An open letter to David Evans

JVL Introduction

On 26th November we learnt that Local Labour parties were told by general secretary David Evans that motions relating to the suspension of the whip from Jeremy Corbyn – including expressions of solidarity – “will be ruled out of order”.

In this open letter, “Fred Wall” a generic local Labour Party officer deconstructs the Evans diktat.

With apologies to all Labour Party offices wherever they may be who happen to share the name Fred Wall. You may find yourself under investigation…


Dear David

Thank you for your letter, which I fear will help make a bad situation inside the Party worse. Please allow me to explain why. Your letter in plain text, my responses in plum.

Following the publication of the EHRC report into antisemitism in the Labour Party on 29 October, I provided some guidance to CLPs on what were and were not appropriate topics of discussion for branches and CLPs. The situation has clearly moved on since then, so I wanted to provide you with some updated guidance.

“Guidance” backed up with a threat of suspension or expulsion if it is not followed is actually an instruction. In your letter last week, you acknowledged that there are strong feelings about this in the Party. It seems to me that what you are doing here is simultaneously shaking up a bottle of coke, while screwing down the lid and looking askance at any fizz that forces its way out. This messes with the collective mental health of the Party. Proscribing a discussion – on any topic – trespasses on member’s rights in a way that demeans us in an attempt to force the appearance of unity by administrative intimidation.

It remains the case that motions which seek to repudiate the findings of the EHRC or question its competency to conduct the investigation remain not competent business for branches or CLPs. Motions relating to ongoing disciplinary cases are also not in order, in line with the instructions of my predecessor.

You write as though the EHRC is an organisation with unimpeachable authority, as if Party members are unaware of the criticism it has recently received from Parliament that it has no Black Commissioners (1) and has failed in its duties in this area, nor the controversies over both its failure to investigate the Conservative Party for its well documented Islamophobia (and antisemitism come to that) after being asked to do so, nor the government’s appointment of new Commissioners – like David Goodhart and Jessica Butcher – who in one case support the government’s “hostile environment” on immigration and the other think that the reason for women’s inequality is a “victimhood narrative” among women, nor that the views of the Commissioner who actually wrote the report on our party – Alastair Henderson – are not now under investigation by the Commission itself for a number of deeply reactionary Tweets. The bona fides of someone who can support Roger Scruton’s assertion that gay people are not “normal” to sit in judgement on our Party – or anyone – on any equality issue is a matter of concern that cannot be beyond question nor forbidden in party meetings.

Since the expression of dissent from the EHRC report and any of its findings is ruled inadmissible for members of the Party, could you clarify when Lord Mandelson will be suspended for expressing dissent on the independence of the new disciplinary process? The point he raises has parallels with the role of the EHRC itself. It is easy enough to set up a body that is “independent” of the Party, and to say that, like Caesar’s wife, it is above suspicion; but in real life it is impossible to set up a body that is independent of other pressures and outside forces; as everyone who sits on it will have their own axes to grind – many of them political.

I am aware that other motions (including expressions of solidarity, and matters relating to the internal processes of the PLP) are providing a flashpoint for the expression of views that undermine the Labour Party’s ability to provide a safe and welcoming space for all members, in particular our Jewish members. Therefore, all motions which touch on these issues will also be ruled out of order.

This paragraph really takes the biscuit. “A safe and welcoming place for all members, in particular our Jewish members” seems to require the suspension of an increasing number of our Jewish members. You know the names as well as I do. How does this make the Party a “safe space” for them? These comrades are very angry – one normally mild-mannered member described himself as “incensed” at the treatment of Jeremy Corbyn and the “weaponisation and manipulation” of antisemitism” and these measures on your part to silence them. How “welcoming” does that make the Party to them?

A number of CLPs have asked for further information on the basis on which myself and the NEC are able to rule on what can and cannot be discussed by local parties, and I am very happy to provide that explanation.

The Labour Party’s ‘Code of Conduct: Antisemitism and other forms of racism’ rightly states that “the Labour Party will ensure the party is a welcoming home to members of all communities, with no place for any prejudice or discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion.” The NEC has the power to uphold the rules and standing orders of the Labour Party and to take any action it deems necessary for such purposes. The Rule Book is also clear that such powers can be delegated to, amongst others, the General Secretary. For the avoidance of doubt my previous rulings on these matters have all been properly reported to the NEC, which is supportive of my approach.

“No place for discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion.” Absolutely. We’re all agreed on that. That’s why most of us are in the Party. If the Party was as full of antisemites and racists in the way the public perceive it to be – a false perception that the current leadership are not only making no effort to challenge but making it a disciplinary offence for members to point out that 99.7% of Party members have NOT been accused of antisemitism – most of us would not only not be in it but seeking to destroy it as a political force. It is odd that the leadership seem to think that sustaining a delusion that we’re a bunch of racists will be attractive to Jewish comrades, or members of any ethnic minority, let alone make them think they’ll be in a safe space.

The use of the term “communities” here is a puzzling one. The point of anti-discrimination rules is that individual members are not subject to racist discrimination or prejudice from other members or structures of the Party. It is not anti-racist to mediate this by preconceptions about what membership of a particular “community” means; indeed, it is implicitly the opposite. Every community contains diverse currents – and fierce arguments – within it about what defines it, who is in it and who is not. The Jewish community as much as any. There is a preconception in this letter that all Jewish comrades think the same – which is obviously not the case. There is a very polarised argument about Israel, for example, with the current majority support for it in steady decline, especially among younger people, as its behaviour becomes increasingly racist and repressive, which is reflected among Jewish comrades in the Labour Party; with JLM broadly pro-Israel and JVL broadly internationalist. There are a small but significant number of members of both currents in the Party. To assume that all Jewish members take one side and to put the full disciplinary apparatus of the Party at the disposal of that side is not the expression of a duty of care but a political choice.

The Labour Party is committed to implementing the EHRC report in full, and part of that is to accept our previous failure to deal with antisemitism and adopt a genuinely zero tolerance approach which will ensure all members, and in particular our Jewish members, feel safe and welcome within the Labour Party. Please rest assured that when I took up post as General Secretary, I had no desire at all to hamper discussion by our local parties, but until we can improve our culture such restrictions may be required to stay in place.

Zero tolerance that suspends Jewish members on a transparently factional basis does not make either them or anyone else feel safe in the Party.

If it becomes a heresy to point out when the Emperor has no clothes, and if these restrictions stay in place until the culture in the Party is one in which everyone polices their own dissent and/ we avoid any contentious issues, the Party will die as a creative political force.

As I suspect that that is the intention I – sadly – cannot extend you my best wishes.

Fred Wall

 

 

Comments (41)

  • Doug says:

    In other words the General Secretary does NOT have the power to set ‘Competent Business’ never had never will,
    They can advise and give guidance where something could be in contempt of court
    We all know whats occurring, my only request is dont resign, that’s what they want and let’s try and coordinate our response
    I’m Spartacus

  • Margaret West says:

    A truly excellent letter from “Fred Wall” – which expresses everything that I, at least, feel about the matter ..

    I do NOT understand why the current Labour leadership are making themselves hostages to fortune regarding their support for only ONE part of the Jewish Community and their complete rejection of the rest. The arguments and disputes within a Community are absolutely no business of anyone else – and certainly not of a political party which claims to be proud of diversity in British life.

    .. I assume “Fred” is short for either “Frederica ” or “Frederic” :- ) ?

    [indeed! – JVL web]

  • RC says:

    Very well put. David Evans will take it as endorsement of his grotesquely racist repression – if he indeed receives it at all. So would Starmer and Rayner. Pandering as they do to the dictates of the US ‘swamp’ in Washington D.C., and to British and Jewish chauvinism, why does anyone think their minds can be changed by argument?

    The King to Oxford sent a troop of horse;
    Tories admit no argument but force.
    Likewise to Cambridge all his books he sent,
    For Whigs admit no force but argument. (1642).

    King Starmer (with henchman Evans, Rayner and Mandelson etc) is plainly a Tory in this regard – as in his foreign policy initiatives and his betrayal of his pledges to maintain the 2019 LP manifesto.

  • Keith Veness says:

    Good letter from comrade Wall, I used to know his brother Berlin.

  • Harry Law says:

    Chapter 1, V111,3E – The NEC shall from time to time issue guidance and instructions on the ‘CONDUCT’ of meetings – conduct NOT CONTENT. Evans’s guidance addresses the wrong subject and is therefore meaningless.

    Would a motion put forward by a CLP condemning the Israeli settlement enterprise be ruled out of order on the grounds that discussion of such a subject could undermine the Labour parties ability to provide a safe and welcoming space for all members “in particular our Jewish members”?

    Since this [53 years] Israeli policy is called a grave war crime and is contrary to paragraph 6 article 49 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions now also UK law as the ICC Act, also in the opinion of all 15 Judges [including the US judge Blumenthal] at the International Court of Justice [the World Court, ICJ] ‘the Wall case’, and numerous UNSC Resolutions, these all say that ALL the settlements are grave war crimes.

  • I sincerely hope this letter wil provoke Starmer and Evans to rethink the stance they are taking. As a Labour supporter of more than 50 yrs, the destruction of my party by these two is heart breaking.

  • Christine Toth says:

    Fred Wall, I salute you. Eloquently put.

  • Mary Davies says:

    Brilliant letter. Love the Coke metaphor!

  • Harry Law says:

    Equalities Act 2010
    Part 7 Associations
    101Members and associates
    (2)An association (A) must not discriminate against a member (B)—
    (a) in the way A affords B access, or by not affording B access, to a benefit, facility or service;
    (b) by depriving B of membership;
    (c) by varying B’s terms of membership;
    (d) by subjecting B to any other detriment.

    The Labour party is an unincorporated Association.

    Any Palestinian member of the Labour party refused the right to put forward a resolution on Israel/Palestinian affairs by any CLP acting on the instructions or guidance of the Labour party general Secretary could bring a case through the local County Court of discrimination [ethnic origins] by the detriment 2[d] above, imposed on him by refusal to accept his resolution.

  • Philip Ward says:

    Response to Margaret West: The leadership of the labour party – except for the brief period under Corbyn – has always existed to serve the interests of imperialism, which itself has always seen Israel as a valuable tool to help police an oil-rich and politically unstable region. Corbyn threatened that useful relationship – at least as far as the UK is concerned – so he needed to be got rid of and the membership of the LP needed to be shown that any such insubordination in future will not be tolerated. Indeed, it is almost a certainty that there will never be another LP leader with anti-imperialist politics. This fully explains the alliance of the leadership with right wing Zionism.

  • Frank Land says:

    Supressing debate on issues which are of interest to members of a CLP does not diminish the relevance or importance of the issues. Apart from preventing reasoned discussion on other issues it has the effect of making the CLP a sterile and no longer relevsnt body

  • Ruya Sarfas says:

    Brilliant letter Fred,thankyou for saying exactly what I feel. I am very upset about the suspension of Naomi Wimborne,she has been a tireless socialist and a very intelligent jewish woman ,now she too has become a victim of anti semitism,not from members of the Labour Party ,but from the hierarchy within it ,this beggars belief ,I’m shocked and astounded that the labour party has removed the right to free speech for Jewish members who are dissenting on the Israel question.

  • Dave says:

    @Harry Wall that is excellent, rather than trying to take on the LP with their rule book and their dubious interpretation actually using the legislation is appropriate !!

  • Richard Purdie says:

    This is elegantly and convincingly argued – and would be a veritable coup de grâce, if the truth actually mattered to Evans and Starmer. But you might have noticed, when the fraudulent IHRA definition of ‘antisemitism’ was widely touted, and finally adopted by Labour, that truth comes in a poor second to political opportunism.

  • Phil Broadis says:

    Excellent letter, well done.

  • Linda says:

    “Fred Wall” and the “Comments” make me feel hopeful of a better tomorrow. Thank you all.

  • Pete Winstanley says:

    Noam Chomsky:
    “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but to allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”
    Nicely sums up the Keir Starmer/David Evans strategy. Don’t let them get away with it.
    And happy birthday to Noam Chomsky, 92 yesterday.

  • Michael Levine says:

    Dear Chief Rabbi

    First they came for the immigrants
    And you did not speak out
    Because you were not an immigrant
    Then they came for black people
    And you did not speak out
    Because you were not black
    Then they came for the Windrush Generation
    And you did not speak out
    Because you were not on the Windrush
    Then they came for the Muslims
    And you did not speak out
    Because you were not a Muslim
    Then you came for Jeremy Corbyn
    And the Jewish Board of Deputies joined in
    Then they came for the Jews
    And there was no one left to speak out for us

    Because I was not a Muslim
    Then they came for the Jews
    And there was no one left to speak out for us.

  • Margaret E Johnson says:

    My thoughts exactly!

  • Barbara White says:

    An excellent letter and some very good replies.

  • Christopher wortley says:

    Thank you Fred, really good analysis and spot on.

  • Pam Laurance says:

    Excellent…apart from the misplaced apostrophe in the seventh line of the second plum para.
    [JVL web issues abject apology…]

  • Nahid Soltanzadeh says:

    Despite of accepting all the cases in this opening letter I think the most important thing for us should be zero tolerance about breaching the freedom of speech which has been delivered by the current leadership of the party.

  • MAX COOK says:

    Brilliant, I wish I could be sure that Evans starmer or Rayner care about we the membership not on the right wing.

  • Tom says:

    Starmers actions are a result of the people behind him. They will fail and are already failing. Everybody sees through them. Bad arguments are defeated by better arguments. The media has deliberately kept the better arguments at bay because of pressure from mainstream Jewish organisations. This will not last. Most journalists are clueless about the origins of this conflict but they are not stupid and their sense of curiousity will lead them to investigations and revelations that the owners of the media will find hard to stop. There is no conspiracy here – but there is a campaign. We are lumbered with the old carthorse – we would be better off if it just keeled over and breathed its last. It is now an obstacle to progressive advance – but is a creation of a two party system deliberately created to protect the status quo. The Lib Dems tried to change it and Labour was distinctly cool on the idea. We’ve been here before. Keep calm and carry on.

  • Nick Jenkins says:

    Very well put, echoing all the points – and more – that many of us have been making. This diktat from Evans caused much discomfort (and paralysis of business) at my local CLP last week (even though we tried to make it totally clear that this was not a personal attack on the new executive).
    Starmer says he is keen to rebuild bridges with the so-called “Jewish community”. He was happy to meet with JLM recently. Has JVL invited him and/or Evans to participate in a meeting? It would surely be hard for him to reject an invitation from Jewish members?

  • Stephen Richards says:

    No Black Commissioners……..time for Trevor Phillips.
    P.S Coming from a mixed race family, I wonder how ‘Black’ do you have to be, perhaps a quarter black?

  • John Kingston says:

    Excellent. I am full of admiration for JVL and its members. I am horrified by the suppression of free expression of views by the present LP leadership. I resist my strong temptation to resign only because we must not concede ground to such bullying.

  • David Farley says:

    Good on yer Fred Wall. You have put into words and exactly conveyed how I feel about the ‘ Leadership ‘ and the actions they have taken to stifle debate ( actually forbid it ). What they are doing, in my opinion, is vindictive, unnecessary, unacceptable and un-democratic AND completely divisive. Keith Starmer was elected on a mandate to unify the Party not to split it where factional interests become the norm. Jewish members who do not support Zionism and the Israeli Government must feel devastated and isolated.

  • PETER HAROLD SMITH says:

    Powerful, but how to get this to all Labour Party members most of whom are only aware of the misleading mass media [execpt the Morning Star] reports on this matter

  • Rita Maire says:

    I applaud you Fred Wall, brilliant letter 👏👏👏

  • Wonnie says:

    I think it must be time for members to march to get some publicity at the destruction of free speech within the party by a very small cohort at the top. Anyone fancy organising a demonstration outside labour
    HQ?

  • Philip says:

    I totally agree with your letter.
    Is it appropriate for a CLP to discuss whether it has lost confidence in the General Secretary?

  • John Mclaughlin says:

    The sooner this red tory deadbeat Evans is removed from the labour party the better, and he can take starmer with him.

  • Harry Law says:

    David Evans….. “are providing a flashpoint for the expression of views that undermine the Labour Party’s ability to provide a safe and welcoming space for all members, in particular our Jewish members”.
    Once again Evans is saying that Jewish members are all of the same opinion when it comes to discussing matters all members in the party are interested in, this notion that all Jewish members are of the same opinion is similar to Starmers conflation of criticism of Israel with all Jews wherever they may live or think. That is anti-Semitic.
    “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”. Example 11 of IHRA

  • Dee Howard says:

    Brilliant cutting remarks by comrade Wall which speak for all LP members who have been affected by the vile party edicts from Evans. I particularly like the idea of the coke exploding (or maybe that should be imploding) just like the LP. We are all so angry while we try to hold it together in the numerous Zoom meetings but with a large number of CLPs showing Evans the finger, by passing motion after motion against his direct orders, he must realise he can’t win. FRED WALL FOR GENERAL SECRETARY!

  • Sabine Ebert-Forbes says:

    in response to Peter HarolD Smith: Get Labour Party members to share it on their FB pages or twitter pages, send it to Skwakbox and Spotlight Newspaper (Anya Zenn).

    The letter to Evans is brill, and it needs to get out there.

  • John Tymon says:

    Thank you Fred Wall, you have laid the foundations for a vital and long overdue discussion. However David Evans is an employee of the LP but Keith Starmer who is acting as dictator, was elected leader on the back of a most dangerous lie, that he planned to unify the LP, but has proceeded to divide it in the most dangerous way possible by choosing to support the racist ideology of Zionism against the leftist Jewish community who oppose all racism including Zionist Apartheid racism as practised against the Palestinian people. A leadership is most urgently needed. (Have we not learned from Oswald & Benito)
    There can be no justification for the massacre of these 504 innocent children sleeping peacefully in their beds in July /Aug 2014 members must not turn a blind eye to a massacre of children simply because Keith has lied his way into power

    https://footballagainstapartheid.org/2020/11/09/the-504-children-massacred-in-gaza-during-50-days-of-

  • Dr Nigel Speight says:

    Well said Fred

  • Tom Conwell says:

    Well said Fred.
    Before my suspension I was a branch secretary in the Forest of Dean. I think that the EHRC Report is a biased, shoddy piece of work. I wrote to members of the branch asking them whether they wanted to abide by David Evans’ instructions or not. Seemingly asking people to write back and say what they think is now an offence. Which makes sense I suppose when Mr Evans wants to do the thinking for everyone.

  • Anne Hoyle says:

    Well Said Fred Wall, this is horrendous and detrimental to unity within the party. It must be so offensive and hurtful as well as unwelcoming to any Jewish members on the left. Here’s hoping that something written or said to the leadership wakes them up to how they are destroying and doing the opposite to what keir starmer pledged in his leadership speeches and they then rescind the suspension of the Whip to Jeremy Corbyn.

Comments are now closed.