I had reason to have another look at the Chakrabarti report, you can imagine why. It saddens me deeply, that a such a well thought out & evidenced response to the allegations of antisemitic behaviour has not become the benchmark by which the Labour Party judges itself.

When I first read this, to me the implied allegation that the disciplinary process was unsafe because of the lack of professional legal time and latterly the exposure of the fact that the NCC (Judges & Jury) received little or no independent legal advice from the prosecution seemed to me to be possible the most important finding. After the last week, I am of the view that the gentle yet robust definition of unacceptable behaviour in terms of racism and the Party’s response is equally if not more important

However, for various reasons[1] the then NEC, decided not to bring the recommendations to conference in 2016. This was recognised as a partial mistake by both sides of the argument i.e. those that wanted harsher rules and those who wanted vanilla Chakrabarti since the rules were changed at Conference 17 to delete the “free speech” defence which would have previously prohibited disciplinary actions against any racists or misogynists. Successful prosecutions will remain difficult as the decisions to “do” Livingstone & Greenstein on “bringing the party into disrepute” and not on antisemitism or use of abusive language in the case of Greenstein prove because, despite having changed its rules at Conference 2017 any decisions are still potentially subject to judicial review.

We i.e. the Labour Party badly need the rest of the Chakrabarti Inquiry recommendations to offer certainty around behavioural acceptability, ensure proportionality in terms of penalty and guarantee a fair trial if things require it. In this, the intra-party sectarian delay, has served it poorly.

The benchmark by which we i.e. Labour judge ourselves should be the Chakrabarti report, not the IHRA definition.

ooOOOoo

In this case, there is more to read …..

Motive

Chakrabarti touches on motivation in her section on complaints, she makes the point that some complaints may be politically motivated,

“I am not going so far to say that a politically motivated complaint should always be disregarded, …

This implies they sometimes should be.

Lawyers

Chakrabarti stated that the lack of legal knowledge[2] exercised within Labour’s disciplinary process is a problem,

“…… testimony to my Inquiry reveals the sheer inadequacy of the in-house [legal] resources in an organisation understandably primarily equipped for political campaigning rather than due process, whether at regional or national level.

Whilst I understand the continuing need to engage a number of varying private practice lawyers to advise on various compliance and other legal issues, it is vital in my view, that there is internal legal expertise, not least to give urgent advice, achieve consistency and take responsibility for instructing a range of external lawyers (thus avoiding either favouritism or capture)

She does not speak of a Lawyer’s professional ethics, enforced by their professional associations.

The recommendations

In the final two pages of the report she summarised her recommendations which I reproduce below.

R1-7 relate to the definition of acts of racist speech, and the need to be better than others (see R6), by ensuring that, “Freedom of Expression rights” cannot be used as a defence for actions that contravene our collectively defined values. R8-14 relate to process, and the remaining recommendations might be called miscellaneous, dealing with Policy, Education & Training, ensuring all members have access to the rules (see also http://davelevy.info/rules-4/) , special measures[3] and employing more staff from ethnic minority backgrounds.

In the report, Chakrabarti says,

“To recap my key recommendations are as follows:

  1. Epithets such as “Paki”, “Zio” and others should have no place in Labour Party discourse going forward[4].
  2. Critical and abusive reference to any particular person or group based on actual or perceived physical characteristics cannot be tolerated.
  3. Racial or religious tropes and stereotypes about any group of people should have no place in our modern Labour Party.
  4. Labour members should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular.
  5. Excuse for, denial, approval or minimisation of the Holocaust and attempts to blur responsibility for it have no place in the Labour Party.
  6. Beliefs out-with the Labour Party’s values are not to be protected when considering whether a member has acted in a way which is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the party.
  7. The Code of Conduct approved in May 2016 should be amended so as to comprehensively rule out all forms of prejudice, but in the light of this and the guidance in my Report, I do not find other substantive (as opposed to procedural) rule changes to be strictly necessary.
  8. I recommend procedural rule changes (a draft is annexed to this Report) to improve the Party’s disciplinary process (as well as a wider review of the relevant provisions of the rules and procedural guidelines in the light of those recommendations) and the adoption and publication of a complaints procedure.
  9. I recommend the appointment of a General Counsel to the Labour Party and additional and appropriately expert staff.
  10. I recommend that the power of interim suspension be vested in the NCC and give guidance as to how it might be exercised more proportionately[5].
  11. I recommend the appointment of a Legal Panel of volunteer lawyers of standing so as to assist the NCC in its functions and to provide a review on procedural and proportionality grounds in cases of suspension or expulsion from the Party.
  12. I recommend consideration of a greater range of NCC sanctions short of suspension and expulsion.
  13. I do not recommend lifetime bans from the Labour Party and recommend time limits[6] on the bringing of disciplinary charges.
  14. Once my Report is disseminated and so as to give members an opportunity to be guided by it, I recommend a moratorium on triggering new investigations into matters of relevant language and conduct arising before publication. This in no way effects investigations and disciplinary proceedings already in train.
  15. I recommend the formation of an NEC working group into comprehensive education and training needs across the Party with a view to partnership with Trade Unions and Higher Education providers. Staff and members involved in the new disciplinary process should receive appropriate training.
  16. I recommend a review of the Party’s Equal Opportunities Policies with a view to adopting an over-arching Equal Opportunities Policy.
  17. I recommend better dissemination and explanation of the Party’s Rule Book.
  18. I recommend that the NEC gives urgent attention to any parts of the country that have been under “special measures” for more than six months.
  19. I recommend that no part of the Party should be subject to “special measures” for more than six months without NEC review of that decision. Further the NEC must provide a plan as to how the local party is to improve its practice and return to full democratic rights within the Party.
  20. The Party should increase the ethnic diversity of its staff.

[1] The NEC had a Progress/Labour First majority and part of the delay seems to have been in order to buy time to try and install a definition of anti-semitism that prohibited criticism of Israel.

[2] Lawyers are also bound to a code of ethics, enforced by their professional associations. I also discuss the need to keep legal & compliance as separate accountabilities http://davelevy.info/compliance/

[3] The NEC has the power to run CLPs in certain circumstances, this is referred to “special measures”.

[4] She says about the word Zionist, “My advice to critics of the Israeli State and/or Government is to use the term “Zionist” advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse.”

[5] This would exclude indefinite expulsion, see below R13, Chakrabarti argues its disproportionate, and I argue that it fails to allow for contrition and changing one’s mind.

[6] Two Years

Image Credit: The picture has been taken from the New Statesman, it has been cropped; the copy on this site is for performance and caching purposes.

On the Chakrabarti Inquiry
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