A plan for decency in the Labour Party

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Labour prided itself as a party of anti-racism, feminism and decency but this reputation has been tarnished in recent year. We need to take decisive action to ensure that decency prevails in the Labour Party, that we foster a culture of inclusion and respect, and drive antisemites, islamophobes, racists, misogynists, harassers, trolls and their ilk from the Labour Party.

This document sets out a plan for decency in the Labour Party. It includes measures to fight discrimination and harassment in the Labour Party. The measures aim to ensure there is effective action to deal with unacceptable behaviour, education programmes to identify and prevent it.  This includes putting in place the policies, procedures and governance that are needed to deal with this problem.  

The core components of the plan are set out here. In summary, the 15 proposals are:

  1. An independent disciplinary process
  2. Retaining the IHRA definition of antisemitism
  3. A clear deadline for dealing with complaints
  4. No time-limits for making complaints
  5. Same-sex complaint handlers
  6. Indicative tariff for disciplinary sanctions
  7. Punishment for undermining the disciplinary process
  8. Regular reporting on the performance of the disciplinary purpose
  9. A ban on sharing of platforms with those have been expelled
  10. Mandatory diversity, equality political education and ant-bullying training
  11. Requiring all Labour candidates and elected representatives to confirm their commitment to non-discrimination
  12. Audit of past cases
  13. Better engagement with representatives of discriminated against groups
  14. A clear communication programme
  15. A plan for promoting an open, respectful and democratic culture in the Labour Party

This is an area where it is important to take care to ensure that there are not unintended consequences from the policies adopted. The plan therefore aims to set out a framework for action in this area but will need to be subject to revision and refinement to make sure it is as effective as possible, taking into account feedback. It also in some cases sets out different possible options for consideration.

Labour’s new disciplinary processes for discrimination and harassment should be designed and developed with the close involvement of BAME Labour, Labour Women’s Network, Jewish Labour Movement, the Labour Party Irish Society, Chinese for Labour, Christians on the Left, Disability Labour and LBGT Labour. These groups have invaluable knowledge of the discrimination their members face and Labour should make sure it draws upon it.

The plan is in large part based on Jewish Labour Movement’s (“JLM”) submission to Labour race and faith manifesto consultation and the ten pledges that the Board of Deputies of British Jews is asking Labour leadership and deputy leadership candidates to support. However, it sets out greater detail how the proposals by JLM and the Board of the Deputies could work and attempts to address some of the concerns raised about them. In particular, the following concerns are addressed:

  • The concern that having an independent provider would compromise party democracy is addressed by suggesting that the independent provider could work to guidelines agreed by Labour’s National Executive Committee (the “NEC”).
  • The concern that lifetime bans may not be appropriate on the basis people should have the opportunity to reform has been addressed by making lifetime bans optional.
  • The concern about preventing supporting, campaigning for or providing a platform for those who have been suspended for discriminatory conduct should not prevent supporting the challenging of disciplinary decisions because the NEC guidelines have not been applied correctly or there has been an error of fact in the decision.
  • The concern that the use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (“IHRA”) definition of antisemitism could prevent legitimate criticism of Israel or campaigning for the rights of the Palestinians is addressed by proposing that Labour retain the statement made by the NEC when it adopted the IHRA definition in full with all examples that this does not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.
  • The concern that Labour should not be prevented from engaging with smaller groups within a minority group has been addressed by making clear that this is meant to only prevent engagement with fringe groups that are not committed to non-discrimination, such as Jewish Voice for Labour.

Some have also suggested that Labour should wait until the results of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (“ECHR”) has reported on its investigation into the Labour Party and antisemitism. However, it cannot be right that Labour should sit on its hands rather than make changes to deal with the problems with its disciplinary process. We should want the ECHR to report acknowledging that Labour had taken action on this issue not saying that we have done nothing while it has been investigating. There has been no indication from the ECHR that Labour should wait for its report before making improvements to its disciplinary processes.

This document is meant to a contribution to the discussion about what Labour does about antisemitism, bulling and harassment. It does not purport to have all the answers but is meant to be an organic document that will develop over time. It is put forward in good faith and it is hoped everyone will engage with it on that basis. Hopefully, all the Labour Party leadership and deputy leadership candidates will support all or some of it, especially as it aims to address concerns that some of them have raised.

The presence of antisemitism, discrimination, bullying and harassment in the Labour Party is a stain on it. It is time to deal with these shameful circumstances, working closely with Labour’s affiliates, with decisive, considered, and firm action. This plan sets out how this could be done.

To read the full document click here.

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