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Is Labour purging supporters of Jeremy Corbyn?

What is the science behind getting kicked out of Labour's leadership process?

Labour has just kicked off its first big wave of expulsions, purging many voters from the party’s leadership rolls. Twitter is ablaze with activists who believe they have been kicked out because they are supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. There are, I'm told, more expulsions to come - what's going on?  Is Labour purging its rolls of Corbyn supporters?

The short answer is “No”. Any conversation about Labour’s headquarters has to begin with the understanding that the party has little money and fewer staff – many left after the general election, either because their contracts expired, their bosses were defeated or because they were recruited by one of the leadership campaigns. The party has neither the personnel or the resources for a genuinely exhaustive search through the social media profiles of every would-be-joiner.

So what does Labour's the party's plan to ensure a "clean" leadership ballot, dubbed "Operation Icepick" by outsiders, actually involve? The doomsday scenario at headquarters isn't a Corbyn victory - all but one or two of the party's staff believe that is inevitable - but a legal challenge following a close Corbyn victory. 

So every member of staff still at Brewers' Green has been drafted in to assist. What does the cleansing of the rolls look like?

The party has a large backlog of emails from local party chairs and individual members reporting what they believe to be voters and members who ought to be barred from the leadership. The reasons range from the clear-cut – Marcus Chown, who has been expelled today, is on the ruling executive of the National Health Action party – to the ridiculous – one member was reported for failing to attend the CLP barbecue, in a complaint that has not been upheld but at this stage in the process, all that happens is that staffers gather the evidence, and pass it up the NEC, who ultimately decides whether or not to expel voters from the rolls. (Liking or following another political party on Facebook is not grounds for dismissal –  tweeting or posting about joining another political party after the election is.)

The party has also compiled a large – but not exhaustive – list of candidates, both for Westminster and the 2015 local elections, and their supporting nominations. Celebrities who have raised money for the party’s opponents – like Jeremy Hardy or Mark Steel – have also been listed.

As one staffer reflected, the problem is that “We sell Labour membership as being about values and let people forget that they have to sign up to the aims too”. All but a vanishingly small number of Labour’s new recruits are not Conservatives out to do the party harm – like Tim Loughton, the children’s minister, or the right-wing commentator Toby Young – but people who share the party’s views and outlook.

It’s not their support for the old Clause IV, but their opposition to Clause I – the election of a parliamentary Labour party against all opposition, even the likes of Caroline Lucas and Sandi Toksvig’s Women’s Equality Party – that is causing the trouble.

But there is still the potential for huge unfairness in the system. A young activist who tweets about joining the Women’s Equality Party will almost certainly be expelled. But a member of the Conservatives or Green party joining in a near-moribund local party in a Conservative stronghold – East Surrey, say, or Beaconsfield – perhaps older in years, unlikely to be on Twitter, with a Facebook restricted to say, 50 or so of their friends, will get through.

Ultimately, the operation is not going to prevent Corbyn becoming leader – and that there will be less Greens, Conservative, Ukip councillors and the rest voting will strengthen his mandate.

But the big underlying problem is the culture clash within the Labour party: not between left and right, but between those who recognise that as party membership continues its longterm decline, and voters shop around more and more, its old model, predicated on absolute loyalty, won’t provide it with the influx of talent or new ideas it will need to survive in the coming decades.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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