"A vibrant movement, uniting the membership": interview with Rhea Wolfson, Labour NEC-elect

Submitted by AWL on 9 August, 2016 - 6:08

Rhea Wolfson, newly elected socialist member of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee, spoke to Solidarity.

Congratulations on your election to Labour’s NEC. What do you see as your priorities now?

The first thing is to see that the recommendations from the Chakrabarti Report are implemented. The Labour Party needs clear and transparent procedures for individuals and organisations accused of misconduct. I am particularly concerned about the suspensions of Wallasey Labour Party and Brighton, Hove and District Party. Those Labour Party organisations need to be reassured that any accusations made against them are investigated promptly and properly.

A number of Labour Party members have been expelled for being associated with Workers’ Liberty. Is this reasonable?

I oppose political expulsions. We should recognise that there are many strands of socialist opinion and Labour will be stronger if we accept that. Minimally we should expect that the Labour Party abides by the principles of natural justice in disciplinary matters, that those accused are listened to, that processes are clear and transparent, that there is an appeals procedure.

Some of the problems come from the Compliance Unit. Is there any role for this organisation?

Perhaps – if it operates using clear rules and regulations. No part of the Party should work on the basis that it can operate outside of a clear set of rules. In particular, those accused of misconduct should be able to see evidence which is said to exist against them.

Personally I have another problem because I am getting a lot of abuse through Twitter. I have had received a lot of unpleasant comment since the NEC election results were announced. There are no clear guidelines or mechanisms for me to try to stop this sort of abuse which may come from other Party members.

One of the live issues for the Labour left is what we should do about the anti-Corbyn right-wing MPs. Do you think we should deselect them?

Jeremy Corbyn is building a vibrant movement of half a million Labour Party members. Corbyn is uniting the membership. The onus is on others to show they are not harming or splitting the Party.

The relationship between the PLP and the membership has clearly been damaged. I hope it can be repaired and for that we need open political discussion and debate.

Reselection is a powerful tool. It should be used with respect and care, and not with abuse. It is not a threat. It is a democratic process.

What should the priorities of a future Labour government be?

We should pursue an anti-austerity programme. We must invest in public services to promote growth. We should borrow in order to invest. And we should increase taxation on the wealthy.

You made a strong speech at a recent Lewisham Momentum meeting set up to discuss the problem of ‘left’ anti-Semitism. What should be done about this very real problem?

We need open debate on the issue. The Lewisham Momentum meeting was a start. Although some of the contributions were shocking, I think they were not made from hate - and poor comments were challenged in the meeting.

The left needs to recognise that the Jewish Community does not feel welcome. The rhetoric of anti-Zionism is off-putting. There are progressive Zionist organisations we can and should work with.

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