A NORTH Cumbrian constituency Labour Party is the first in the north to suffer  “mass resignations” from its ruling committee as members protest over what they say is a “toxic” political culture.

Ten of the 11 executive committee members with the Penrith and The Border constituency party have quit their posts. 

They have done this, they say, to show "solidarity" with their former political comrade Alan McGuckin, who has been kicked out of the Labour Party in what his supporters say has become a “witch-hunt.”

The group have not, however, left the Labour Party.

A supporter of the ousted left-wing party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Mr McGuckin, 68, a retired trade union official, must now represent the Carlisle Castle ward on the County Council as an “independent socialist.” 

Party chiefs have told him his expulsion is the result of him posting Facebook messages – which he says were utterly inoffensive - in 2019 and 2020 on to a page run by the Left Labour Alliance.

The group was this year banned by the Labour Party.  

In a statement, the Penrith and the Border constituency branch confirmed that all but one of its executive committee had resigned in protest over Mr McGuckin’s expulsion. They said members expressed concern about a “toxic culture” within the Labour Party, which was first outlined in the so-called “Forde Report.”

They believe Mr McGuckin’s expulsion illustrates a “deeply entrenched factionalism” within the Party, where supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership have been “treated with suspicion and disrespect by senior role holders”.

Jamie Penquite-Green, who was the branch’s chairman, said: "We have been shocked and saddened by the sudden expulsion of Alan, without any substantial dialogue with us as members or executive role holders.

“Had Alan not chosen to publicise his experience, any number of conclusions about his expulsion and reputation as a councillor could have been drawn.

“Members work extremely hard to campaign and elect solid councillors like Alan and it is disappointing to see that asset needlessly lost. It is only right to withhold our labour within these roles under these circumstances."

Karen Lockney was the local party’s political education officer, and also serves as a fellow county councillor, representing Denton Holme.

“It shouldn’t be a crime to express socialist views within a party that came out of the trade union movement and which is a voice for working people,” she said.

“We need people with Alan’s experience and insight in the Labour Party more than ever as we face the cost-of-living crisis.”

Retired trade union official Peter Doyle, who was a policy officer with the Penrith and the Border branch, said: “Alan was elected as a Labour councillor by the people of Carlisle and he has an unblemished career as a union official for Unite.

“He was a party member for 48 years.

“There has been an anonymous complaint against him, and an anonymous bureaucratic process investigating him. There was no dialogue with Alan or with the local party members, or the county council Labour Group.

“This is a disgraceful witch hunt.”

The former executive committee members stress that they will remain as members of the Labour Party to continue their grassroots political work. 

Former branch secretary Danny Smith said: ‘We will continue our campaigning and grassroots work to support our local community, and to speak out against the direction of travel the Tories are taking us in.

“However, the concerns of toxic culture identified within the Forde Report is only being compounded by this expulsion. We are still here for our community, but under the current environment we feel our time and energy is best spent organising outside of any official roles, as doing so in them seems untenable.”

The Cumberland News contacted the Labour Party for a comment but at the time of going to press no response was provided.

Lord Roger Liddle, a Labour peer and Cumbria county councillor, said that while he could not comment on the grounds for Mr McGuckin's expulsion, and while he had not always agreed with with him, he found him a "perfectly civilised colleage" to work with.

But the peer added: "In the post-Corbyn era, we have established a proper and independent process for dealing with these disciplinary matters. The part has established these processes and I have confidence in them."

Read more: Veteran Carlisle councillor in Labour 'witch-hunt' claims

And: Revealed - The social media posts which led to the expulsion of Labour Party stalwart

You can read the full text of the group’s resignation letter below.


To Whom It May Concern


It is with great disappointment that Penrith and the Border Constituency Party has learned of the expulsion of long-standing member, activist, and Cumbria County councillor, Alan McGuckin from the Labour Party. This expulsion, among the recommencement of factionalist exclusion of members, is demonstrative of an unnecessary recommitment to the “toxic culture” described within the findings of the Forde Report (referred to herewith as ‘FR’) (C1.35). At a time when the working class is bearing the brunt of a deepening cost-of-living crisis, when Labour - a democratic socialist party by definition - must embody the most steadfast opposition to the violence of the Tory Party, we find that resources of the Party are being utilised frivolously to investigate and exclude experienced, hard-working councillors and members instead (Sec. E, p.101). These expressed concerns are entirely warranted and are supported by the Labour Party Rule Book and by the findings of the Forde Report, commissioned by the Party,[1] that remains unacknowledged, unaddressed, and unacceptably, unacted upon. 

  The FR has revealed the intensification of a hostile “mono culture” within the Party, wherein deeply entrenched factionalism (p.101) created a toxic atmosphere that actively harmed the Party. Left members and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership were treated with suspicion, deep animosity and profound disrespect by senior role holders, through factional resource allocation and strategy, pages of documented vitriol, and by the disciplinary procedure, that was found to be “not fit for purpose”(C1.9, p.29; p.35; p.7, C4.23, p.92). Party staff, who have an obligation within their roles to maintain “perfect neutrality” (C1.8) steadily and flagrantly departed from this requirement for the disseminated belief that the Party needed to be ‘saved’ from the Left (C2.26, p.44). Left MPs were not afforded technical assistance for online abuse directed towards them, as centre and Right MPs had been. Members and potential selection candidates were subjected to a search tool ‘validation process’ whereby the report found factional decisions made by GLU staff played a substantial role in implementing the objective which was of the direct intent to “remove ballots from individuals who would otherwise have voted for Jeremy Corbyn” (C2.25). Further, the report stated it does not seem “credible to suggest that the exercise (in particular the social media component) was not targeted at applicants and members on the Left” (C2.25). The FR, agreeing with Kerslake Review, stated that a “culture of factionalism and bad behaviour has become embedded in the organization” (p.5 quoted in FR, E3.4, p.104). The NEC Codes of Conduct explicitly states that all codes of conduct and NEC statements form part of the “agreed relationship between individual Labour Party members”, which would also include those in positions of power (LPRB, p.124). Labour, as a broad church, requires a genuine mutual endeavour relationship – and that requires a foundation of respect - this, as the FR states, was found “lacking” (C1.36). 

Meanwhile, complaints ranging from homophobia and discrimination to sexism/misogyny, anti-disability as well as many forms of racism(s) (p.81) from staff were left unaddressed and allowed to “fester”. This contributed to the feeling that specific problems were only dealt with when it was “politically expedient and/or essential” (C6.9, p.82). We note in particular in the findings of the FR that,  

“Working for the Party, with the aims and values to which it lays claim, should be a collective endeavour; there will always be disagreements about policy or strategy, but we would have expected them to be dealt with in a comradely – or at least respectful – manner and in an environment which permitted healthy debate. Instead – in a period we are considering – we have been shocked to find the existence of a toxic atmosphere, which appears to have been fueled by an entrenched factionalism, but also by some worrying discriminatory attitudes including racism and sexism exhibited amongst some senior staff” (p.101). 

Members’ complaints, filed within the Party procedure at a regional level, have gone unanswered e.g. most recently a point of order raised at North Regional Conference 2022 regarding the treatment of the BAME network. A quantitative examination should be utilised to determine the extent and consequence of staff hours which were drawn away from attending to complaints of protected equalities, and redirected to target the Left.  

Additionally, it cannot be ignored that AM raised a point of order at the same Regional Conference, specifically speaking against factionalist behaviour regarding ballots for the Regional Executive Committee elections. The timing of AM’s investigation, incl. the inconsistency of reasons for being investigated, is notable.  

We have considered the timings of AM’s investigations in the light of comments in the FR regarding implications for individual members of the Rules approved at the 2021 National Conference, in relation to the Proscribed Acts and Prohibited Acts, 

“…We do have continuing concerns – in particular, in relation to the use of lengthy administrative suspensions and sanctions on individual members deemed to have supported newly proscribed organisations” (p.92). 

With regards to the NEC, the FR conceded the committee’s ability to utilise its “absolute discretion” to designate an organisation at odds with the aims and values of the Party, and maintains the power to terminate membership of those who support any such organisation. However, the FR points out how “support” is also freely able to be defined by the NEC, in its ‘absolute discretion’, pressing that the criteria “and process for so designating organisations (sic), along with the boundaries of the definition of ‘support’ must be fair and transparent (D2.44, p.98). 

“Our investigations reveal that not only were successive systems unfit for purpose and susceptible to factional interference, and manipulation, but that the importance of a transparent, consistent and fair disciplinary process was not regarded as fundamental to the effective management of the Party and its membership, as it should have been” (D2.39, p.98-D2.46, p.99). These systems must operate transparently, within “published guidelines”, and “neutrally” (sic) (C2.28). 

It is logical and absolutely within our rights as members to scrutinize and compare the findings of the FR to the current events taking place. It would be unethical, immoral, and additionally harmful to the Party and our fellow members to disregard the evidence for the ways in which this toxic culture has been allowed to continue in such a manner, as investigated within the FR. This expulsion and these events are not isolated, nor unrelated and will only be dealt with by graceful recognition, reflection, and accountability. This sentiment is echoed many a time over within the report in its recommendations: “Cultural growth, including the skill of deep listening, acceptance of differing traditions with the Party as legitimate, and compassion, need to be led and demonstrated by the leadership of the Party.” (p. 102). 

 “For a Party which seeks to be a standard bearer of progressive politics, equality, and workers’ rights, this is an untenable situation. The Party must live by its values and lead by example” (p. 81).  

Factionalist expulsions are detrimental to comradery of the membership, to the vitality of the campaign efforts, and to the entirety of trust of the Party. These will only serve to further disengage members, and undoubtedly, many more will leave the Party. We, within Penrith and the Border CLP, are committed socialists to the cause of Labour and have demonstrated that time over by the contribution of time, labour, energy, support efforts and finances – not only to our CLP but to the surrounding CLPs and across the North as a whole. Consequently, this has damaged the reputation of a long-standing socialist, AM – and therefore has damaged the trust of the members listed here below. 

 It is with immediate effect that the following officers from the executive at Penrith and the Border CLP resign our posts and withdraw our labour in protest of the reprehensible treatment of AM on such unsubstantiated and capricious grounds. We send solidarity to AM and to the others treated in the same manner by their own party. We cannot accept such spurious grounds for expulsion of a man who has dedicated his adult life to the party and trade unions. We are obliged to demonstrate loyalty to a member who we have campaigned alongside for many years. As members who feel we should act with integrity, compassion, honesty and solidarity, we have no choice but to protest at this truly absurd expulsion by resigning our officer roles.  

We request that you examine the case of AM and support his appeal against this expulsion, for the reasons detailed above.  





Jamie Penquite-Green, former Chair, and LGBTQ Co-ordinator 

Danny Smith, former Secretary and IT Co-ordinator 

Nicola Hawkins, former Vice Chair 

Hilary Barker, former Vice Chair (Membership) and Disabilities Co-ordinator 

Karen Lockney, former Political Education Officer, Cumbria County Councillor  

Hilary Snell, former Women’s Officer 

Dave Knaggs, former Communication and Social Media Officer 

Jonny Alvarez-Buylla, former Youth Co-ordinator 

Peter Doyle, former Policy Officer 

Chris Coulthard, former Auditor 


[1] https://www.fordeinquiry.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/The-Forde-Inquiry-Terms-of-Reference-4.pdf