Lucy Whitehouse
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Labour expelled me from the party - for supporting women's rights

The Women's Equality Party deliberately leaves affiliate membership open to members of other parties.

There are many things incompatible with the Labour party’s aims. As such, if you want to be a member, there’s a number of political missteps to avoid.

For example, if you find yourself cackling merrily at white supremacist posts on social media, or handcrafting homophobic slogan t-shirts for when you pop to the shops, or slipping out for a skinny dip to celebrate the Ukip conference, Labour might not be for you. Hate speech, abuse, fraud, violence, failing to pay your membership fee or supporting incompatible groups - these are the things for which you might, quite reasonably, be kicked out. Last week, though, I was expelled for supporting women’s rights.

Now, yes, the list of things at odds with our largest left-wing political organisation is understandably lengthy, but being an affiliate of the Women’s Equality Party (WEP), as I am, should not be one of them. The WEP is non-partisan political party that aims to work collaboratively across the political spectrum to further women’s rights and move towards greater equality. They advocate for things like shared parental leaveadequate sex education and properly funded domestic abuse services. Being an affiliate - not a full member - of the WEP simply shows your support for those aims.

It doesn’t indicate you’d necessarily vote for them in any election where their candidates are up against Labour’s. It doesn’t suggest you oppose any policy put forward by Labour. It doesn’t mean you’d give your time, efforts and energy to the WEP over Labour. But being an affiliate of the WEP (affiliate membership is deliberately open to members of other parties so that those members can advocate for WEP aims within major parties) is apparently cause enough for Labour to ban me.

I suppose it’s possible that when Labour says “by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone”, I’m completely mishearing it as a call for collaborative politics to work towards the society we want to live in. I do have fluid in my middle ear. Then again, it’s written unambiguously in clause IV of their constitution, which is also printed on every membership card. Labour aims, it claims, to create a society “where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.” Yet, as a young woman who cares about women's rights, keen to be involved in the democratic process and political life of this country, I have been silenced and ejected. How can Labour possibly square these clearly opposed realities?

The anniversary of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership win dawned last week, and with it arrived a bureaucratically cold letter signed by Labour’s General Secretary Iain McNicol. Since I “support a political organisation other than an official Labour Group or unit of the party”, I am “ineligible to remain a member of the Labour Party”. The slippery euphemisms (let’s call an expulsion an expulsion) and autocratic aloofness of this communication weren’t the most uncomfortable elements; more concerning was its Gestapo-style opener. “It has been brought to our attention with supporting evidence that you are a member of the Women's Equality Party.”

Putting aside for a moment the discussion of how appropriate it is to kick someone out for this reason, what they were thinking wording it this way? What kind of informant network are they running, and why? What is this undisclosed evidence, and why would anyone able to access it be vindictive or panicked enough to want to oust me for supporting the WEP?

On top of the dogged devotion to due process at play here, farcical but with disquietingly threatening undertones, the gender politics of making women choose between Labour and an organisation explicitly promoting their interests are curious, to say the least. Because it’s not just me they’ve taken umbrage with for supporting women’s rights: a host of bright-eyed, enthusiastic would-be supporters of both groups have had the bright red Labour door slammed in their faces, according to the WEP. One 18-year-old applied to become a supporter of the Labour party - not a full member, and wanting just, I imagine, to register herself as firmly akin with their aims and to offer her willing, valuable support - only to be rejected for having merely liked the WEP on Facebook. Even with the rule book ostensibly there to fall back on, this is patently absurd, exclusionary and unfair.

The Labour party is keen to make sure anyone voting in this week’s leadership election is a legitimate Labour player, fair enough. Making sure members are there because they legitimately want to see the party elected so it can carry out its aims is definitely reasonable. But any notion of WEP "entryism" is just ridiculous - people like us aren’t some conspiracy to be stamped out. The WEP, with its crucial aims that Labour surely shares and its consciously collaborative way of operating, isn’t a threat to Labour, but an ally. It’s a real shame Labour has chosen to plug member-backed resources into this misjudged attempt to reduce the ever more complex modern political landscape to some base tribal battlefield. While it attempts desperately to ram a genie back into a bottle that has long since broken, the world watches on, unimpressed and in disbelief. Politics isn’t football, loyalty should be much more complicated than "either with us or against us".

Society, politics and parliament need bright young women like my fellow WEP supporters who have been rejected and banned by the Labour party. Any glance at representation levels in the House of Commons will tell you that (tackling this issue, incidentally, is a WEP policy). Labour's national women’s conference is this weekend; having excitedly bought a ticket months ago, I’m now not allowed to attend. I’ve been shut out from even responding to the expulsion for five years, according to the letter I’ve received, until the National Executive Committee (NEC) reconvenes and they consider any applications from people like me. As a young person, that’s the equivalent of a fifth of my life so far that Labour have decided I’m ineligible to be part of their movement - huge. It all makes especially galling the repeated (and ridiculous) claim that Corbyn’s administration is putting women off politics, when the party’s own NEC are actively closing the door to any kind of access to the Labour party to young women for supporting women’s rights.

The most incomprehensible and weird part of it all, is this doesn’t mean saving Labour. Not by any metric, to any end. This purge, unless they descend to some truly darkly undemocratic depths in the coming few days, is going to have no impact on the fact Jeremy Corbyn is, almost certainly, about to be chosen again by Labour members to lead them. Come Saturday, the Labour party will have alienated a whole host of people for nothing. Its website states that the party welcomes “anyone with an interest in building a better Britain”. Hi guys, that’s me and the rest of the WEP supporters you’ve ejected and barred. “There’s a common goal,” it continues: “ensuring the party remains open and democratic and help maintain contact between the party, the people and the government".

Thanks for your letter, Mr McNicol, but there seems to be some mistake.

Lucy Whitehouse is a journalist and editor. She is a political activist, particularly concerned with women's rights.​

Spudgun67 via Creative Commons/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
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It might be a pseudo science, but students take the threat of eugenics seriously

Today’s white nationalists and neo-Nazis make extensive use of racist pseudo-science to bolster their political arguments.

In January, the London Student published my investigation, which showed that the controversial columnist Toby Young attended the London Conference on Intelligence, secretly held at University College London. Shortly afterwards, I mentioned to someone in a pub smoking area that I go to UCL. “Did you hear about the eugenics conference?” he asked me.

He was an international student from Africa. “I applied to UCL partly because I thought it was safer than other universities, but now I’m not so sure. I worry about how many other professors hold the same opinions.”

A protest outside the UCL Provost’s office after the article was published attracted scores of students. “I have a right to come to university and not fear for my safety,” one told the crowd, exasperated. “Nothing has been done, and that’s what really scares me.”

While hecklers derided the protest as an overreaction, students have good reason for taking eugenics seriously. UCL has a long history of support for scientific racism, beginning with Francis Galton, the Victorian polymath who, among other achievements, founded the science of eugenics. UCL’s Galton Chair in National Eugenics, which survived under that name until 1996, was first held by Karl Pearson, another ardent racial eugenicist. Pearson talked about creating a nation from “the better stocks” while conducting war with the “inferior races”, and in 1925 co-authored an article published in the Annals of Eugenics warning of the dangers of allowing Russian and Polish Jewish children into Britain. The London Conference on Intelligence was held in a building named in Pearson’s honour.

Eugenics is most closely associated in the popular imagination with fascism, and the twisted ideology of the Nazi party. Yet racial eugenics was closely linked to wider European imperialism, as illustrated by one object in the Galton collection, contributed by Pearson. Dr. Eugene Fischer’s hair colour scale is a selection of 30 different synthetic hair varieties in a tin box, a continuous scale from European to African. Fischer’s work was used in the early 20th century by Germany to ascertain the whiteness of Namibia’s mixed-race population, even before it was used by the Nazis to design the Nuremburg Laws. In apartheid South Africa, Afrikaans researchers used his tools as late as the 1960s.

Its importance to the imperial project meant that eugenics enjoyed widespread support in British scientific and political establishments. Galton’s Eugenics Society, set up to spread eugenicist ideas and push for eugenic policies, had branches in Birmingham, Liverpool, Cambridge, Manchester, Southampton and Glasgow, drawing hundreds of academics to their meetings. It was a movement of the educated middle class, including leading progressives such as John Maynard Keynes, Marie Stopes and the Fabians. Society presidents hailed from the universities of Edinburgh, Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, and UCL.

With this history in mind, it is easier to understand why students take the UCL eugenics scandal so seriously. Science journalist Angela Saini, who has been researching the history of race science for her upcoming book, argues that the problem lies in the co-opting of pseudoscience for political purposes. “These people are on the fringes, they’re not respected in mainstream academia,” she says. “The problem is when people like Toby Young come in from outside and use these studies to promote their own political agenda.” (Young said he attended the conference purely for research).

The rise of the far-right in Europe and America also means that the tolerance afforded to racist pseudoscience is not a purely academic question. Today’s white nationalists and neo-Nazis make extensive use of racist pseudoscience to bolster their political arguments.

Our investigation into the London Conference on Intelligence uncovered the involvement of at least 40 academics from at least 29 different universities in 15 different countries. Among these was the Oxford academic Noah Carl, a postdoctoral researcher in the social sciences at Nuffield College, who has spoken twice at the London Conference on Intelligence. Carl has also written several papers for Emil Kirkegaard’s OpenPsych, which include two looking at whether larger Muslim populations make Islamist terrorism more likely, and one suggesting that British stereotypes towards immigrants are “largely accurate”.

One external reviewer responded to the last paper by stating that: “It is never OK to publish research this bad, even in an inconsequential online journal.” Nevertheless, the paper was featured by conservative US website The Daily Caller, under a picture of Nigel Farage’s “Breaking Point” poster. The far right European Free West Media cited the paper to claim that “criminal elements are represented by certain ethnic groups”, and on the blog of a far-right French presidential candidate under the headline “Study validates prejudices”. It even ended up on InfoWars, one of the most popular news websites in the USA, and can be found circulating on far-right corners of Reddit. The fact that Carl is linked to Oxford University was mentioned frequently in the coverage, providing legitimacy to the political opinions presented.

Another contributor to the London Conference on Intelligence was Adam Perkins of King’s College London, whose book The Welfare Trait proposed that “aggressive, rule-breaking and anti-social personality characteristics” can be “bred out” of society by reducing child support for those on the lowest incomes. Perkins actively engaged with far-right media outlets in promoting his book, appearing in hour-long interviews with Stefan Molyneux and Tara McCarthy. Molyneux doesn’t “view humanity as a single species because we are not all the same”, and argues that “ordinary Africans were better off under colonialism”. McCarthy was banned from YouTube for alleging a conspiracy to commit “white genocide”, and supports deporting naturalised citizens and “killing them if they resist”. Perkins himself attracted criticism last year for tweeting, alongside data from Kirkegaard, that Trump’s Muslim ban “makes sense in human capital terms”.

Perkins is not the first KCL academic to use his platform to promote contested science in the far-right press. In the 1980s, the Pioneer Fund supported the work of Hans Eysenck, whose work has been credited by his biographer with helping to “revive the confidence” of “right-wing racialist groups” such as the National Front by providing an “unexpected vindication from a respectable scientific quarter”. The original mandate of the Pioneer Fund was the pursuit of “race betterment”; it is considered a hate group by the US civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Center. KCL did not respond to a request for comment.

An association with a high profile university can help bigots to legitimise their beliefs, but the infiltration of mainstream academia by eugenicists is even more complex than this.

After we exposed his involvement with eugenicists, Toby Young pointed out that the conference at which he actually spoke, that of the International Society for Intelligence Research (ISIR), was “super-respectable” and attended by “numerous world-renowned academics”.

He is entirely correct. The ISIR is home to many great scientists, and its journal Intelligence is one of the most respected in its field. Yet Richard Lynn, who has called for the “phasing out” of the “populations of incompetent cultures”, serves on the editorial board of Intelligence, along with fellow director of the Pioneer Fund Gerhard Meisenberg, who edits Lynn’s journal Mankind Quarterly. Two other board members are Heiner Rindermann and Jan te Nijenhuis, frequent contributors to Mankind Quarterly and the London Conference on Intelligence. Rindermann, James Thompson, Michael Woodley of Menie and Aurelio Figueredo, all heavily implicated in the London Conference on Intelligencehelped to organise recent ISIR conferences. Linda Gottfredson, a Pioneer Fund grantee and former president of the ISIR, famously authored a letter in the Wall Street Journal defending Charles Murray’s assertion that black people are genetically disposed to an average IQ of “around 85”, compared to 100 for whites.

The tolerance afforded to eugenicists threatens the reputation of respectable scientists. Stephen Pinker, the world-renowned cognitive psychologist, spoke at last year’s ISIR conference. Another speaker at the conference, however, was the aforementioned Emil Kirkegaard, a “self-taught” eugenicist who has written a “thought experiment” which discusses whether raping a drugged child could be defended, and whose research into OKCupid made international headlines for its “grossly unprofessional, unethical and reprehensible” use of personal data.

Saini spoke to Richard Haier, editor-in-chief of Intelligence, about the involvement of Lynn and Meisenberg. “He defended their involvement on the basis of academic freedom,” she recalled. “He said he’d prefer to let the papers and data speak for themselves.”

Publishing well-researched papers that happen to be written by eugenicists is one thing, but putting them in positions of editorial control is quite another. “Having researched Lynn and Meisenberg, I fail to understand how Intelligence can justify having these two on the editorial board,” Saini said. “I find that very difficult to understand. Academic freedom does not require that these people are given any more space than their research demands – which for a discredited idea like racial eugenics is frankly minuscule.” I contacted the ISIR but at time of publishing had received no response.

UCL has published several statements about the London Conference on Intelligence since my investigation. In the latest, released on 18 January 2018, the university said it hoped to finish an investigation within weeks. It said it did not and had not endorsed the conference, and had formally complained to YouTube about the use of a doctored UCL logo on videos posted online. UCL’s President described eugenics as “complete nonsense” and added: “I am appalled by the concept of white supremacy and will not tolerate anything on campus that incites racial hatred or violence.” UCL management has also agreed to engage with students concerned about buildings being named after eugenicists.

UCL’s statement also stressed its obligation “to protect free speech on campus, within the law, even if the views expressed are inconsistent with the values and views of UCL”.

Yet there is a direct link between the tolerance of eugenicists in academia and the political rise of the far-right. Journals and universities that allow their reputations to be used to launder or legitimate racist pseudo-science bear responsibility when that pseudo-science is used for political ends. As one UCL student put it: “This is not about freedom of speech – all violence begins with ideas. We feel threatened, and we want answers.”

Ben van der Merwe is a student journalist.