Published: 10:55, 22 September 2021
| Updated: 17:33, 22 September 2021
Labour activists in Kent have joined a national protest over what they claim is a witch-hunt against left-wing members who are supporting former party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
A group of party members gathered outside the party’s office in Margate to highlight the claims.
The protest comes at an awkward time, just days before the party’s conference in Brighton when it is understood the issue of the suspension of the former party leader could be debated.
The action adds to an already difficult backdrop for the party, following on from a high-profile dispute over transgender rights involving the Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield, who said she would not be attending conference because of possible security threats.
Among protesters in Margate was Norman Thomas, former chairman of South Thanet local Labour Party. He is among those suspended.
He said: “Ordinary members are furious with what’s going on in the Labour Party. They believe Keir Starmer is leading a witch-hunt against anyone who was a supporter of former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
"Members are being expelled and suspended on the most flimsy grounds. It’s a disgrace.”
Mr Thomas was suspended from the party last year for allowing local members to debate a motion in support of former leader Mr Corbyn, who had the parliamentary whip taken from him.
It followed the publication of a report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission into allegations of anti-semitism, saying Labour had broken the law.
The commission put some of the blame on "serious failings" under Mr Corbyn's leadership of the party. While he accepted the report, he was suspended for his reaction to it, that included a statement.
It read: “The scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media."
Mr Thomas said: “Like many other Party members I have now been threatened with expulsion for daring to fight back against the current witch-hunt.
"But like many others I am not prepared to accept what the leadership is doing to the party. It is unfair and undemocratic. That’s why we are fighting back.”
The protests are led by the Defend The Left Campaign Group.
A Labour spokesperson said: “Labour is a broad, welcoming and democratic party and we are committed to ensuring it stays that way.
"The NEC decided that these organisations were not compatible with Labour’s rules or our aims and values.”