Hounding Jess Barnard


JVL Introduction

On 3rd September we reported that Labour Party Young Socialists were told by the Party bureaucracy they couldn’t have a speaker from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at their conference. That decision was rapidly reversed before it blew up spectacularly in the Party’s face – see our report in Labour Party Conference and Palestine, a post that includes an account from Jess Barnard, Chair of the Young Socialists at the end of that report.

But a week later a new story emerged  about Jess Barnard receiving a notice of investigation – emailed at 1am! – for “two anti-transphobia tweets posted last year” – see Sienna Rodgers’s story on LabourList below.

But by the end of the same day came a message from the Labour Party that the notice of investigation “was issued in error” – “We apologise unreservedly to Jess for the hurt and upset this has caused.”

What on earth is going on?!

Following the LabourList story we repost Alex Nunns’ twitter thread explaining just what is going on.

It’s not a pretty story – one of a party machine at war with itself with independent rogue operators seemingly operating from its very heart.

You’d have hoped the Party would notice that we are in the midst of a series of social, political and environmental crises which it could well turn its attention to. Instead its paid officials seem to be spending their time hounding socialist members…

Young Labour chair under investigation by party over anti-transphobia tweets

Sienna Rodgers, LabourList, 10 September 2021

A fresh row between Young Labour chair Jess Barnard and the Labour Party has exploded as the activist was informed overnight that she is under investigation over two anti-transphobia tweets posted last year.

Update, 8pm: A Labour spokesperson said: “We apologise unreservedly to Jess for the hurt and upset this has caused.” LabourList understands that Jess Barnard is not under investigation, the notice of investigation was issued in error and has been rescinded, and Labour has apologised to her. The notice was apparently sent outside of the usual processes and the party is looking into how the ‘error’ happened.

The notice of investigation from the party, seen by LabourList because Barnard sent it to all members of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), states that it is investigating allegations she may have broken party rules.

The document refers to “your conduct over email” and asks whether Barnard regrets “posting such comments on Facebok [sic]”, although the posts in question are tweets. The two tweets were both posted in October 2020.

The first tweet includes the question “Guess how many T%RF accounts I had to block today?”. The second is a reply to a Labour councillor, which states: “Expect better from a Labour representative.” It adds: “There’s no fishing for anything I just won’t be intimidated in to giving transphobes energy”.

LabourList has spoken to Labour NEC members who are angry and/or confused by Barnard being investigated over the tweets. One described the action as “outrageous” and another said they “can’t see the issue”.

In an email to NEC members, Barnard noted that the notice of investigation was sent to her at 1am. She said there is “no discrimination” in the evidence presented by Labour and “I haven’t identified any individuals” in the tweets being highlighted.

The Young Labour chair was told that she has not been administratively suspended by the party, there is no assumption of guilt and no restrictions have been placed on her membership rights.

But the document from Labour goes on to specify that the party could suspend her in the future and that “upon the conclusion of this investigation, the NEC may impose such disciplinary measures as it sees fit”.

The move comes less than two weeks after Barnard publicly raised concerns over organising Young Labour day at party conference. YL had been told Labour could not complete checks on speakers until September 20th, just days before the start of conference.

Barnard tweeted today: “I hope you can understand I am not at present free to discuss the investigation.” She adds: “It has been a relentless time and I would be lying if I said this wasn’t impacting my mental health.”

Momentum co-chair Gaya Sriskanthan said: “This is a new low. Transphobia is a serious problem in both Labour and wider society – we should be investigating those with a track record of discrimination, not the people standing up to them.

“This is part of an emerging pattern of political harassment and intimidation of members that is making a mockery out of the party’s disciplinary process.”

Jess Barnard is not giving further comment at this time. The Labour Party has been contacted for comment.

And here is Alex Nunns to explaining what is going on

The real story of what happened with @JessicaLBarnard yesterday is incredible.

The party said she was sent a notice of investigation “in error”. That was mocked—how do you investigate someone & send them an intimidating letter at 1 am by mistake? But it was actually true.

True in the sense that it was done completely outside the official processes in what must count as the definition of bringing the party into disrepute.

First, the context: Young Labour is a thorn in the side of the leadership, a left-wing outpost in the party. The leaderhship’s plan is to revive Labour Students (traditionally a right-wing part of the party) to displace Young Labour.

There’s a concerted campaign against Young Labour and its chair Jess originating from within the party, It’s the usual recipe: bureaucratic obstruction with coordinated attacks from the media and smears (alleging they want a second Holocaust—can’t get more grotesque than that).

Labour’s bureaucracy has been sabotaging Young Labour’s program for conference. Jess exposed it on Twitter. That didn’t go down well. Someone at a senior level in the party wanted to punish her for her insubordination and stop her speaking at conference.

That’s why she was sent a notice of investigation. But something was amiss. The notice was emailed at 1 am. The charges were not only baseless, they were ridiculous—under investigation for opposing transphobic abuse.

It made the party look bigoted and sent a message to trans people that they can’t be defended or protected in the Labour Party. It was a disgrace. When it was exposed the party quickly rescinded the investigation and apologised to Jess. It was highly embarrassing for them.

So what happened? From talking to several people in Labour I have a good idea. First, this wasn’t done by the disciplinary team, the Governance and Legal Unit. Any investigation would have to be carried out and signed off by GLU. This one wasn’t. It didn’t actually exist.

There was no investigation. Someone recycled an old vexatious complaint that GLU had previously dismissed. Jess was sent essentially a fake notice of investigation that bypassed the system—except it was sent from the official address in the standard format on headed paper.

Reportedly it was sent by one of the insecure & inexperienced agency staff brought in to work on complaints while the party was making permanent staff redundant—a great advert for hiring cheap labour from the party of labour.

But an agency worker didn’t spontaneously decide to do such a weird thing at 1 am. They were directed to do it. Who by?

It wasn’t David Evans. He demanded to know why a notice had been sent at 1 am. It wasn’t GLU.

It was someone else senior enough to be able to get agency staff to do their bidding in the middle of the night. Someone who has got it in for Jess. Someone with an interest in disrupting Jess’ and Young Labour’s conference. People within the organisation will know who it was.

The trouble is, they did such a shoddy job. Fine if it stays secret—Labour tells people under investigation they can’t speak about it. But once Owen Jones tweeted an email leaked from the NEC and questions were asked, Labour couldn’t answer—cos it wasn’t a real investigation.

They also had to respond to a furious letter from Jess’ very committed lawyer. So the thing fell apart immediately and they unreservedly apologised, rightly.

This all made Labour’s disciplinary system look like an amateur, shoddy, factional, petty, chaotic mess. You might say that’s what it is. But the managers of GLU must be furious.

The EHRC report last year said complaints must not only be “handled in a fair, impartial and transparent way” but must be “perceived to be” handled as such. What happened to Jess blows that apart. It showed the complaints system to be polluted.

The director of GLU and the executive director who oversees it, if they have any professionalism, will be demanding an investigation and consequences for the person who made them look so corrupted.
Someone at the top of Labour was willing to bring the whole weight of the party’s machinery down on a young, working class woman. There’s a word for that: bullying.

But what about a bureaucracy where this can happen & where no one will likely be held to account? It’s rotten.

Comments (20)

  • Janet Crosley says:

    Agreed, completely rotten.
    Is anything going to change?

  • Ieuan Einion says:

    I was expelled from Labour in March 2017 whilst Corbyn was leader by one Sam Matthews, I think he was part of the GLU, a nasty piece of work who subsequently spilled his guts out on John Ware’s Panorama hatchet job and then got paid off by Evans and Starmer at who knows what cost to party members. This was before they’d worked out that antisemitism was the gift that keeps on giving so they accused me of being a communist, which was morally and philosophically true but not a basis for expulsion because I had specifically left the PCF in France in order to be eligible to join Labour’s international branch.

    With a general election in the offing and not wishing to rock the boat and hand our enemies any ammunition, I didn’t even appeal: I just carried on working for a Labour victory under JC.

    If the GLU were able to operate like that whilst Corbyn was still leader, just imagine the situation today.

    All that being said I did write to Jess Barnard last week offering her solidarity in the face of these unwarranted attacks, but also gently reminding her that the use of the term “TERF” could be construed as pejorative and would be unlikely to hasten many socialist-feminists to her side.

    If the British Labour Party cannot transcend these culture wars imported from the USA and return to a politics based on true internationalism, the liberation of women, principled anti-racism and the pursuit of state power for the working class, the prognosis for its survival is poor.

  • Joseph Hannigan says:

    Waiting for Real or Provisional LPs to form….anytime now!

  • patrick lonergan says:

    It stinks. ! The Labour right doesn’t want any dissent.
    Doomed to failure despite polls as the activists base will have been eroded or disinterested by 2024

  • amanda sebestyen says:

    I have read Owen Jones’ account of this and I disagree with it. Agreed of course that it’s horrible that Young Labour is being targeted and purged, and really grateful there’s still one remaining part of the Labour party not afraid to stick up for Palestinian rights – but I consider Jess Barnard’s ‘anti-Terf’ tweets to be part of the same vengeful and hounding spirit . Although I personally am very influenced by personal Transwomen friends I have made and admired, I don’t regard all feminists who raise questions about all-women spaces as haters and bigots. If we go on like this we get into cannibalism and eating each other. This is destroying our movement. We need to call for proper forums of discussion on gender issues just like we need to for antisemitism debate.

  • John Noble says:

    It is intimidation set to frighten people into not speaking out. No apology is worth the paper it is not written on, this is just part of the same insatiable bullying that Keir Starmer has put in train, poisonous.

  • OzTones says:

    Members should be able to show the whole rotten bunch the door and elect an executive that respects and defends democracy within the party.

  • DAVID JONES says:

    That’s at least twice they have gone for Jess and had to back off. What’s the betting it’s third time lucky with these bullying thugs????? – or fourth time, fifth time, etc.
    And we’re meant to vote for these??!!

  • Margaret West says:

    Amanda- I agree with your comments about
    the use of Terf in Jess’s tweet(s)

    However I think the content of the tweet had nothing to
    do with the letter authorisation. They chose something at random which looked controversial to get at Jess.

  • Stephen Richards says:

    When religious leaders dictate demands to political parties we have a dangerous problem in our democracy. When Ephraim Mirvis bragged about stopping Socialism (Sanders & Corbyn) to AIPAC he showed his hand & MSM said nothing. We have a serious problem with the 4th Estate.

  • Nick Elvidge says:

    certainly conference is going to be interesting…i think the left have got over defeat and are willing and able to move forward – so much strength and imagination and passion! This 1am secret police farce is surely indication of the panic and stress at HQ? Starmer making left sounding noises (tax on assets/transactions) but is that just to defang the left ahead of conference – the price of unity just went up – evans, 10 pledges+ and oh yeah that israeli intelligence guy (lol)

  • Hazel Davies says:

    I complained about Evans and Starmer for political interference in the disciplinary process over their treatment of Jeremy Corbyn. I supported my complaints with 4 pages of quotes from the EHRC report. I have had no response in almost a year.

  • rc says:

    “working towards the Leader ” (eg Cesarani Final Solution 2016 pages xxx and following, esp xxxvi-xxxvii) has become the standard explanation for the genocidal efficiency with which many Nazi officials, including those with no particular animus against Jews, followed the “Unwritten Order” (Longerich 2001 passim) and got very near the 6m deaths of Jews.
    “Plausible deniability” is a political-bureaucratic phrase summarizing how leaders give keen underlings a nod and a wink – a la “”Don’t ask don’t tell”…
    These notions explain how naive Alex Nunn is to acquit the acting GS of complicity in this and many other persecutions of socialists in the LP. If you were the top man (or the Met Commissioner… no sexism here) would you not at once call for an enquiry into “rogue elements”?
    Face it: the LP leadership now resembles the Republican Texas government in unleashing a horde of greedy bounty-seekers and vigilantes into persecuting those who exercise their personal (abortion) and/or democratic (anti-apartheid) views – AND those who aid and abet them.
    These practices make a total mockery of the ‘natural justice’ proclamations and assurances with which Party statements teem.

  • Caroline Carney says:

    I am replying to Amanda’s point. Jess was arguing with a Labour councillor who is male and a bigot in every way. The other tweet about Terfs was about the abuse she got for doing so from Trans exclusionary feminists. Not gender-critical members wishing genuine discussion but vicious abusive non-socialist men and women whose relentless pursuit of a pile on went on for days. I know this as I was in this discussion on Twitter when it happened and had some expletive-filled abuse myself for my troubles. TERF is a shorthand term it is not abuse it describes their position on excluding trans people from our society. I don’t tend to use it but I have no problem with it being used in the context Jess did. As a socialist feminist, I have always opposed movements that do not include all women.

  • Susan Buckingham says:

    It’s also possible that someone who is part of the bureaucracy is using a new temporary contract member of staff to take the fall for a decision by someone who doesn’t want to be identified. That could be bullying as well.

  • Doug says:

    Stop bloody twisting about the abuse and bullying and stand upto it, has anyone else got a cunning plan to rid our party of Red Tories
    I cannot believe there are not 40 mp’s left in the party who are not horrified by whats going on
    But we must make this opportunity a quantum leap for the party and put forward a history making candidate, female, bame and hard as nails
    I’m tired of trying to make sense of how these centrists are in the party but equally the alphabetti spaghetti debate I find truly abysmal
    For the love of God just agree to disagree, we are better than this

  • amanda sebestyen says:

    It is not the word ‘Terf’ I object to — our opponents have objected to the word ‘Zio’ in the past, etc etc. It is the fact that in those tweets Barnard called for pursuing, purging and driving out of the party those she called Terfs. JVL has not demanded that Zionists leave the Labour party , so there is a difference. I disagree with her approach strongly. I have also noticed how many of the most exclusionary transactivists are not trans themselves. Allyship to me means something very different. This has become a proxy war when what we want is to build coalitions.

  • Doug says:

    Strange question Methinks but does anyone still believe we are a broad church party, that we can unite the party after everything that has happened

  • John Bowley says:

    The administrarion of the ‘Labour Party’ seems presently rotten to the core. It is acting as if it is looney. Screaming Dame Hodge appears to rule over all. It is as if she is setting the ridiculous standards of intolerant internal discipline.

  • Nigel Haines says:

    In response to Doug’s post, if the political nature of the vast majority of MP’s in the PLP and those in high places of the Party’s bureaucracy isn’t clear to all and sundry in the ranks, then what will it take for such clarity to emerge?
    Does anybody think that such dedicated careerists as Blair will forgo the millions of pounds they’ve successfully and corruptly lined their pockets with from the bank accounts of the likes of the Bush family of oil barons for support of their bloody wars in Iraq etc, then “political naivety” doesn’t even begin to describe the condition they’re suffering from.
    Some of the right-wing in the Party may have started out as believers in political & economic reform in favour of the less fortunate in society, but once the whiff of economic advancement in their political careers becomes transformed into the stench of outright graft and corruption courtesy of bribes and backhanders from the ruling class a la Blair, then there is no compromise with these paid agents of the elite within the Labour movement. There can be no “broad church”, they must be exposed and driven out of our movement so they can find a home with the Liberals or Tory Party and their treachery and coniving in pursuit of rewards from their ideological and financial paymasters brought out into the cold light of day for the working class to be able to judge with clarity as to who’s on their side and who aren’t.

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