Labour Staff Cuts That Prompted Strike Ballot Due to £2m-a-Year Legal Costs

© REUTERS / HENRY NICHOLLSBritain's Labour Party holds annual conference, in Brighton
Britain's Labour Party holds annual conference, in Brighton - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.09.2021
Labour's top administrative body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), was reportedly told in July that the party was spending huge sums dealing with lawsuits by members and others over the years-long anti-Semitism row — leading to 90 staff redundancies.
The Labour Party has been forced to make staff cuts as it is spending millions a year defending lawsuits, a leading member has admitted.
Johanna Baxter, a right-leaning member of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC), told a rally of the "moderate" Labour First faction on Sunday that the party's legal fees were now around £2 million per year — and that was why the head office was laying off 90 staff.
The Guardian's chief political correspondent, Jessica Elgot, tweeted the comment from the party's annual conference in Brighton.
The NEC was told in July that the party was haemorrhaging money defending or settling lawsuits related to the anti-Semitism row that erupted in and around the party under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Corbyn was suspended from the party on the orders of current leader Sir Keir Starmer in October 2020. The NEC reinstated him as a member the following month, but Starmer refused to reverse his decision to withdraw the whip form his old boss, leaving him outside the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Added to that was the news that membership had fallen from a peak of 550,000 when Starmer was elected in April 2020 to 430,000 — a slump of 120,000 in just over a year.
The party's general secretary, David Evans, ordered 90 redundancies at party HQ in Westminster in a bid to make up the shortfall. That prompted staff organised by two of the big three Labour-affiliated trade unions, Unite and GMB, to vote overwhelmingly for a strike action.
Britain's Labour Party leader Keir Starmer leaves his home in London - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.09.2021
Autumn of Discontent: Trade Unions Vote to Strike at Labour Party HQ
Around 1,000 more members are set to be purged after Evans outlawed four small left-wing factions in the party — including Labour Against the Witch-Hunt, which opposed the expulsions of members accused of anti-Semitism for criticisms of Israel's treatment of the occupied Palestinians.
Labour-affiliated food workers' union BFAWU will vote at a special conference in the coming days on whether to disaffiliate from the Labour Party over the potential expulsion of its president Ian Hodson from the party over his association with the group.
Evans, who had been acting in the role of party administrative chief since being appointed by Starmer in April 2020, was confirmed as general secretary by a 59 to 41 percent conference vote on Saturday.
But he was embarrassed during his speech when he asked: "Everybody remembers why they joined Labour — what was it for you?" to which one delegate shouted "Jeremy Corbyn", prompting cheers and singing.
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