Labour’s new disciplinary processes

judges gavel

An article by Martin Thomas, based on an interview by me on Labour’s response to the EHRC report and new disciplinary processes. I say, an interesting use of the word independent, and a destruction of the principle of an independent appeal. The investment of yet more powers in a clearly factional and incompetent General Secretary is also in my opinion a mistake. See also Labour and antisemitism, some thoughts which has stood the test of time well. …

More on Labour’s disciplinary rules

I made a critique of Labour’s response to the EHRC report, which has been published in Solidarity. It talks about Free Speech, a lack of process, failure to meet Article 6’s definition a fair trial and makes a series of proposals as to how to introduce a fair process. The article proposes a segregation of duties within the disciplinary process, subordination to the European Convention on Human Rights, covers the role and accountability of the complaints department and General Secretary, suggests the need for a policy on investigations and ‘prosecutions’ , notes a duty to alleged perpetrators and victims, proposes the need to appropriately manage sanctions, the role and power of the General Secretary and the need for an Ombudsman.  …

Total Rewrite

judges gavel

I am writing something else about a positive response for the Labour Party to the EHRC’s excoriating report on the Party’s disciplinary process. Unlike many I consider the lack of process and the lack of process controls to be the worst finding, I think that the EHRC has failed to balance Human Rights vs. Equalities law but the Labour Party’s disciplinary process needs to be reformed because it’s dreadful on every dimension. I propose to say,

The Labour Party needs to rewrite its disciplinary code, embedding Article 6, together with the principles of natural justice, innocent until guilty, proportionate punishment, the MacPherson principle, technical & organisational controls to stop the destruction of records or other improper behaviour, robust victim care, fairness to complainants to stop the premature and arbitrary rejection of complaints, rules on how to deal with NEC & Staff, policy about how to exercise the Party’s safeguarding responsibility and inform the police or other responsible persons of any crime, policy on how and why administrative suspensions are to undertaken, prohibiting disguised double jeopardy and guaranteed timescales.

Dave Levy

It’s shameful that a committee i.e. the NEC, where every member is a trade unionist and over one third are activists or full time employees of and within the Unions, that such a piss-poor state of affairs can exist, and do so for so long!

Corbyn & Wadsworth

And the process needs to apply to all complaints, and as I think about it, the grounds for punishment, are currently, ” … [action which] is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party“, this permits expelling people due to the reputational damage caused by acts of speech, this is wrong. The test should be the contravention of the equalities law or other laws we consider critical such as the PPER or the Bribery Act. i.e. bringing the party into disrepute is not good enough, uncomradely behaviour might be, criminal acts of relevance to politics definitely is, although they should be dealt with, in the first instance, by the police. …

Labour and antisemitism, some thoughts

Labour and antisemitism, some thoughts

I have now read the EHRC Report, Investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party, and this is what I think needs to be done. I have published some thoughts already and I believe that it is necessary that the Labour rectify its rules and culture to make it a place where discrimination is both absent and shunned, where perpetrators have the opportunity for contrition and that suspensions and expulsions are a last resort applied only after a fair trial. I am particularly incensed to find there has been no policy nor procedures to guide the investigation nor the determination of discrimination complaints because it’s so basic. However, before I look at the specific recommendations, I want to look at some context. The first is Human Rights law, and the second is that the failings are so basic that anyone of good faith will insist that any remedy is applied to all complaints and disciplinary processes and affairs because the failings are systemic, not specific to handling antisemitism complaints. The article then looks at what a fair and independent process might look like and asks that it take account of the ECHR’s Article 6 and 11, the right to a fair trial and freedom of association. It calls for the retention of the NCC and the provision of legal advice to ensure its independence from the Leader and the NEC. It recognises that the Party must be considered institutionally racist and that attempts to fix the problems have been dogged by factionalism. It calls for the adoption of the Nolan Principles. It recognises that things were worse under McNicol until Formby was appointed. It reaffirms that Labour’s policy and rules are made by Conference and not announcements by the Leadership. These issues are explored in greater detail overleaf …

Things improved under Formby

judges gavel

It is clear from reading the EHRC report, Investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party that things improved when Jenny Formby became General Secretary in 2018, but the EHRC’s sample data looked back to 2011. The EHRC report states several times that the failure to act on the Royall & Chakrabarti Inquiries is a failing and evidence of Labour’s complicity in the inadequacy of its processes. Much of the failure needs to be placed at the door of the then incumbent General Secretary, Iain McNicol, Formby’s predecessor, and the NEC members that allowed him to act with impunity. Additionally it should be noted, to give an idea of the scale of McNicol and Harman’s ambitions, that over 10,000 complaints were lodged over the summer of 2015, leading to over 5,000 suspension and nearly 4000 investigations, all of them with no policy to guide the investigators and the NEC members making judgement. To expedite the process the NEC set up a wonderfully named Procedures Committee to supervise this purge/examination of eligibility, it consisted of Harriet Harman MP, Margaret Beckett MP, the then general secretary Iain McNicol, Jon Ashworth MP, Keith Birch (Unison), Paddy Lillis (USDAW), Jim Kennedy (Unite), Diana Holland (Unite) and Ann Black (CLP). It’s interesting how some of the names are still around and even more powerful today; the Guardian story exposes how the committee rejected legal advice on using the canvassing records as reasons for exclusion. Canvassing records should only be used for the purpose for which Labour holds them, electoral campaigning, anything else is a likely breach of the electoral secrecy laws. I was advised that I must not use the canvassing records as a source of information when recommending people to be rejected as members or registered supporters during this period.

timeline rules leaders and general secretaries

The Labour Party in an attempt to improve the antisemitism complaints handling process has  changed its rules three times (Conference 2017, 2018 & 2019), the 2017 amendment removed/weakened the free speech defence, the 2018 amendment made breach of codes of conduct disciplinary offences and gave the General Secretary powers to delegate their authority to people other than staff, and 2019 introduced ‘fast track’ process where the NEC and not the NCC heard cases related to discrimination without hearings. These developments show that the Labour Party took the problem seriously but focused on end stages of the process and in doing so, ignored the investigation stage and decision to prosecute which the EHRC has excoriated. The Party also in making these changes created a special class of complaint, that of discriminatory behaviour, which is treated differently to bullying, slander, thuggery and breaches of the rules for factional advantage.

In the LRB review of Jones’ “This Land” and Pogrund & McGuire’s “Left Out”, the James Butler, says, that

His [Jones’s] account is an improvement on the defensive response that the public’s perception of the problem with antisemitism in Labour was distorted, or that positive changes were made to disciplinary procedures after they were taken out of the hands of anti-Corbyn party staff.

James Butler – LRB

This article is not an attempt to say that Labour solved its disciplinary problems under Formby, it clearly didn’t but she inherited a system far distant from what was needed. Its crap etherealness and its then and current inability to address corruption within the bureaucracy are further reasons why the EHRC recommendations should be pursued.  …

On Corbyn’s whip

On Corbyn’s whip

On Jeremy Corbyn’s whip, which Starmer has withdrawn, somehow, certainly in breach of the standing orders of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Momentum have drafted a letter to Starmer, Angela Rayner and the CLP Reps calling for the whip to be restored which you can send too. I have sent it although I amended the letter to make it clear that I believe it, and the original suspension to be in breach of the party’s rules, in breach of the EHRC recommendations and in breach human rights law, and the whip withdrawl is an act of double jeopardy. I also pointed out that in my experience, some of his supporters are now leaving as they consider the act unfair and unreasonable.

I consider it to be at least one of capricious, perverse, irrational and/or arbitrary.  …

Labour Leak – Closing the Stable Door

Labour Leak – Closing the Stable Door

This blog article is one of several albeit the first published on the labourleak. It focuses on fixing the problems identified and implied in the #labourleak in a holistic way. It looks at the controls, briefly on why they failed, how the private sector manages, the question of Union collusion, IT standards & controls, the disciplinary process, the NEC and if genuine professionalism can possibly improve the quality and honesty of the decisions taken by the Labour Party; it concludes by proposing that the rules be changed to place a duty on all role holders to conform to the Nolan Principles, and that whistle blowers have better protection, but on the way recommends that the Labour Party use a series of external certifications, ask the Auditors to to inspect that payments and receipts are handled according to the Party's financial control rules, increase the professionalism of the staff and NEC committees, all of this to guarantee to its members and staff that good practice and not arbitrary actions are the guiding principles of judgement and decision.

Renewing Party Democracy

Renewing Party Democracy

The LP NEC is having an away day to discuss reforming its rules and internal democracy, mainly in the light of the massive increase in membership to more than half a million members.  Here’s my manifesto for a member led party, I hope to supplement it with some ideas on the use of IT to aid in policy development and expressing the membership voice, but in terms of rules reform …