While considering my response to the leaking of the General Secretary’s investigation into the activities of its senior management and its compliance department in conducting investigations into complaints about anti-semitic behaviour I had cause to consider the Party’s reaction to these complaints. It would be hard to say that collectively it had ignored them although reasons for the delay in asking Conference to change the rules should be determined. Pursued by the press, Labour’s membership and NEC have rightly fought to ensure there is no place for antisemitism in the Party, they have launched two enquiries, issued two or three codes of conduct, and changed the disciplinary rules three times. This blog article was originally part of another, but that article became too long; the remainder of this article (overleaf/below) looks at the Inquiries and rule changes undertaken to fight antisemitism within the Party and concludes with the thought, that I wonder where the original good will & unity of purpose went.

After the original stories about antisemitism and its alleged weaponisation in Oxford Labour Students and NOLS, the NEC commissioned a report by Baroness Royall, which, to my mind, found little; Corbyn commissioned a report by Shami Chakrabarti which made a number of suggestions of guidance and also proposed changing the rules, proposing the abolition of the absolute free speech defence. McNicol’s NEC failed to bring these rule changes to #lab16 and in the tradition of the Labour Party in playing the player not the ball, a campaign was launched to denigrate Shami Chakrabarti. Despite this, the NEC brought rule changes to Conference for the following three years. (2017 – 2019).

The 2017 amendment removed the free speech defence, the 2018 amendment made breach of codes of conduct disciplinary offences and gave the GS powers to delegate their authority to people other than staff, the idea being to broaden the legal expertise available but the fear was that this would subvert protections given by the rules to the accused by diminishing the concept of a trial by one’s peers and the presumption of innocence. 2018 also increased the number of members of the NCC to increase the speed of the process and to give the membership the power to change the membership and majority of the NCC as there were many in the Party who felt that the then NCC was insufficiently independent of the GS and the previous leadership. In 2019, for cases of antisemitism, and other -isms, the NEC was given the power to decide on the disciplinary penalties without the accused being able to present a defence and the NCC made an appeal body, finally implementing Chakrabarti’s recommendation that disciplinary penalties should be subject to an appeal process. The rule is designed to ensure the NCC only permits appeal on the grounds of illegal or ultra-vires processes, but appeals can be lodged on the grounds that the evidence does not reasonably support the determined sanction. All this ignores Chakrabarti’s advice that penalties should be broadened with the options for more lenient penalties other than expulsion, including training and apology. The 2019 rule change introduced an antisemitism “fast track” process, in fact a process open to all complaints of prejudice and harassment. It had the effect of making the GS (or the Director of GLU), the sole decision maker on prosecutions, while the NEC acts as the judge and jury’. The NCC becomes a court of appeal, designed to be restricted to questions of procedure although appeals can also be lodged on the grounds that the evidence does not reasonably support the determined sanction and that there is no reasonable need for witness evidence.

It is my opnion that all these changes weaken the presumption of innocence.

No-one has been expelled for antisemitism; they have been expelled for actions in the opinion of the NEC are ‘prejudicial, or .. [an] act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party’ and now, we have developed the precedent that a breach of a code on, say, Racism or Social Media use can be seen as an act ‘prejudicial’. The difficulty in obtaining expulsions on the grounds of antisemitism, due to the fear of judicial review has led to the LGU defining prejudicial behaviour as behaviour in breach of codes as it weakens Labour’s campaigning ability. If this were reasonable, then the mass lodging of false complaints should also be prejudicial conduct.

The effect of all this is that the segregation of powers where the Conference defines the rules and thus unacceptable behaviour, the GS investigates, the NEC decides to prosecute and the NCC decides has been weakened. The NEC writes the Codes, and now decides on guilt and sanctions. We now have evidence that the investigation process has been corrupted over the last four years. This is not a process that we would permit in our judicial system.

Further evidence of a failure to act against antisemitism and to build controls on the Secretariat are shown by the fact that the Royall Enquiry stated amongst its recommendations,

“That there is a standing report to each meeting of the NEC Equalities Committee, and the NEC Disputes Panel, of any complaints and the action taken. “

This was not acted upon. Why not?

She also recommended,

That new procedures for the selection of local government and national candidates must include more rigorous vetting procedures. It is noted that volunteers manage many elections and the procedures must be appropriate for the task in hand.

No form of antisemitism or racism is acceptable, including being used as a factional political tool.

It seems our first instincts were good; I wonder where this went?

Anti-semitism, what the Party has done?
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4 thoughts on “Anti-semitism, what the Party has done?

  • 23rd November 2020 at 12:29 pm

    On the 1st July 2020, I posted, elesewhere on this blog, a correction to my assertion that NCC appeals from the then new NEC fast track can only be on procedural grounds, this is called Point of Order and highlights that appeals can be lodged on the grounds that the evidence does not reasonably support the determined sanction.

  • 26th November 2020 at 10:58 am

    A scale of sanctions was written into the rules in 2019 again, finally implementing Chakrabarti’s recommendations.

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