When a “Reminder” is actually a threat

JVL Introduction

Amid the carnage inflicted on party members during the ongoing purge, hitting new lows with the proscription of socialist groups and the suspension and even expulsion of elected delegates during Brighton conference, the widespread use of another authoritarian tool to crush dissent has gone largely unnoticed.

Since November last year, untold numbers of members – certainly dozens, probably hundreds, possibly thousands – have been suspended for long enough to prevent them participating in crucial CLP AGMs, standing or voting in elections, or being chosen as conference delegates or council candidates, and then quietly let back into the party with Reminders of Conduct (ROCs), or in some cases Formal Warnings, placed on their records for 6, 12 or 18 months.

One of the recent recipients of such a ROC, JVL’s media officer Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, protested formally to the Governance and Legal Unit in a letter on 1st September, asking them to respond to six questions by 15th September.

That deadline is now long past so we are publishing Naomi’s letter and her Reminder of Conduct below.


Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi writes

Reminders of Conduct (ROCs) assert the power of the NEC disciplinary Panel “to exercise its power under Chapter 6 of the Rules … to make clear that your conduct has fallen short of the high standards expected of Party members and to remind you of the importance of behaving consistently with the Party’s Rules and Codes of Conduct at all times [emphasis added].”

ROCs remain on the recipient’s membership record for a set period during which time any further breach of Party Rules can lead to the ROC “and the behaviour that led to it” being taken into account in dealing with the new breach, potentially leading to “a lengthy period of suspension of your Party membership” or expulsion from the Party.

In other words, don’t step out of line, or else.

In my case I have to be on my best behaviour for 12 months. Former Tottenham CLP chair Nick Rogers and JVL committee member Diana Neslen are both recipients of 18-month formal warnings. Nick’s crime was to ignore the diktats of the General Secretary about what subjects may or may not be discussed by members of his CLP. If he does it again he’ll be under immediate threat of expulsion. Diana Neslen, an orthodox Jewish woman in her eighties, is one of JVL’s committee members repeatedly disciplined for alleged antisemitism. She is already under investigation again after receiving her formal warning. Hear her story 9.20 minutes into this recording.

For those of us – Jews and otherwise – accused of “engaging in conduct that may reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on race, religion or belief,” keeping on the right side of the GLU is challenging to say the least. My ROC gave me no clue as to what it was about my conduct that had demonstrated the alleged hostility or prejudice, no hint as to what behaviour I should engage in, or desist from, in order to avoid further punishment, up to and including expulsion.  The original charges laid against me, relating to two statements I was alleged to have made in a General Committee meeting of my CLP on November 30, were simple reiterated without any reference to the explanations I had provided in response.

My letter to GLU (below) posed a few simple questions:

  • Could they confirm they would put on record my objections to the Reminder of Conduct?
  • Could they explain in what ways my alleged behaviour breached party rules?
  • Could they respond to the explanations I had submitted to refute the charges against me?
  • Could they provide a copy of the Report and Recommendations they put to the Disputes Panel and of the panel’s deliberation notes?
  • Could they explain why the Party feels justified in singling me out as a Jew for alleged antisemitism?
  • Could they provide objective justification for placing a RoC on my record for 12 months?

Five weeks later there has been no answer.


Appendix GLU email to Naomi Wimborn-Idrissi and her response

Email of 1st Sepember from Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi to [email protected]

Wed, Sep 1 at 5:46 PM

Dear GLU,

I acknowledge receipt of your email dated August 27 informing me of your intention to place a “Reminder of Conduct” on my record, while lifting my suspension from party membership at the same time as stating that I am judged to be in breach of rule 2.1.8.

There are several points I wish to make about this.

1. Objection to RoC

If an RoC is to be placed on my record, I am formally asking you to also place on my record my strong objection to any such reminder being delivered. I cannot accept it because it is impossible for me to comply with it, since at no point in these proceedings have I been informed what it is about the conduct alleged against me that might be seen as breaking party rules. You do not identify any specific behaviours which I am required to engage in, or desist from, during the 12 month period you have arbitrarily applied. It is therefore irrational to require of me that I behave differently in future – if that is indeed what is intended by the “reminder of conduct”.

2. Arbitrary exercise of power 

You are under an obligation to explain what it was about my behaviour that was in breach of the rules, and what you expect me to do, or not do, in order to meet the requirements of the sanction you have applied. In the absence of a reasonable explanation, I can only infer that the original suspension was an arbitrary exercise of power over a member  – in this case me, but there have been innumerable other instances – who is out of favour with the dominant faction in the party. If you cannot supply a reasonable explanation, you are simply exposing me to being mistreated again because I have not been told what I did wrong before.

3. Un-evidenced allegation of antisemitism

I object particularly to the charge in your email, asserted without any explanation, that I:

“had engaged in conduct that may reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on race, religion or belief.” You say “the Panel concluded that this conduct is incompatible with the Members’ Pledge; the NEC’s Code of Conduct: Antisemitism and other forms of racism; the NEC Code of Conduct: Social Media policy; and amounts in the Panel’s opinion to a clear breach of Chapter 2, Clause I.8 of the Labour Party Rule Book”.

This is precisely the charge originally put to me – that effectively I, a Jewish woman, a life-long anti-racist activist – stand accused of antisemitism. There was no explanation then as to what it was I had said or done that justified such an abhorrent slur. Without making any reference to my explanations and reasoned arguments, or those of my legal representative or the eminent individuals who testified on my behalf, you have repeated that slur unaltered.

Have my carefully argued explanations about my alleged conduct been considered and rejected? If so, on what grounds?

4. Lack of transparency

You have not provided me with a reasoned decision that explains what case the Party put to the Disputes Panel and what consideration and deliberation the Disputes Panel gave to my extensive representations.  The process is very unsatisfactory as it is secretive and entirely lacking in transparency, conducted behind closed doors as far as I, the person who was the subject of the hearing, am concerned.  I did not get a chance to hear what was being said about me let alone to counter any comments or give further explanation or clarification.  Please therefore disclose to me the Report and Recommendations prepared by the GLU presenting officer and please let me have a copy of the deliberation notes prepared by the Disputes Panel explaining how they came to their decision.

5. Hostility towards the Jew I am

To repeat, I am Jewish.  As I said in the submissions that you have so contemptuously ignored, I know what antisemitism is in the depth of my being and carry the fear of it through my life.  I am affronted by the insulting and hurtful insinuations in your letter and regard it as unacceptable – and possibly actionable – that a non-Jewish organisation apparently considers it appropriate to act in this way. The party’s behaviour in this respect reflects prejudice and hostility to me as the Jew I am. I experience it as a form of antisemitism; I am being picked on, extraordinarily, as a Jew, on an empty charge of antisemitism.

6. Right of erasure

In addition to the above, regarding the decision to place a RoC on my record for 12 months, I would like to draw your attention to my right of erasure under data protection law.

The Labour Party has to demonstrate its compliance with the retained EU law version of the General Data Protection Regulation ((EU) 2016/679) (UK GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018).

Article 5 of the GDPR states that data must be ‘collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes. The retention should be adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary’ and ‘kept…for no longer than is necessary for the purposes’.

You have provided no objective justification as to why a Reminder of Conduct is being retained and I require you to do so now please.

Please send a full response within 14 days confirming if you will comply with my request. If you cannot respond within that timescale, please tell me when you will be able to respond. If there is anything you would like to discuss, please contact me.

7. Summary of actions required

Can you please respond to the following:

    • Confirm you will put on record my objections to the Reminder of Conduct
    • Explain in what ways my alleged behaviour breached party rules
    • Respond to the explanations I submitted to refute the charges against me
    • Provide a copy of your Report and Recommendations to the Disputes Panel and of the panel’s deliberation notes
    • Explain why the Party feels justified in singling me out as a Jew for alleged antisemitism
    • Provide objective justification for placing a RoC on my record for 12 months.

I look forward to hearing from you within 14 days, ie; by Weds Sept 15.

Yours faithfully,

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

_______________

Email of 27 August to Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi from the Governance and Legal Unit

The Labour Party Head Office
Southside, 105 Victoria Street,
London SW1E 6QT
27 August 2021

Ref: L0089569 Case No: CN-6367

Dear Ms Wimborne-Idrissi,

Reminder of Conduct – Breach of Labour Party Rules and lift of administrative suspension

As you know, the Labour Party has investigated allegations that your conduct has breached the Party’s Rules. Members of the Disputes Panel of the National Executive Committee met on 26 August 2021 and considered your case. The Panel found that you had engaged in conduct that may reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on race, religion or belief.

The Panel concluded that this conduct is incompatible with the Members’ Pledge; the NEC’s Code of Conduct: Antisemitism and other forms of racism; the NEC Code of Conduct: Social Media policy; and amounts in the Panel’s opinion to a clear breach of Chapter 2, Clause I.8 of the Labour Party Rule Book.

Labour is a progressive, democratic and anti-racist party. Behaviour contrary to those values is unacceptable and harms the Party’s good name. The Panel has therefore decided to exercise its power under Chapter 6 of the Rules to issue you with this Reminder of Conduct to make clear that your conduct has fallen short of the high standards expected of Party members and to remind you of the importance of behaving consistently with the Party’s Rules and Codes of Conduct at all times.

This Reminder of Conduct will remain on your Labour Party membership record for 12 Months. It will be deleted at the end of that period. If you commit any further breach of Party Rules during that period, this Reminder of Conduct and the behaviour that led to it will be taken into account in dealing with that breach. The NEC Disputes Panel may refer disciplinary charges to the National Constitutional Committee, which has power to impose a lengthy period of suspension of your Party membership or to expel you from the Party.

Conduct expected of Labour Party members

The Labour Party expects members to:

  • act in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect;
  • conduct themselves in a manner that avoids any discrimination or harassment on grounds of race, religion or any other protected characteristic inside the party and in wider society; The LabourParty
  • support, and not to undermine, the Labour Party’s ability to campaign against all forms of racism and prejudice;
  • engage in civil, measured discourse, especially on social media.

Labour Party members are obliged to adhere to the Party’s rules. In particular Rule 2.I.8, a copy of which is enclosed, requires members not to engage in any conduct that is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party. Conduct which displays hostility or prejudice based on race, religion or any other protected characteristic is regarded as prejudicial to the Party under that Rule 2.I.8. Members must also comply with the NEC’s Codes of Conduct on Antisemitism and Social Media, copies of which are enclosed with this Reminder of Conduct. The Party also takes the opportunity to remind you of the Member’s Pledge which is also enclosed with this letter. Please ensure that you re-read these rules and Codes of Conduct and comply with them in the future.

Yours sincerely,

The Governance and Legal Unit
The Labour Party
c.c. London Labour Party

 

 

Comments (11)

  • Alexander Gavin says:

    With all deserved respect I do not see any point in engaging with this Labour Party. This labour party does not care a hoot and are probably laughing as they use this kind of behaviour to manoeuvre their people into positions of control. Somehow they need to be got into open court, that would be the only way they will be made accountable.

  • Martin Coleman says:

    The party has lost its way. It forgets we are a group of commuted volunteers whilst it treats some like conscripts.

  • John David Jones says:

    “The Party also takes the opportunity to remind you of the Member’s Pledge which is also enclosed with this letter. Please ensure that you re-read these rules and Codes of Conduct and comply with them in the future.”

    I had to laugh out loud when I read THIS portion of Naomi’s Criminal Charge Sheet. The thought that entered my head when I read the words “Member’s Pledge” was, ‘Ah, so party members must adhere to these rules and undertakings without failure, but the Leader can wilfully toss aside the “Ten Pledges” that HE made to help get himself elected to the post within the Party that he currently holds’..! Shouldn’t someone in the GLU be sending HIM a threat of further action to be taken for his action that is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party in light of his failure to justify the scrapping of those “pledges”..? Or is it a breach of party rules to mention such a failing..?!

  • Jimmy Cooper says:

    I never thought I would ever hear a Jewish Comrade have to prove their identity, to justify asking for straight-forward answers, from an autocratic anti-democratic Labour Party hierachy. The historical parallels are horrifying and I dont recognise anything of todays Party [even vaguely reflecting what it was], from when I first joined over 45 years ago.

  • Malcolm Bradstock says:

    I hope Naomi has formally submitted her case to EHRC. I cannot see how they can fail to find the Labour Party at fault in her situation. The details she gives are clear evidence of bullying and persecution, lack of respect and much more. I

  • Joe Westerman says:

    I am afraid I am in complete agreement with above comment. The LP is steam-roller driven by utterly unscrupulous people and they don’t care who they rundown. A large wrench needs to thrown into the engine.

  • Julia says:

    Can’t help being reminded of Kafka’s The Trial. And Kafka of course was a Jewish socialist

  • Jan Brooker says:

    The LP and GLU NEVER answer ANY questions or responses put to them. Worse than dealing with firms of Bailiffs, not known for their Customer Service; to keep on the right side of the law, they always respond ~ The Labour Party ~ not so much. The most discourteous and ignorant organisation I have ever had to deal with. I just gave up in the end; I didn’t want to give them the pleasure of keeping an axe hanging over my head on the threat of expulsion, which could affect my personal integrity in the future. Indeed, some right-wingers are saying online I was expelled; I decided not to give them that possible pleasure, so they just make stuff up. Let’s hope the JVL case against the LP’s antisemitism towards key JVL members is successful.

  • Mary Davies says:

    Disgusting hypocrisy/doublespeak from GLU.

  • Malcolm Segall says:

    This is truly both Orwellian and Kafkaesque! We are with you Naomi. In solidarity.

  • Eddie Dougall says:

    What’s the outcome of the case involving Diana Neslen and the other 7?

Comments are now closed.