Against no-platforming at ‘Stop the Labour Lockout’, an event billed to campaign for free speech!

Joint statement by Labour In Exile Network, Labour Left Alliance and Labour Against the Witchhunt

We are very concerned to hear that Esther Giles of the successful campaign Save Our Socialists and Labour in Exile Network, has been de-invited from the February 7 ‘Stop the Labour Lockout’ event. She was billed to speak next to Alan Gibbons and Gaya Sriskanthan of Momentum, Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union, Leah Levane of Jewish Voice for Labour and Socialist Councillors and many more.

But the day before the event, she was contacted and it was explained to her that some speakers had threatened to withdraw from the rally if Esther was allowed to speak. The reason: three years ago, she supported a comrade who was pressurised to make a statement about trans women. Esther’s feeling was that – regardless of the issue of the debate – nobody should be bullied. We continue to campaign side by side with all those oppressed by this capitalist society, including (but not only) women and all our LGBT comrades. Esther’s letter to the organisers is available here.

We very much believe in free speech in our organisations and in wider society. The best way to fight prejudice, misperceptions and misunderstandings is through education and debate and not by no platforming comrades on the left. Over the last five years, the mere accusation of a Labour Party member being antisemitic has been enough to get them suspended, disciplined and vilified. It is therefore more than ironic that an event billed to fight for “free speech in the Labour Party” should decide to no-platform a speaker merely for standing by a comrade’s decision to exercise that right.

It is also highly debatable whether this event really presents a “major united left initiative”, as Jewish Voice for Labour puts it here. Neither the Labour in Exile Network, the Labour Left Alliance nor Labour Against the Witchhunt have been invited to participate in what is billed as an ongoing campaign. This is particularly troubling, as these three organisations have been among the most outspoken opponents of the purge of left-wingers and Corbyn supporters – in the case of LAW, this was the reason it was set up in the first place in 2017! All three organisations continue to fight against all unjust suspensions and expulsions that have occured in the last 5 years.

We call on the organisers and speakers of the event to:

  • Renew the invite to Esther Giles;
  • Oppose any new attempts to no-platform speakers; and
  • Invite Labour Against the Witchhunt, Labour Left Alliance and Labour in Exile Network to participate in the rally and the “ongoing campaign”.
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13 Responses to Against no-platforming at ‘Stop the Labour Lockout’, an event billed to campaign for free speech!

  1. Bridget Dunne says:

    Ironic that Esther Giles and SOS refused to publish statements from suspended officers who had false allegations of AS included in their suspension letters. So free speech for her but not others? Surprised LAW would support this.

    • Tina Werkmann says:

      Whatever Esther, or more precisely SOS, did on their website (I understand this is about half a sentence being deleted from Pete Firmin’s biography) is entirely irrelevant in this context. The right of free speech means nothing if you do not defend the right to speak of those you disagree with and even those you feel have done you an injustice.

  2. Ivan Wels says:

    There is NO PLACE for no platforming in the labour movement! Discuss it out – don’t ban it!

  3. JoeW says:

    Agree. De-platform them from your zoom schedule unless they change tack. Perhaps Mr Gibbons would speak out.

  4. Sam Clark-Stone says:

    Attacking free speech makes us fascists. Debate and decide should be our mantra, not shut down anyone we disagree with

  5. Maureen Purcell says:

    I fully agree with your three requests / demands. Thank you for your statement.

  6. John Davies says:

    Dear god, more censorship and sectarianism.

  7. DavidG Evans says:

    Another reason why continued support for LLA is essential.

  8. Jackie Haskins says:

    This is disingenuous of the role that Esther Giles and others have played in making the Labour Party in Bristol a hostile and unwelcoming place for trans members and LGBT members generally.
    This circular, and yet dangerous, debate has spilled out of being ‘theoretical’ into a rather nasty Clause 28 type argument which characterises all trans people as violent and predatory. This is why socialists need to think carefully about which speakers represent them on public platforms.
    Stop the Labour Lockout was right to remove her from the speakers list.

  9. George Hardy says:

    To someone not closely allied with, or even fully aware of the issues, this all seems very childish and counter productive.
    No wonder we are in such a mess and by “we”, I mean the left.

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