Letter to David Evans, General Secretary of the Labour Party

JVL Introduction

David Evans has in recent times send a few letters around to Party Officers. They seem concerned, one after another, with restricting discussion and debate in the Party on various grounds.

You can find them below as an Appendix to this post

There is, not surprisingly some discontent, with these edicts.

We repost below a fairly comprehensive riposte from an active party member and officer, which is circulating on social media, with the rubric: “There are some CLP officers that are sending letters like this to the General Secretary”.

We all eagerly await the response from our General Secretary to some difficult questions which are posed here.


Letter to David Evans

Dear David,

I would normally just mark the email as read and move on, but I have thought long and hard prior to responding to you on this occasion.

I joined the Party in 2011 before re-joining in 2015 after a short gap. Since re-joining in 2015, I have been heavily involved in my Branch and Constituency, having held officer roles consistently since 2016. I am committed to and feel that I work extremely hard for the Labour Party locally, giving an awful lot of my free time in the process. I am not the only one; I work with some fantastic CLP officers that give the same commitment as I do.

As a volunteer, nothing has demoralised me as much lately as the content and tone of your emails. I find this particular example to be completely unacceptable. It is written as if you are a CEO speaking to your staff, not volunteers. I am not an employee of the Labour Party and you are not my line manager.

There is also an expectation that CLP Secretaries should forward your emails on to members, and therefore continue taking the flack for your decisions. I would urge that you, in future, ensure that your communications are sent to *all members* – as that is the intended audience.

I want to bring attention to two specific points of your email and hope that you can provide me with answers.

Competent Business

You state that “it is not competent business for CLPs, branches and any other party units to have discussions about, or pass motions in relation to any aspect of individual disciplinary cases”, but you have failed to support CLP Chairs and Secretaries in re-enforcing this guidance in Party meetings.

In my opinion, there is no provision in the rule book for such instruction. Chapter 1 – Clause VIII – 3.E of the rule book does state that the “NEC shall from time to time, issue guidance and instructions on the conduct of meetings”, but you’re issuing guidance about content of meetings here, not conduct.

Furthermore, in the Model Procedural Rules (standing orders) of the Rule Book, standing order H is clear that a motion shall be accepted, as long as it is “received by the secretary in writing not less than 14 days prior to the meeting for which they are intended”
If you expect Branches and CLPs to enforce something, you must state under which rule you’re asking them to exercise that during a meeting. The phrase “Competent Business” does not feature once in the Rule Book.

Members are not going to simply accept what is said. They will want a reference to the Rule Book. To issue guidance in this form, without appropriate references to the Rule Book, is inappropriate. It puts volunteers (of whom you expect to enforce) in an extremely difficult position.

The use of language

You state “As leaders in your CLPs and branches, the Party is relying on you to ensure that meetings are conducted in accordance with our rules and guidance, and in the spirit of creating an open and welcoming environment for people of all communities and backgrounds. I must emphasise that the Party will not hesitate to take appropriate action – including against individual members – where our rules and guidance are not adhered to, or standards of behaviour fall below that which we expect”

Firstly, I must object to the threatening tone to the latter part of this paragraph. I am extremely disappointed that you have resorted to veiled threats to volunteers, suggesting that you will hold us responsible for the desire of a CLP to discuss or debate an issue that you’re uncomfortable with. You are also threatening us with disciplinary action where rules are not being adhered to, yet your guidance is asking us to not follow the rules.

Secondly, I must object to the use of the phrase ‘leaders’; I am not a leader of my branch or CLP, neither are my fellow officers. The Rule Book is clear that “The management of this CLP shall be in the hands of the General Meeting. The decisions of the General Meeting shall be put into effect by an Executive Committee which shall be appointed by and report to an Annual General Meeting of this CLP and to other such meetings as required by the CLP rules and procedures.” The General Meeting is the leadership of its own CLP. Officers are elected to perform the administrative function. Your use of the phrase ‘leaders’ seems to imply a misunderstanding of the relationship of Officers to their CLP and I would urge you to address.

Questions

I would be grateful if you could answer the following questions for me, to allow me, as a CLP Secretary, to provide the correct advice to my CLP:
a. Could you reference which rule(s) from the Rule Book that CLPs should exercise the enforcement of non-“competent business” under?
b. How you expect a CLP Chair to maintain any confidence of their members, if they’re seen to not follow their own standing orders, particularly H?
c. How you expect CLPs to both adhere to rules and break rules at the same time? and which of the two takes precedence?

In Summary

I have never met or have worked with you previously, but as I do with everyone, I strive to maintain a positive working relationship for the good of the Labour Party. I am working to achieve positive local and regional election results in 2021, and I assume that we both want the same. I hope that you take this email in the way which it is intended; constructive feedback.

I look forward to your response.


Appendix

Letter A

Source: LabourList, Local parties warned against motions on Panorama settlement, EHRC, IHRA, 13 August 2020

FAO: CLP secretaries & chairs

As CLPs and branches are now able to meet online, I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on a few pertinent issues. This will ensure that the business your local party is conducting is appropriate, minimises any challenge to its decisions and does not leave the party – locally and nationally – or its officers open to potential legal liabilities. Apologies for the length of this email, but I hope you will agree it covers some very important issues.

NEC nominations – voting procedures

We have received a number of requests for further clarity on the voting systems that are to be used for the nomination of NEC candidates. Nominations should be made by secret ballot, not by a show of hands.

  • Where a voting system is specified in your CLPs standing orders, this is the system that should be used to make your nominations;
  • Where a voting system is not specified in your CLP standing orders, you should rely on previous custom and practice from your CLP.

We would usually expect that to be either multi-member First Past The Post (‘Approval Voting’ on Choice Voting) or Single Transferable Vote (‘Electoral Reform Society 97 STV’ on Choice Voting). CLPs should not be devising new voting systems of their own.

We advise that wherever possible nominations are taken by email in advance of the meeting to allow the ballot to be set up before the meeting. Any such email nominations would only be valid if the member making the nomination is in attendance at the subsequent meeting. Should there be fewer nominations than, or an equal number to, the total positions available, there is no need to progress to a ballot.

Panorama settlement

The Labour Party recently agreed a settlement with seven former members of staff who appeared on an edition of the BBC’s Panorama programme, as well as with the journalist who hosted that programme. Those settlements included an unreserved apology and a withdrawal of the allegations previously made by the Party about those individuals. The withdrawal and apology are binding on the party and any motions which seek to undermine or contradict them will create a risk of further legal proceedings for both the national party and local parties. As such, motions relating to these settlements and the circumstances behind them are not competent business for discussion by local parties.

CLP officers have an important responsibility to ensure that they and other members conduct themselves in a respectful and comradely manner. We therefore take this opportunity to reiterate to local Labour Parties and officers that they should be aware of the potential liabilities to them should the allegations that have now been withdrawn by the national party be repeated.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report

On Monday 13 July 2020 the party announced that it had received the EHRC’s draft report into allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party. This draft report has been provided to the party by the EHRC on a confidential basis as part of its investigation.

When we are able to provide more information about the EHRC’s report we will do so. Until that time speculation as to the contents of the report is not helpful. It is therefore not competent business for CLPs to discuss.

IHRA definition of antisemitism

We are aware that some CLPs and branches have had motions tabled to “repudiate” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. The IHRA definition of antisemitism and its examples was properly adopted by the Labour Party in September 2018. CLPs and branches have no powers to overturn this decision. Furthermore, such motions undermine the Labour Party’s ability to tackle racism. Any such motions are therefore not competent business for CLPs or branches.

As per the previous general secretary’s instruction, any discussion about ongoing disciplinary cases remains prohibited.

Thanks,

David Evans
General Secretary

 


Letter B

Publication of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party – Guidance for CLPs

29th October 2020

1. Introduction

In May 2019 the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched an investigation into allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party. This investigation has now been concluded and the EHRC has published its report and recommendations, which can be found here equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/investigation- antisemitism-labour-party.

The Labour Party will be working constructively with the EHRC, the Jewish community and Labour Party stakeholders in the upcoming months to implement the EHRC’s recommendations made within this report

The report’s conclusions are clear and stark. The Commission has found that the Labour Party has breached the Equality Act in terms of unlawful harassment and indirect discrimination towards the Jewish community.

We are absolutely clear that the Party accepts the report and its recommendations in full. It is up to all of us, and particularly leaders in CLPs like you to change the Party’s culture and make sure that we are once again, an open and welcoming place for people from all backgrounds and all communities.

While we have no desire to stifle legitimate debate and we recognise that it is important for members to discuss and engage constructively with the report and its recommendations, you must bear in mind that the country is watching us. The way in which the Labour Party responds to this report and deals with antisemitism is a key test of our credibility as a political party. As part of that, it is critical that we create a safe space for our Jewish members and begin to immediately improve our culture at all levels to ensure something like this can never happen again.

At all times CLPs, branches, and individual members should be mindful of the language they use online to discuss this sensitive issues as well as their obligations under the Labour Party’s Code of Conduct: Antisemitism and other forms of racism, Code of Conduct: Social Media Policy, and Code of Conduct: Member’s Pledge. Any breach of these codes of conduct – including in motions – will be dealt with robustly via the Labour Party’s disciplinary processes.

All Labour Party NEC codes of conduct can be found on our website –

labour.org.uk/members/my-welfare/my-rights-and-responsibilities/

We hope this document will help CLP officers answer the main questions members may have, and provide a framework for constructive discussion at a local level.

2. Socialmedia

The Labour Party at all levels whether that be branches, CLPs or individual members will be under a tremendous amount of scrutiny over coming days and weeks. Public commentary on the report may have significant legal ramifications for the Party and individuals, and with that in mind we ask that social media accounts of branches, CLPs and other Party Units are not be used to comment on the EHRC investigation or the publication of its report.

Where comments or discussion is permitted (for example Facebook groups), close moderation will be essential, and you may wish to consider temporarily restricting the ability for members or other individuals to post.

3. Frequently asked questions

The Party has produced a publicly available FAQ page which is available here

labour.org.uk/ehrc-report/

We trust that this will help you answer any questions that members may have about the publication of the report, the recommendations and the next steps for the Party.

4. Dealing with CLP and branch motions

Your CLP can pass motions relating to the EHRC report. However, we must be clear that the EHRC report and its recommendations results from a statutory investigation. The Party has accepted the recommendations in full. Consequently, motions that seek to question the competence of the EHRC to conduct the investigation in any way, or repudiate or reject the report or any of its recommendations are not competent business and must be ruled out of order. This is because the NEC has a responsibility under Labour Party rule to ensure that the Party meets its legal responsibilities, which includes responding accordingly to the EHRC’s statutory investigation.

Any competent motions are expected to be drafted in line with the principles outlined in the introduction to this document, and in particular must support our work to make sure that the Labour Party is once again a safe, open and welcoming place for members from all backgrounds and communities.

5. Model questions for discussion by branches and CLPs.

It may be that the adversarial nature of discussing and voting on a motion is not conducive to constructive and inclusive debate. Your CLP may therefore wish to take a less formal approach and consider open questions such as those below, possibly in a breakout group format.

  • What can our branch/CLP do to help rebuild relationships with the Jewish Community?
  • What do we need to learn and how do we need to develop as individuals and as a branch/CLP to help make us better allies to under-represented groups?
  • How can our branch/CLP enshrine equality into everything we do?
  • In the context of building a welcoming and inclusive culture, what does our branch/CLP do well already, and what could we be better at?
  • How can our branch/CLP contribute to building a more inclusive Labour Party and what do we need from the Labour Party regionally and nationally to help us do that?

Version 1 – GLU sign off 291020


Letter 3:

Supplementary guidance

Source: Labour Left Alliance, David Evans’ communication re Corbyn and EHRC report, 5th November 2020

FAO: CLP Chairs, CLP Secretaries & Branch Chairs, Branch Secretaries

Further to the information you received on appropriate discussion of the EHRC report and recommendations on Thursday 29 October, I wanted to write to provide supplementary guidance in relation to discussion of individual disciplinary cases.

I am aware of the considerable strength of feeling and the range of views that members will have about the suspension, pending investigation, of Jeremy Corbyn MP. However, I must remind you that in accordance with the instructions of my predecessor – which I fully agree with – it is not competent business for CLPs, branches and any other party units to have discussions about, or pass motions in relation to any aspect of individual disciplinary cases. This is necessary in order to protect the integrity of our processes, and to ensure that cases can be investigated and determined confidentially.

In accordance with the guidance previously circulated, I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you that motions or discussions that seek to question the competence of the EHRC to conduct the investigation in any way, or repudiate or reject the report or any of its recommendations are not competent business and must be ruled out of order. This is because the NEC has a responsibility under Labour Party rule to ensure that the Party meets its legal responsibilities, which includes responding accordingly to the EHRC’s statutory investigation.

As leaders in your CLPs and branches, the Party is relying on you to ensure that meetings are conducted in accordance with our rules and guidance, and in the spirit of creating an open and welcoming environment for people of all communities and backgrounds. I must emphasise that the Party will not hesitate to take appropriate action – including against individual members – where our rules and guidance are not adhered to, or standards of behaviour fall below that which we expect.

Should you have any questions about this guidance or the propriety of any individual motions or discussion topics, please contact [email protected] or your regional office who will be happy to provide further advice.

Yours sincerely,

David Evans
General Secretary

Comments (10)

  • si says:

    I expected a long sequence of comments to Evans containing the word bollocks.

  • John Bowley says:

    Our democratic socialist political party is being changed to top down rule.

  • Allan Howard says:

    I didn’t bother reading through the emails from David Evans, but as I scrolled down the following caught my eye at the beginning of one paragraph:

    ‘While we have no desire to stifle legitimate debate…’

    No, of course not, but we WILL anyway! Great letter, and it will of course be very interesting to hear what David Evans says in response. Or lack of! And needless to say, David Evans and Keir Starmer know full well that the Panorama program was a black propaganda hatchet job and a total travesty, all neatly choreographed from start to finish. And given the claims made by the so-called ordinary Jewish members, there is not a single investigative journalist on the planet worthy of the name that wouldn’t have given the respective CLPs the opportunity to respond to the respective claims AND include them in the program. And Evans and Starmer know it of course!

  • The sooner David Evans goes the better and healthier the Labour party will be, especially if he takes Kier Starmer with him.

  • Sabine Ebert-Forbes says:

    Considering that Jeremy Corbyn learned of his suspension from a photographer, apart from the fact that he is entitled to comment under rule 10 as long as it is not AS, and considering that even Angela Rayner confirmed that Jeremy Corbyn was telling the truth, albeit in her view an unacceptable or was it inconvenient truth, makes Mr Evans’ statement sound somewhat absurd. It is also political interference as was Mr Starmer’s tour of radio stations to give interviews in which he misrepresented Jeremy’s statement. The fall out from this also is that the Labour Party is no longer the welcoming, open, friendly environment for left members, from some personal experience I had to realise on reflection that the “Broad Church”, which is often mentioned, is seriously damaged so it seems. Sad!

  • Stephen Richards says:

    “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

  • RH says:

    “No comments on this post so far”

    Well – no comment is really necessary, I guess, given that the garbage coming from the self-arrogating central administration is its own condemnation – returning to the worst behaviour of the past.

    Time for studious ignoring by the real Party, I think.

  • What David Evans meant when he said he wanted “to create an open and welcoming environment” was that we must be more open and welcoming to those who support Starmer.
    Socialists are no longer part of the “in crowd”

  • Joseph okeefe says:

    No wonder the membership are leaving in droves,The high handed flippent email from Evans is nothing short of insulting and shows a lack of understanding and respect for the membership.Dracula and blood bank come to mind

  • Kuhnberg says:

    Time to turn the tables on Starmer and Evans. Many members of the Labour Party have been caused distress by Jeremy’s suspension for telling the truth. Many have been caused grave offence by the way they have been gagged or disciplined for speaking their minds and defending the rights of Palestinans. Many (like myself) feel furious at the way their families’ sufferings In the Holocaust have been used to paint Jeremy, the Labour Party and themselves as antisemites. We deserve a reckoning.

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