EARLIER THIS YEAR the Labour Party was under intense pressure to hand over disciplinary action to an ‘independent body.’ The pressure came from those claiming the party is institutionally antisemitic and not dealing with cases rigorously and quickly enough.
There were even calls that when antisemitism is alleged, people should be immediately expelled. These calls came from the likes of Margaret Hodge, Tom Watson and the Jewish Labour Movement, all of whom have clearly pledged themselves to undermine and, if possible, bring down, Jeremy Corbyn by whatever means they can. They extrapolate from the few isolated cases of hatred of Jews to claim the party is riddled with them, and they consider all critics of Israel to be fair game.
The party has had the good sense to reject such independent oversight, especially as ‘independent’ means acceptable to those who want to see supporters of the Palestinians purged from the party. However, a proposal for a rule change going to the party’s National Executive (NEC) on September 17th and then to party conference will bring in ‘fast track’ procedures. This was discussed at the NEC meeting in July and involves `extreme’ cases of antisemitism being considered not by the National Constitutional Committee (NCC), but by a meeting of either the NEC officers or an NEC disputes panel. The precise form of the rule change to go to conference is not yet known, but the flaws in such a change are clear.
The most obvious is that the NCC was introduced precisely so that decisions on discipline were removed from the NEC. Reverting to the NEC (or a section of it) taking disciplinary decisions is a retrograde step precisely because it re-introduces political interference.
Previously the right have claimed that Jeremy has influenced disciplinary decisions - always denied by him. But now the intention is to re-introduce political - NEC - decisions on individual disciplinary cases. Of course, the right have no problem with political influence in disciplinary matters as long as that influence is theirs alone. A further problem will be who defines `extreme’ or serious cases? This is a completely subjective and arbitrary decision.
The NCC was enlarged following last year’s conference on the grounds that they had so much work to deal with, yet now we have a proposal to load more work on to the shoulders of already busy NEC members. This raises important questions about how thoroughly such a committee will really deal with any evidence placed in front of it. At present, NCC hearings can last days, with legal advisers and barristers involved. There is a justified fear that any new procedure will be rushed with a foregone conclusion.
Further worries concern whether this new procedure would only be used in cases of antisemitism (which would be discriminatory) and whether there would be a right of appeal. One complaint about existing procedures is that there is no right of appeal against NCC decisions. The only good thing that could come out of these proposals may be that a right of appeal is introduced across the board.
There was supposed to be consultation about these proposals over the summer, but that has not happened. Apparently even NCC members, supposedly elected to deal with disciplinary matters, have not been consulted, let alone CLPs.
The concern has to be that some in the party organisation and on the NEC are not happy that the left has been winning NCC elections, and some decisions are not going the way they would like. They may wish to take decisions out of the NCC’s hands.
Although there is little chance of such a rule change being defeated at conference, it is important that some delegates speak against the rule change, rather than allowing it to appear to be non-contentious.
CWU and Hampstead & Kilburn CLP