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.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Labour prides 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. This document 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.

This document 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.

The plan 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 plan click here.

Summary of proposed changes to the Society of Labour Lawyers constitution

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The Society of Labour Lawyers (SLL) executive committee is consulting on revisions to the SLL rules/constitution. Here is a summary of the key proposed changes:

  • Adding the upholding of equality and the furtherance of democratic socialism (rather than just socialism) to the objects of SLL.
  • Allowing people who are qualified in jurisdictions outside the UK to be members of SLL.
  • Giving the executive committee the power to expel members who have engaged in racist, sexist or similar behavior or of breach of Labour party rules or codes of conduct or have otherwise brought the Society into disrepute.
  • Requiring groups to have annuial general meetings that elect two co-chairs and a management committee. At least one of the co-chairs must be a woman.
  • Making the groups and branches of the SLL at any one time those identified as such on the SLL website. The proposed changes provide that there shall normally be Groups for Access to Justice, Rights at Work, Housing, Family and Child Care.
  • Providing that there may be Branches in any geographical area where there are sufficient numbers of interested members.
  • Allowing the executive committee to at its discretion define any group or branch as currently inactive and that neither co-chair shall be entitled to attend the executive committee.
  • Reducing the number of vice-chairs from one to two and removing the role of assistant secretary.
  • Providing that at least one of the chair and vice-chair shall be a woman and that at least one of the secretary and treasurer shall be a woman.
  • Reducing the number of “block” elected executive committee members from 7 to six and requiring at least 3 of these to be women.
  • Requiring at its first meeting in each year the executive to allocate roles among the six elected members and co-opted members including the roles of Membership Secretary, Women’s Secretary, Publications Coordinator and Website Editor.
  • Providing that the executive committee may appointment an advisory committee comprising such persons as the executive committee shall decide to assist SLL in respect of parliamentary liaison.
  • Allowing the returning officer to amend or waive electoral requirements provided in the constituition other than in respect of the number of officers and number of elected executive committee members and gender balance with the approval of the AGM.
  • Providing that SLL shall not affiliate to or engage with any Labour Party bodies other than the Socialist Societies Executive nor participate whether in respect of nomination or voting in any elections other than for the Socialist Society NEC seat and the Socialist Society Executive save that individual members of SLL may campaign to support Labour Party endorsed candidates in parliamentary elections.

You can download a blackine showing the proposed changes to the SLL rules/consitution here.

The consultation period is open until 10am on Friday 17th January 2020, and all comments and suggestions are welcome.

Please send any comments to administrator@societyoflabourlawyers.org.uk.

When Boris Johnson came to my daughter's hospital I gave him a piece of my mind – the NHS deserves better

I wrote an article for inews on my confrontation with Boris Johnson about my daughter’s treatment and the NHS and about the Rebuild Our Health Service campaign. You can read the article here.

Proposed changes to the Society of Labour Lawyers’ constitution

Following the unainmous passing of a motion I proposed at the 2018 Society of Labour Lawyers (SLL) AGM, a working group was set up to carry out a review of SLL’s constitution, corporate governance, working processes and diversity. The work of the working group has so far focussed on reviewing the SLL rules/constitution. The motion stated:

This AGM resolves to request the SLL executive to set up a working group to review and set out recommendations and/or options for reforming SLL’s constitution, corporate governance and working processes and diversity. The working group should report to a general meeting or the next SLL AGM as appropriate with recommendations and/or options for reform.

The SLL executive committee is consulting on revisions to the SLL rules/constitution. You can download a blackine showing the proposed changes to the SLL rules/consitution here.

The consultation period is open until 10am on Friday 17th January 2020, and all comments and suggestions are welcome. Please send any communications to administrator@societyoflabourlawyers.org.uk.

Launching Rebuild Our Health Service

I have written an article in The Guardian launching a new campaign: Rebuild Our Health Service. Following my daughter’s experience at Whipps Crosss Hospital and my encouter with Boris Johnson there, I realised that there is a huge buildings crisis in the NHS. Essential repairs and replacement of buildings and equipment have not been done for years due to austerity.

You can find out more about the campaign and sign up to support it here.