FIRST THE GOOD NEWS. Not before time, Iain McNicol is to be replaced as Labour Party General Secretary. The bad news. Not only is McNichol granting favours to his friends before leaving, including the attempted witchhunt of Glyn Secker, but the machinery he honed for doing so is left intact.
The Compliance Unit - now known as the Legal and Governance Unit - came to the fore during Corbyn’s first (and second) leadership campaigns, when it became clear that staff were being recruited on short-term contracts purely for the task of trawling through social media for ‘unacceptable’ posts.
When these were found, the ‘guilty’ parties were immediately refused entry to the party or ‘administratively suspended’, all at the whim of the Compliance Unit.
The arbitrariness of this was shown many times, such as when someone was refused admission for signing a Green Party petition about equal access to television debates. There was an ‘oops’ moment when Bakers’ Union General Secretary Ronnie Draper was suspended and quickly unsuspended when someone recognised the problem which would be caused by attacking a senior official of an affiliated union.
But this whole set-up needs to go. Its nature encourages snooping. Its actions are totally unaccountable, outside any clearly defined disciplinary process (and certainly outside those proposed by the Chakrabarti report).
Administrative suspension is supposed to be only used in extreme, urgent cases where there is immediate risk to the reputation of the party, yet has become the default action on the basis of the slightest of accusations. Cases like those of Moshé Machover and Glyn Secker, quickly dropped when there was uproar, show how spurious it is.
As well as protesting now about how the Compliance Unit operates in particular cases, we have to use the Democracy Review to demand it is scrapped in favour of a fully accountable and transparent system in line with natural justice.