LEFT UNITY CONFERENCE VOTES – WITHOUT DEBATE – TO CONFIRM EXPULSION OF STUART RICHARDSON. Report by Pete McLaren 13/07/19

Stuart Richardson was expelled by the Left Unity National Council on July 28 2018 for apparently breaking the terms of his local suspension from the Birmingham LU branch. The terms of that local suspension were never spelt out, so we don’t know what he did ‘wrong’. According to the statement from the NC in front of Conference, as agreed at that July 2018 NC ‘expulsion’ meeting, it was because he gave out national LU leaflets, as a national member, at a Birmingham Against Trump meeting, given to him by a national officer. Furthermore, he informed Birmingham LU members out of courtesy he was doing that. The national secretary sent Stuart a relatively friendly email that same by day. It asked him not to involve himself with the workings of the branch, which he hadn’t. And he had no subsequent contact with them. That is important. He replied to the national secretary: “Obviously Birmingham LU has to decide its activity through its democratic structures, I merely informed Birmingham LU members I was organising a LU stall at the Birmingham Together against Trump meeting.” For all of this (!), he was expelled!

The National Council voted this June not to allow any debate at Conference on the Appeal. This decision was influenced by members of Birmingham LU who had made complaints against Stuart and are members of the NC. I challenged that at the time, and again in the days leading up to conference, asking for conference to have a time limited debate. Instead, I was offered the opportunity to second Stuart’s appeal with a three minute slot. I accepted, notwithstanding still holding the view it should be open for debate. In the event, the conference chair ruled that my opportunity to second the appeal was out of order and I had to challenge that ruling – which I lost overwhelmingly.

The motion from the NC Disputes Committee to expel Stuart, which had the unanimous backing of its three members, was moved, along with the background notes, just before lunch at the 2019 Conference. The mover read most of it out, stressing that, in the view of the NC, Stuart was in breach of his local suspension by giving out those LU leaflets. Furthermore, Stuart had confirmed he was in breach of his local suspension by his email, (quoted above), stating that he had informed local LU members he was going to give out the national leaflets. Apparently, this showed Stuart was continuing to act as a local member. Remember, Stuart had never been told not to do give out national leaflets or email information to local members.

Stuart Richardson moved his appeal, arguing there had been no process. He had been suspended for three years. In most disputes, individuals accused of wrong doing had the right to address some body – not in Left Unity. Members have rights, but LU was not honoring them. The complaints against him leading to his expulsion had not been discussed with him by anyone, including the Disputes or Appeals Committees. Stuart continued to explain that he could not understand why Birmingham LU branch had suspended him in 2016 – an action that has no constitutional basis – on the unsubstantiated view that he would disrupt future LU branch meetings and was against the LU project.

He reminded conference that no terms of the local suspension were ever laid out, and he had been given national LU literature to give out on three separate occasions by the national treasurer. His sole contact with Birmingham LU in the last three years had been to inform them that he was going to give out national LU leaflets at the Anti-Trump public meeting. At the meeting he had had in May with the NC Disputes Committee he was not told not to distribute national LU leaflets – or not to email the branch with information. The day after the complaint that in the end led to his expulsion, he received a relatively friendly email from the national secretary asking him not to involve himself with the workings of the branch. Even though he did not consider giving out national LU leaflets as a national LU member was in any way involving himself with the branch, he stopped giving out any LU material.

He then outlined how his reply to the national secretary a day later on 24 June showed he was not involving himself with the branch as now claimed. He had stated that (as quoted above) Birmingham LU had to decide its activity through its democratic structures – he had merely informed Birmingham LU members he was organising a LU stall at the Birmingham Together against Trump meeting.

In other words, it is for the branch to decide what it does, Stuart continued. Ironically, this response had been construed by those calling for Stuart’s expulsion at the LU NC as proof that he was not going to stop involving himself with the local branch, and for this he has been expelled!!

Stuart concluded by suggesting that the whole process had been a procedural disaster. There had been an abuse of LU’s agreed procedures. He hadn’t even been given notice that there was a motion to expel him, let alone the opportunity to answer the charges against him. He wasn’t even sent a copy of the expulsion motion. Even employment tribunals respected individual rights better than this, he argued. There had been no natural justice: no hearing or no appeal as per LU constitution. Why wasn’t he even sent whatever documentation there was? In a telling final and political point, he explained why he had supported Left Unity as party of the left independent of Labour, and asked to be told what he had done that was so wrong that he was not being allowed to remain a member???

The Chair moved straight to a vote, and the appeal against expulsion was lost by 15 votes to 6 with one abstention.

Members and supporters of Left Unity need to reflect on the following aspects of this case:

§ The “dispute” between Stuart Richardson and the Birmingham Left Unity branch stemmed from a breakdown in relationships, not a breaking of any rules and, as such it could have been dealt with by mediation rather than discipline

§ The four separate complaints made against Stuart by members of the LU branch could have been discussed by the branch with Stuart or through the Disputes Committee

§ However, having gone down the disciplinary route, the leadership completely failed to follow their own disciplinary procedures, as follows:

o No evidence was ever presented to back up the 1st complaint querying Stuart’s commitment to LU and the possible disruption his attendance at meetings might make

o The leadership failed to intervene for two years despite it being totally unconstitutional for a branch Executive to suspend a member

o The 2nd complaint about a speech Stuart made as Secretary of Birmingham STWC was never discussed

o The 3rd complaint, that Stuart had broken the terms of his local suspension by handing out national LU leaflets as a national member, and informing branch members he would be doing that, was not discussed with Stuart by the NC Disputes Committee despite the fact they had met with Stuart the previous month and those discussions were on-going

o The only consequence of that 3rd complaint, until it became part of the expulsion motion, was the national secretary asking him not to involve himself with the workings of the branch: he hadn’t done, and, more significantly, he didn’t subsequently

o The 4th complaint came out of the blue, two days before the NC met on July 28th, and was part of the motion from the NC Disputes Committee calling for Stuart’s expulsion. The complaint was never discussed with Stuart. This 4th complaint was that Stuart, as organiser of Birmingham Socialist Discussion Group, had booked an inaccessible room for that group, an organisation which had no connection with LU. Although this charge, which Stuart has subsequently strenuously denied, was eventually dropped from the expulsion motion, by allowing it to be circulated and discussed, it clearly influenced the vote to expel

o Stuart was not informed of the complaints which led to the expulsion

o The issues were not discussed by a Disputes Committee as per constitution

o The issues were then not referred to an Appeals Committee as per constitution

o No definitions of local/national membership have ever been given to anyone, including Stuart

o The June National Council voted to stop Conference discussing the Appeal because those complaining about Stuart did not want it discussed: a massive attack on democracy

In my view, it is entirely possible that, if procedures had been followed, they would have found that there was no substance to any of the complaints, two of which were about Stuart’s behaviour at non-LU events.

A breakdown in relationships should be no reason for expulsion. Instead, the issues could have been referred to the NC Disputes and Appeals Committees as I put forward in a Paper to conference

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