The Labour Party’s disciplinary procedures – Jacob Ecclestone writes on “confidentiality”

JVL Introduction

Jacob Ecclestone was a founder member of the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Britain almost 40 years ago.

So he finds the injunction to remain silent about a “notice of investigation” he has received from the Labour Party unacceptable and has written a letter explaining this to the General Secretary, David Evans.

The “investigation” concerns an email he sent to the Party’s regional office –“no more than a mild protest and an expression of my political opinion – the Labour Party being a collective organisation for people who hold political opinions and want to discuss them.”

He wonders how an internal message can be publicly damaging; or how the Labour Party’s disciplinary procedures seem to resemble those used by the Holy Office of the Inquisition in its quest to hunt down heretics and root out error…

Jacob Ecclestone writes

18 November 2021

David Evans
General Secretary
The Labour Party
105 Victoria Street
London  SW1E

Sent by e-mail

Dear Mr Evans,

I am writing in response to the various documents and letters I was sent by the Labour Party on 9 November 2021. The fact that none was signed is an indication, perhaps, of how little regard the party has for ordinary members. I prefer to communicate with a human being rather than a “unit”.

It seems that I am “under investigation” for writing and sending a short message to the East Midlands General Office of the party on 28 June, 2019. I attach a copy of my email for your information, together with a copy of the allegations against me.

Reading through the many demands, warnings, requests and instructions, I am struck by the extraordinary similarity between the Labour Party’s disciplinary procedures and those pioneered 600 years ago by the Holy Office of the Inquisition – the purpose in both cases being to hunt down heretics and root out error. Here are some examples:

  • investigations to be carried out in secret
  • the accused to be denied all knowledge of the identity of his or her accusers and the identity of witnesses
  • the accused to be required to testify
  • those charged to be presumed guilty (or else they would not have been charged)
  • the identity of the accused to be kept secret

I am glad that instead of burning deviants and heretics the Labour Party now expresses concern for the accused’s mental wellbeing. Mine is good, thank you.

However, having been a founder member of the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Britain almost 40 years ago, I cannot agree to remain a secret heretic. It goes against the grain, especially as I spent much of my working life with the National Union of Journalists attempting to dispel the clouds of confidentiality which – to this day – hang over our public life. The Labour Party should try harder to throw off this culture of secrecy instead of embracing it like a child’s comfort-blanket.

There are several issues in the notice of  “investigation” which I would like to raise with you – beginning with the word itself. I appreciate that an “investigation” sounds more open-minded than, say, “processing a complaint”, but there isn’t anything to investigate. The email which I sent to the regional office was no more than a mild protest and an expression of my political opinion – the Labour Party being a collective organisation for people who hold political opinions and want to discuss them.

One of the documents I received is headed “Draft Charge”. Normally, a draft is not published until the text is put into its final form. Could you tell me, therefore, whether this was a simple oversight or does the word “draft” mean that the charge(s) may be revised in the light of this letter to you? If the latter, then the “Draft Charge” is what lawyers call a fishing expedition, isn’t it?

It is alleged that the mere act of writing and sending a 214-word email to one of the regional offices was “grossly detrimental” to the Labour Party. I would be obliged if you could describe and quantify the harm caused by my email since I cannot understand how an internal message can be publicly damaging.

Another matter that puzzles me about this “investigation” is how it started. I am told that the party “received” a complaint about my email. If the complainant is not a member of the Labour Party bureaucracy, then it follows that my email must have been leaked because the party was the only recipient. If a member of the Labour Party staff leaked my message, then I can hardly be blamed for any damage or harm the party may have suffered.

On the other hand, if the party bureaucracy did not “receive” a complaint but decided to institute disciplinary proceedings itself because objection was taken to the views expressed in my email, then this whole business is based on deceit. Is the Labour Party acting as judge, jury and executioner in its own cause?  Perhaps you should explain.

The real issue underlying this attempt to expel me from the party is, of course, antisemitism. Writing this letter in the wake of the latest disclosures about Islamophobia in Britain, given to a Parliamentary Select Committee by Azeem Rafiq, I am troubled more than ever that the Labour Party has a hierarchy of racism. It is not right for socialists to treat one form of racial prejudice and hostility as more important than another. The Muslim and the Jew are both human beings and deserve to be honoured in the same way.

Finally, a personal note. I was born in the spring of 1939 shortly before the second world war began. I was a few weeks old when my parents took into our home a six-year-old boy called Herbert Neuwalder. He came from Vienna on the Kindertransport. For the first eight years of my life he was my oldest brother. Happily, he was reunited with his family after the war.  Herbert remained my brother for 80 years.

Yours sincerely,

Jacob Ecclestone
cc Simon Chapman (chair) and Leisa Devlin (secretary) South Norfolk CLP

Text of the Draft Charge issued to Jacob Ecclestone by the Labour party on 9 November 2021

Text of the email sent by Jacob Ecclestone to East Midlands regional Office of the Labour Party on 28 June 2019

“I rejoined the Labour party two years ago when I believed that it had returned to its socialist roots. I am writing to say that I am appalled by the behaviour of the Labour Party in its treatment of Chris Williamson.

I, and many other members of the party, share Mr Williamson view that the leadership of the party has been far too apologetic in response to the smears of anti-semitism which have been so liberally made by discontented members of the PLP.

No matter. An enquiry was carried out and the suspension was lifted. Now – shockingly – after a wave of hysterical abuse by the media and  Margaret Hodge and Louise Ellman etc. Mr Williamson has been suspended again.

Trying to express my concerns as a member to the head office of the party seems well-nigh impossible. However, please pass on my concern about this gross abuse of procedure in order to try to pacify the baying of our right-wing media.  Sadly, I feel that Mr Williamson will shortly be joining other honourable members who have been hounded out of the party – Ken Livingstone and Marc Wadsworth to name two. Should that happen, I would have little option but to resign.

Good wishes from a deeply saddened,
Jacob Ecclestone (South Norfolk)”


Comments (18)

  • dave says:

    That’s bizarre that they are going back to a 2.5 year old internal email. Haven’t they got enough retrospective support for proscribed organisations to be going on with?

  • Alasdair MacVarish says:

    so many at the top of the party are utter scum. Starmer arselicking at LFI lunch in search for funding much of which will be squandered in internecine strife while Israelis demolish 15 Bedouin schools in illegally occupied territory. Hard line settler supporter now ambassador present. Assaf Kaplan employed to spy on members.

  • Ronald Kempshall says:

    The leadership of the Labour Party seems to try to suspend members who criticise or disagree with them. They only want zombies for members!

  • Annie Weatherly-Barton says:

    Absolutely horrific and shocking! It does remind me of the Joseph McCarthy Witch Hunts

  • What puzzles me is this question that continually comes up in these Notices of Investigation:
    ‘Undermines the Party’s ability to campaign against racism’ when the whole purpose of this exercise seems to be to reinforce racism and in particular Zionism and the State of Israel. The latest example of which is Sir Keith Sturmer’s speech to the assembled glitterati of Labour Friends of Israel.

    How is support Apartheid a campaign against racism? Does the word ‘racism’ no longer have any meaning?

    And even assuming that this allegation was made in good faith, then how can an internal email undermine such a campaign?

  • Terry Messenger says:

    Jake Ecclestone – NUJ legend. I doubt they knew what they were getting into when they tangled with this wily old fella.

  • Trevor Ault says:

    I suspect a more recent complaint maybe has triggered a trawl. It has happened in other cases where the “offence” cited is strangely long ago.
    Solidarity Jacob.

  • Andrew Hornung says:

    Great letter, Jacob. The Governance and Legal Unit is still playing a double game with “confidentiality”. They argue in court that it is only advice and yet insist on it in correspondence.

  • Jack Hackett says:

    Sadly Labour continues its descent into a laughingstock.

  • Mary Dwyer says:

    Love & Solidarity Jacob.

  • Judith Kelman says:

    The whole business is a sickness in the Labour Party. I too am being investigated for being critical of the current Leader. Smacks of Dictatorship.
    I no longer feel able to support such a regime.

  • sean clarke says:

    Jacob, thats one hell of a reply and i look forward to you publishing any reply you recieve…..this investigative unit of the Labour Party is truely awful and rather scary in its methods of intimidation and persecution of fellow Party members. good luck

  • Stephen Richards says:

    When Tony Blair was asked if he had any regrets about his time in office as PM he replied “Yes, the Freedom of Information Act”.

    Whatever happened to journalism?

  • Patricia Roberts says:

    The party is as corrupt as the Tories now? I left as soon as Starmer was made leader.I’d like to know where the £13m that Corbyn gathered through the huge membership going up has gone? They are saying the party is bankrupt. We know £600,000 went to 6 whistleblowers as an out of court settlement, yet Labours solicitor had said they would win the case! He won’t release the Forde report, and he was backed to the tune of £50k to win the leadership by Trevor Chinn the Israeli activist? He accepted the 10 demands of the BOD immediately he won.
    The people he has put on the front benches have all had money from Chinn?
    Please keep us informed how all this goes,it will be very interesting, I wish you all the luck in the world.

  • Pat Melia says:

    Let Labour Drown in The Cess Pit it Has Become.

  • Roy dunnett says:

    Full support for Jacob, I see nothing wrong in his letter to Dave Evens.

  • Trevor Phillips says:

    This is more, sad evidence of what Mr Ecclestone describes. It seems to stem from enormous influence within and upon the Labour Party by people who will not tolerate criticism of policies of the Israeli state. It is not absurd to wonder if that state is initiating this. If a foreign power can direct a major British political party, our democracy has been violated. Leaders of the Labour Party are complicit in this.

  • steven mitchell says:

    Remember when Anti-Semitism was ‘endemic’ within the party? Now, all of a sudden, it is no longer a problem. The Media never mention it. Why? Because it served its purpose. The Israelis could never allow the election of a leader who supported the rights of Palestinians. They had to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn, and the only thing they could use was manufactured bullshit to smear and undermine him. Well, job done.

    So, from the total undermining of Jeremy Corbyn, to members of the executive actively trying to STOP the election of a Labour government, to the expulsions of hundreds of socialist Jews, and the payments made to whistle-blowers who had starring roles in ‘The Lobby’, everything that has happened convinces me that the party was infiltrated and slowly taken over by people secretly working for the Israeli Government.
    It really is the only thing I can think of that explains what has gone on since Corbyn became leader.

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