Tribune leader, 13 December 1991
As expected, the past week has seen the expulsion of Dave Nellist and Terry Fields from the Labour Party. Whether or not they should have been expelled is, in Tribune’s view, solely a matter of whether there really is adequate evidence of their current membership of Militant.
Militant is a political party with its own rules, programme and democratic centralist discipline which has run candidates against Labour and plans to do so again. On Monday, Militant launched Scottish Militant Labour in Glasgow, the main purpose of which is to fight selected constituencies – probably Garscadden, Donald Dewar’s seat, and Pollok, Jimmy Dunnachie’s – against Labour at the next general election. Other Militant candidates are likely to stand in Merseyside.
Labour’s rules clearly and quite rightly exclude from Labour Party membership members of rival political parties, and MPs are no exception to the rules, however hard-working, however pleasant and however popular with their local constituency parties.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to judge whether the evidence shows that Mr Fields and Mr Nellist are lying or telling the truth when they say they are not current members of Militant. Labour’s policy on disciplinary hearings is that they are private and that evidence is confidential; and no one has leaked the documentation on Mr Fields and Mr Nellist to Tribune or, as far as it is possible to judge, anyone else.
If justice has been done, it has not been seen to be done. No one wants show-trials but, unless some way is found to open Labour’s disciplinary processes to scrutiny by party members, many will continue to suspect that it is arbitrary and unfair. Worse, they could easily be right.
John Major’s shabby deal
The spin fromthe government’s public relations boys is that Maastricht was a grand victory for John Major. But in domestic political terms he has got a very bad deal. His agreement in principle to economic and monetary union will alienate the anti-European right of his own party even with the “opt-out” clause; and his “success” in avoiding the social dimension agreed by the other 11 European Community states is an easy target for Labour attack.
The provisions of the social chapter of the treaty, particularly after they had been watered down in a vain attempt to secure British agreement, could cause offence only to the most diehard anti-worker free-marketeer. Mr Major’s stance in Maastricht is proof, if any were needed, that the Tories are opposed to any extension of workers’ rights. The original draft of the social chapter proposed that workers should have the right to be consulted and laid down minimum wages and limits on the length of the working week. Much of that was ditched during the negotiations as the 11 tried to get Britain on board – but still Mr Major held out, even against the vaguest of formulations of rights to health and safety, information and equal opportunities for women. It was a shabby performance in defence of the worst forms of exploitation for which Mr Major should be attacked relentlessly in the run-up to the general election.