Why expelling John Hutton would be wrong….
Alot of the coverage of the Hutton Report on the left today has sadly been driven into the cul-de-sac of a debate about whether he should be expelled from the Labour Party or not. Owen Jones makes the case here and Political Betting cover the story here. Sadly, this typifies the left’s unfortunate habit of seeking organisational solutions to political problems. Taken to its logical conclusion it’s also a potentially dangerous and undemocratic position. Why?
Well, if you are arguing ‘collaborators’ should be expelled then where does that leave Labour councillors who have, not matter how unwillingly, not only drafted but implemented cuts budgets? They have therefore executed government policy and at a local role have taken an active role in its formulation. Where does it leave members who happen to be members of the civil service? In a very grey area I would argue. Comrades will argue Hutton chose his position but so did the councillors, who could have set an illegal budget, and the civil service employees who know when they take the job they may well have to implement policy they don’t like. Where does it leave those people who have worked with the official No to AV campaign which happens to have a large contingent of Conservative Party figures within its leadership? Are they ‘collaborators’ too? Where do we draw the line? Are we to say, like the SWP reputedly does, that you cannot accept a supervisory position and be a member?
The problem with calling for Hutton’s expulsion as opposed to say that of Phil Woolas is that when push comes to shove, not only were the politics of Woolas repellant but he was found guilty in a court of law of lying to the electorate and slandering his opponent. So, clear grounds exist to say it was more than his politics which brought the Party into disrepute.
You can’t say the same of Hutton and the only grounds for his expulsion are essentially his politics. If this becomes the sole criteria for expelling people then we are well on the way to Stalinist type purges of all except those deemed by the left to be ideologically ‘pure’. This would reduce the Labour Party to a husk; a sect of no social relevance whatsoever. Maybe they think they are ‘saving the Party’ but the reality is that these comrades would kill it stone dead. I spoke to a trade unionist today, somebody in a trade union effected by Hutton, and not even they were willing to support Hutton’s expulsion. This should tell people something.
Furthermore, if the left calls for his exclusion then what fate is to await those on Labour’s left who work with people who are openly critical of and aggressive too Labour councils? Consistency would demand their membership be forfeit too. This is why the left is deeply mistaken to call for the expulsion of John Hutton. No matter how wrong we feel he is; this is clearly not a case where expulsion should be actively sought or argued for. We have to win these arguments politically and these kind of calls only weaken that struggle and are counterproductive to its victory.