebuild our country with a leader that offers a future for all and a society that we can all be a part of. That's what Jeremy Corbyn offers and that's why we, as the BFAWU will continue to support him, his values and his vision.
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)