Making Policy in the Labour Party

Making Policy in the Labour Party

The Party have asked 10 questions, some of which seem very similar; I have not had time to decode many of them. I have submitted my answers which are based on the CLPD model answers but in some cases mine are shorter because argument is taken out and in some cases I have added new content. It's critical to ensure conference and the membership remain central to policy making and the manifesto. For more, use the 'read more' button ...

Electing the GS? Not such a good idea!

Electing the GS? Not such a good idea!

So Momentum have decided that unlike in their own internal affairs, that the best answer to the crisis in democracy in the Labour Party is to elect its General Secretary.   I think this is wrong, critically, without a recall, this would be worse because the individual elected would have a mandate to do what they wanted. It would be poor even with a realistic recall mechanism. This article summarises my proposals, and republishes the idea of a member’s ombudsperson.

In my article, Labour Leak – Closing the Stable Door , I look at a series of reforms that Ithink would make things better. I argue that the Party needs better “controls”, segregation of duties, and better record keeping. I also argue for a new disciplinary system that needs a segregation of duties between, investigators, prosecutors, judges and a right of appeal and that it conforms to the principles of natural justice guaranteeing the right to a fair trial, innocence until proven guilty, the proportionality of any sanctions and that our rules respect the rights to privacy and free speech. The powers and inclination of the NEC to hold the GS accountable to policy, rules and law needs to be examined, there may be some changes that can be made but this is a cultural change, without a change of culture most of the rest of the reforms will fail. I also argue for a more professional management of money and financial controls, greater transparency on staff management, recognition of Chakrabarti’s comments on staff recruitment and management and accreditation by “Investors in People” and “A great place to work”.

There are a number of roles that should be examined to ensure they are sufficiently independent of the GS and the NEC and accountable to the law or their professional ethics. In this part of the article, I note, that proposals for an Ombudsperson were made to the Democracy Review but didn’t make it to the final report. I have with help retrieved the Ombudsman proposal as I think that it’s worth reviewing and should be part of a reconfiguring of the compliance function where the Head of Compliance is made independent of the NEC & GS and accountable to the rules and law. Compliance should tell organisations what they can’t do, while they retain the right to legal advice.

What’s needed is a renewal of a culture of decency so that the bureaucracy and the elected NEC members behave properly and fulfil their duties of trust. I have argued to change Labour’s rules to incorporate the Nolan principles as duty on all role holders but especially the NEC members, but unless recent wrong doing is punished, it’ll become just another policy to be ignored and circumvented. …

Another stitch in time

Another stitch in time

Duncan Shipley Dalton writes, at the end of an exposition on the impact of the Human Rights Act on the Labour Party’s rules and my proposal to incorporate the ECHR directly into the rule book,

McDonnell is now proposing the left need to have a proper manifesto for Party reform with a clear plan of restructuring and reforming the Party. Would have been nice if that had been done when those like Dave [,that’s me that is,] and CLPD were pointing out these things years ago! Assuming McDonnell means it and is not just trying to divert energy to stop the current boat rocking it is a worthwhile idea. In my view the whole Rule book should be re written. It is a mess. A top to bottom rewrite to democratise the whole thing. Take away the kind of NEC discretion that gets abused , Local Govt selection rules, PPC selections, officers, Regional Officers etc. It means though a movement of ‘real’ democratic power to members. Jeremy and others talked about it but were not very good at giving actual power to members. The current leadership seem to be graduates of the Mussolini/Kim Jong Un school of democracy, so it is hard to see them agreeing to relinquish any real power to members. It is the right thing to do but it is hard to see it happening in the currently circumstances.

@baronvonduncs
 …

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.  …

Point of Order

Point of Order

An apology. I was led to believe that Labour’s NCC had been restricted to appeals on procedural grounds only; on a more serious reading of the rules, it would seem this is not so. Appeals can be lodged on the grounds that the NEC exceeded it powers by taking a decision other than one authorised by rules. This includes the constraint below,

There is sufficient evidence in documentary or other recorded form to reasonably conclude that the charge is proven and justify the sanction proposed;

Labour’s Rules 2020 C6.I.b.iii (P.24)

So an appeal can be lodged on the grounds that the evidence does not reasonably support the determined sanction.

Point of Order, Chair! The speaker is talking bollocks. …

Labour’s next council slates

It looks like the Labour Party plan to go ahead with Candidate selections for the 2021 local authority elections and possibly the 2022 whole council elections. This is despite the lockdown, and due to the 2019 Conference Rule changes which planned to change the committee structures that manage this process, the bureaucracy’s response was to suspend the old committees and prohibit their AGMs. For most areas, this wouldn’t have mattered, since AGMs must take place after May and the meetings would have to have been postponed due to lock down although the size of the meetings would have made meeting and voting via video conference possible.

I have written previously about the rule change, in this article, which includes a link to the rule change which should now be incorporated in the current Rule Book.

I am worried about the transition to the college based LGCs and I have written a “principles” document, to highlight some outstanding issues and challenges, which includes the size, the electorate for all 3 colleges, candidate eligibility, counting abstentions, conflict of interest, the nature of the due diligence and that TU & CLP delegates are included in the selection committees and that the Procedures Secretary is not a councillor. However it seems that the selections will be done by the incumbent LCFs, so we can postpone those worries.

One area of concern, irrespective of the committee structure, is that the due diligence of candidates is often onerous and factionally biased, I believe it is necessary that candidate assessments may only withhold an endorsement on the grounds that a candidate is not eligible to stand, fails to meet the Labour Party’s eligibility rules, states that they will not conform to the rules on Group conduct and/or other Labour Party rules or for other good reason; the holding of opinions on policy shall not be a reason for non-endorsement.

Two further issues, which ideally required rule changes are the existence of trigger ballots, which it seems for Councillors are not going to be held, but we are unclear what will happen to the Borough Mayors.

The other issue is about conflicts of interest. At the moment the rules only state that familial or marriage relationships are considered conflicts of interest. We should seek to ensure that business relationships, some other commercial relationship such as a rent agreements, a supervisory/supervised relationship in employment or any other issue which might reasonably deemed to exist are declared and appropriately managed. I have written a rule change on this but it is a direct textual amendment to Appendix 4, and Conference can’t amend the Appendices, and there isn’t going to be one. The rule change can be amended to be valid by amending Chapter 5.

Labour Briefing published a scorecard on the LCF’s and found it wanting, an article called, “Local Government Committees – Has the NEC scored an own-goal?“, it seems we won’t find out. This article was written late last year after Conference changed the rules to introduce the ⅓, ⅓, ⅓ based LGC. …

The problem of the bureaucracy

The problem of the bureaucracy

Sky News and Rowena Mason, in the Guardian, have both run stories about a Labour Party document “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance & Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism 2014-2019”. This would seem to catalogue a conspiracy to subvert the party’s disciplinary process and even the 2017 election campaign to the detriment of the elected party leadership and the aspirations of its membership. There’s probably a lot to say, which I will wait to say, but I prepared this rule change last year as I had observed massive factional manipulation throughout the Labour Party and while this wouldn’t stop it, it would give the membership another avenue to hold Labour’s staff accountable to the values of the party. The document shows it’s needed at the highest levels; it’s a shame that no-one is thinking of those whose lives have been marred by the casual bullying covered up by more junior staff. I think the supporting statement needs to be strengthened. If the CLPD can get it’s act together I’ll ask them to support it, but you don’t need their permission.

Member’s Rights and the Nolan Principles

The Labour Party Rule Book 2019 Chapter 2 Membership rules, Clause II Charter of Members Rights, Section 7 (pg 14) reads as follows:

‘Members have the right to dignity and respect, and to be treated fairly by the Labour Party. Party officers at every level shall exercise their powers in good faith and use their best endeavours to ensure procedural fairness for members.’

Amendment

After Party officers, insert ‘, staff and volunteer role holders’

After ‘good faith’, insert ‘in accordance with the Nolan Principles of conduct in public life’

Replace ‘endeavours’ with ‘efforts’.

Supporting argument

All Party Officers, staff and volunteer role holders are to be held to the Nolan Principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty & leadership.

ooOOOoo

Image Credit: Comes from a telegraph article on McNicol’s ‘moving on from the position of GS of the Labour Party. (I would link to it if WordPress allowed featured images to be linked, I have cropped it fit into the blog, i.e. I have not made this image available.) …

Virtuality & the Labour Party

Virtuality & the Labour Party

Somewhere inside my head there’s an article on how businesses weren’t planning for a pandemic as a business continuity risk, most plans were about protecting infrastructure. My most recent linkedin article looks at the under-licensing and data leakage risks exposed by the spontaneous adoption of remote desk top technology but the country has had to adopt a much wider “work from home” practice than previously, stressing those parts of the economy that serve it, including home space and furniture supply. This all leaves unanswered how are democratic decisions being taken? Let’s look at the Labour Party; I wouldn’t want to be the Labour Party apparatchik that allowed 7.IV.H.8 (P41) 2019 to expire. It used to say,

The NEC shall invite CLPs to take part in pilots of staggered meetings, electronic attendance, online voting and other methods of maximising participation. The NEC may immediately give effect to these pilots and may incorporate any resultant rules into this rule book, subject to approval at Annual Conference 2019, when this sub-clause shall expire.

It wasn’t extended at Conference 19, and the rule now no-longer exists and virtual meetings are not permitted to take decisions. Someone’s going to be happy.

If deliberate, it’s another example of the bureaucracy just not giving a shit. …