Letter to David Evans, General Secretary of the Labour Party

Longstanding trade union activist and Labour Party member, Jacob Ecclestone writes to the David Evans about his letter to Labour Party CLPs and Secretaries.

16 August.

Dear Mr Evans,

As a member of the Labour Party I have been sent a copy of your letter to CLP chairs and secretaries. I assume that the contents of your letter were approved by Keir Starmer. If so, they were politically foolish; if not then you exceeded your authority.

Your letter is an instruction to CLPs and Labour Party branches forbidding members from discussing three issues: the party’s decision to apologise for its criticisms of John Ware’s Panorama programme broadcast in July 2019; the report on anti-semitism within the Labour Party which the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has now completed but not yet published, and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-semitism which the Labour Party executive adopted in 2018.

As someone who regards himself as a socialist – and who was a member of a trade union throughout his working life – I was disappointed by your letter for three reasons: first, because it is an attempt to suppress freedom of speech; second because the attitude of mind which lies behind it owes more to the traditions and methods of national socialism than to the democratic traditions of the Labour Party, and third because the evidence of history suggests that when political leaders try to tell their followers what to think – and what not to think – then freedom itself is in jeopardy.

I suggest that you and Mr Starmer take a moment or two to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19. In case you have forgotten, it reads as follows:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Finally, I would remind you – and Mr Starmer – of Jacob Bronowski’s wise remark: “There is one freedom which can be defined without contradiction….. this is freedom of thought and speech: the right to dissent.”

Until such time as you withdraw these absurd instructions, I shall continue to criticise… [the rest of this sentence has been omitted on the advice of our lawyers – JVL]; I shall read the EHRC findings with interest (back in April I sent them a copy of the 800-page report into the conduct of the party bureaucracy) and I shall continue to treat the IHRC definition of anti-semitism as a crude attempt to suppress criticism of the racist regime in Israel.

Yours sincerely,

Jacob Ecclestone

Comments (12)

  • Mr Starmer and his minions reveal even more of their true colors. Is anyone surprised?

  • RC says:

    Evans exceeded his authority in any case. Starmer has no authority over branches, CLPs or indeed affiliates.
    An oral warning is perhaps in order from his employer – the NEC?

  • John Bernard says:

    Spot on Jacob Ecclestone!

  • Just to emphasise:
    Thanks, Jacob.
    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

  • Nitram says:

    Surely the key question is u see what direction (from nec) or u dear what rule did he do this? We are a party with rules and u see those rules I can raise any motion.

  • Peter Kirker says:

    Starmer will get no oral warning from the NEC. Apart from Rachel Garnham (alas not standing again) and just a few others, he has them in his pocket. It will stay like that until/unless GMB and Unison members surprise us all and go for leftwingers in their forthcoming general-secretary elections.

    Great letter, Jake.

  • Sabine Ebert-Forbes says:

    Brilliant letter.
    Originating from a country that caused 2 world wars and that has reeked havoc on most of Europe last Century, killing people on grounds of ethnicity, religion, disability, political views, political activity, sexual orientation or because they did not embrace that fascist system or they did not like the look of them.
    Never again – was the warning and the lesson we learned from it. So to me it is shocking and disheartening and painful to see that Labour Party’s leader and his General Secretary appear to be moving towards an authoritarian, undemocratic system where members will be reduced to being no more than claqueurs.
    And if parts of the party like the NEC and the membership get bypassed, then I am more than concerned, actually very much perturbed.
    To say that I am more than unhappy about his performance to date, is a polite understatement.

  • Rosemary Brocklehurst says:

    Really articulate letter from a former NUJ General Secretary raising a hugely important mindset within this new so-called GS and his ilk. McNichol suppressed any meetings at all in 2015. Evans now uses the rulebook to suppress discussion of central political issues exercising members at a time of worrying populism globally. I sometimes wonder if they have been brainwashed, been to some sort of cadre school, or are so dense as not to recognise the totalitarian tendency , or indeed negative and reactionary consequences of such political diktats. I agree with Peter Kirker that the NEC will do nothing and suspect that the GMB and Unison will not go for left wing members.

  • Alys Swan-Jackson says:

    This needs to be shared over my social media. Do you have a link to Facebook/Twitter please?

  • Vanessa Rambridge says:

    The writer of this article is absolutely correct so thank you for putting into words what I feel and think

  • DJ says:

    Sounds to me, they are running scared of debate, just like Tories. Those who have run out of arguments to justify their policies or actions often try to shut things down.

  • Carole. says:

    As far as I’m aware there is no antisemitism in the Labour party and never has been, however, Like myself many feel really quite angry that they are being brushed with the brush of antisemitism when they criticise the Israeli genocide perpetrated an Palestinians in the name of Zionism.

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