Why JVL is supporting legal action against the Labour Party

… and an appeal for funds

 

Jewish Voice for Labour has entered into a legal case against the Labour Party in its own right and has also been supporting Labour Activists 4 Justice in their legal battle against the Party.

While we want redress for the individuals taking these cases we also hope to establish general principles: to force the Party to do what it seems unwilling to do voluntarily, i.e. to recognise the unjust and undemocratic foundations on which its disciplinary processes are organised and to reform them.

Our case is explained in our Statement JVL tells David Evans – End harassment of CLP Officers posted on 24 December.

We have taken this action in solidarity with the dozens of constituency and branch officers who have been suspended and/or are ”under investigation” for allegedly being in breach of the General Secretary’s diktats.

We have not taken these steps lightly. Legal action is expensive and emotionally draining; the outcome is never certain. in the political sphere direct action and intervention is overwhelmingly preferable.

But when the Party is acting so high-handedly that normal democratic routes are denied, when the apparatus of the Party is being used to deny members their basic rights, there is sometimes no alternative but to resort to the courts.

We regret to say this point has long been reached.

We intend these legal interventions to help strengthen the left as a body of socialists who care about principles of democracy, justice and fairness and to prepare us for the political battles ahead: opposing the arbitrary actions of the party bureaucracy and its suppression of free speech on a wide range of issues; strengthening the left on the NEC; and opposing the ratification of David Evans as General Secretary when it comes before the next Party conference.

Too many members are leaving the Party because they cannot see a way to challenge a leadership that shows no concern for the rules or respect for the members. We hope our actions will encourage those considering leaving the Party to remain and fight with us for their democratic rights and for a Party administration that acts in accord with the wishes of its members.

The injustice of the disciplinary processes became absolutely clear when Shami Chakrabarti was asked to look into how racism was dealt with by the Party. Her Report in 2016 identified clearly many unacceptable aspects of the Party’s disciplinary process and called for their replacement by clear rules of natural justice, transparency and proportionality.

Although adopted by the Party little was done to implement her recommendations – little if anything in the period when Iain McNicol was General Secretary and not enough under Jenni Formby.

As a result many unacceptable procedures remained in place when Jeremy Corbyn was succeeded as Party leader by Keir Starmer and subsequently David Evans became Acting General Secretary.

We summarise our concerns in the two cases below

1. In the first case, we are concerned about the instructions provided by David Evans in his capacity as the General Secretary of the Labour Party that relate to discussing such issues as

  • the terms of the EHRC report into Antisemitism and the Labour Party
  • the ruling that motions concerning the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism undermine the Labour Party’s ability to tackle racism
  • the Labour Party’s decision to reach a settlement in relation to BBC’s Panorama programme
  • Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension and, despite his reinstatement, the withdrawal of the whip from him.
  • the implication that the General Secretary has the power to determine what topics individual CLPs are ‘competent’ to discuss at all

We conclude that

a) Mr Evans does not have the power to impose such wide ranging and censorious restrictions on members, meeting to discuss topics of the day and conduct CLP business;

b) Holding CLP Officers responsible for purported breaches of rules by members is unjust.

c) The administrative suspensions of Dr Roberts and Ms Regan (and we expect many others) is, contrary to the Rule Book and therefore unlawful.

2. In addition we are supporting the case advanced by Labour Activists 4 Justice, a case that demands rectification of serious inadequacies in the Labour Party’s disciplinary processes.

These suffer from all the deficiencies identified by the Chakrabarti Report in 2016, recently reinforced by the findings of the EHRC investigation which finds these processes simply not fit for purpose. The Labour Party has accepted the EHRC Report in its entirely, yet continues to investigate, suspend and discipline members on the basis of these unacceptable processes.

For example,

  • No clear charges are made against those under investigation.
  • Draconian confidentiality rules mean those accused are told to tell no-one or seek advice from anyone – even lawyers – about the investigations
  • Members are given vague allegations that could lead to self-incrimination if they attempt to address them.
  • People are not informed as to who has made accusations against them, so the possibility of motivation – or even of vexatious charges – cannot be explored.
  • Social media are trawled for evidence of alleged wrongdoing, through historical communications that predate the rule under which the member is being charged.
  • Routine leaks about cases to media outlets abound and seem to occur with impunity. Many members have found out that they are under investigation from journalists who seem to have a direct line into Labour HQ.

As the Crowdfunding appeal put it:

The Labour Party disciplinary process has been condemned by the EHRC as fundamentally unfair to complainants and respondents. This is not surprising. Many of us who have had direct experience of the process can vouch for the fact that it is not fit for purpose. It is an opaque process, granting confidentiality to those accusers whose complaints are investigated, while treating the accused as if they were already guilty, and making vague accusations against people without letting them know the case against them or by what standards they are being judged.

 

Please support our appeals for funds: Labour Activists 4 Justice are far down the line towards court action and are seeking significant additional funds at this stage.

 

Comments (31)

  • Stella Thomas says:

    I’m glad that something is being done about this. The LP at the moment are whipping up fear amongst Jewish people when antisemitism isn’t the enormous threat.

  • Rosemary Hedges says:

    Thank you for this. I’m pleased to see your organisation is calling these undemocratic practices to account

  • Kuhnberg says:

    The media as usual presents a false narrative of the attitude of the membership towards Keir Starmer snd his purge of the left. Here is Gaby Hinslffe in today’s Guardian:

    “…as with Labour’s decision to expel Jeremy Corbyn over his response to damning findings on antisemitism, what the party finds painful or perplexing is often a whole lot easier for the electorate.”

    This is seriously — perhaps wilfully — wrong on two counts. Firstly Corbyn has not been expelled — he was reinstated by the disciplinary body. However he has had the whip removed, whether permanently or not no-one can say — by an action which many in the membership deem illegitimate. These are details which a professional journalist is duty-bound to get right.

    Secondly, the membership is not so much ‘pained‘ or ‘perplexed‘ by what Starmer has done; they are outraged by what they see as an attack on the party’s left by way of a war on party democracy, due process and freedom of speech.

    I hope the JVL action is successful in throwing some light on these matters, and alerting at least some of the public to what the greatly admired new leadership is really up to.

  • Kate Adams says:

    Well done I am going to send you £50. You are representing my interests as a socialist Jew in a party that is failing to represent me because of growing authoritarianism.

  • In March/April 20121 I will have been suspended for 2 years and still no notification of ruling. J.D.

  • Margaret West says:

    It seems to me that Starmer has no political “nous” – relying on the ineptitude of the Tories instead of proper policies.

    Apart from pointing out some obvious Government errors – the only thing he has “achieved” is the anger and frustration of the Constituency Parties.

    The Malcolm Tucker character from the BBC TV series would be tearing his hair out ..

  • Martyn Meacham says:

    Starmer and his pit of self serving snakes have brought shame and disgrace to the Labour Party. Starmer must resign!

  • Desmond says:

    God speed, how can i help

  • Keith Bradbury says:

    Wonderful I say as one who has been both warned and threatened with investigation on separate occasions.

  • DJ says:

    A rallying call to defend democracy and the right to express anti colonial and socialist ideas in the Labour Party. It’s as simple as that!

  • Mario Fiore says:

    I think that funding should be obtained from Trade Unions and not from retirees.

  • John Bowley says:

    Thank you, again, Jewish Voice for Labour, socialist friends of the oppressed and brave combatants against the oppressors.

    As another poster has observed, the establishment media is a disgrace.

    I have contributed to the fighting funds several times and I will do so again.

  • Doug says:

    Is the JC legal fund doing anything, those with broadest shoulders should be taking on these actions

    [JVL web: We’ve had donations large and small. All are welcome!]

  • Gloria says:

    I am an ordinary member of the public who has left the Labour party in disgust. I wish you every success in a very noble attempt to bring humanity and justice into this situation and hopefully some retribution to people who should know better.

  • Ian Kemp says:

    Yes I agree I will support JVL on this and make a small contribution. The whole A/S saga and its total exaggeration for political purpose’s undermines the real A/S out there .It time to expose it for what it is. My view JC was too nice to the bigots like Hodge et al.
    I read The Observer Gaby Hinchcliffe. I wait for Freedland in the Guardian LBCs James O’Brian to repeat lies and distortions re A/S.
    It is sad that a radio Journalist like O’Brian who has a large influence and indeed has written in two books about truth and honesty in political life yet is unable for some reason to confront honestly what is really going on here. Surely it cannot be ignorance.
    It is depressing that only two mainstream newspapers that are not owned by billionaire tax avoiders has deteriorated so much in its journalism. It seems unable to confront and expose what is really going on which should be the purpose on good honest Journalism. That is not happening anywhere in MSM in the UK. The public as a result are being conned and misled.

  • robert bradford says:

    Sounds Very SANE and DEMOCRATIC !!!

  • Della says:

    Thank you. But too late for me. I left the Party some weeks ago having been a member for many years.
    I was afraid that I could not continue my support for the rights of the Palestinians within the present Party.
    I was also aware of the Islamophobic atmosphere and had experienced Islamophobic comments.
    Good luck with your endeavours.

  • John Bowley says:

    I have just donated another £45 to the JVL legal fighting fund. Keep it up, JVL.
    [Thanks! – JVL web]

  • Trevor Ault says:

    Re the MSM – give a shout out for The Morning Star. They clued me up to what was going on at least two years ago.

  • Gerry Bender says:

    In protest at the draconian edicts and suspension of socialists by Starmer / Evans I have resigned from the party after 45 years continuous membership.

  • Joan Fryer says:

    I joined the Labour Party in 1957 when it was a democratic party and left when war criminal Blair took the country to war in Iraq with no intentions of ever rejoining – that was until until I listened and watched Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at Tolpuddle prior to the Labour leadership election in 2015. I listened and watched the rest of his speeches and watched his televised debates which convinced me here was a man with integrity, compassion, was a humanitarian and honest – that was enough to inspire me to rejoin the Labour Party. Job done as I thought when he won the election so now I can get on with my life. Not a bit of it. The Blairite right-wing of the party and Jewish Labour Friends of Israel were so shocked JC had won so they conspired to undermine him from that day on.

    I was threatened with suspension from the Labour Party after emailing the likes of Luciana Berger, Margaret Hodge, Louise Ellman, Ruth Smeeth, John Mann, Wes Streeting and others who were given a platform and megaphone by the BBC in order to tell the world Jeremy Corbyn was an anti-Semite. I justified my reasons for emailing those hell bent on undermining JC along obviously with Blair, Blunkett, Mandleson, Murdoch and the right-wing media so was then advised I would not be suspended.

    I left for the second time because as far as I was concerned no longer was the Labour Party democratic. I watched the undercover reporting by Al Jazeera – i.e. THE LOBBY which convinced me that the Labour Party was as corrupt as the Tory Party so I left for the second time. Since, I have read so many times the advice that people shouldn’t leave but stay to fight for democracy. I have recently applied to re-join for this reason but as yet not had any response. I criticised also the Panorama program after watching Ella Rose threaten to take down Jackie Walker when she worked for the Israeli Embassy and then when she worked for the Jewish Labour Movement appeared in the fake Panorama program acting like a snow-flake almost in tears because she had been upset by the anti-Semites in the Labour Party. When Starmer decided to pay off the Labour Headquarter staffers who worked on behalf of the Tory government in 2017 and also the rest of the corrupt right-wingers I couldn’t take it any longer the fact that the Labour Party was undemocratic and corrupt. I could go on. The character assassination levelled at Jeremy Corbyn and the media onslaught he and his family have had to endure spells out how corrupt and undemocratic the UK has now become.

  • Doug says:

    Dont resign, last thing we need is a completely futile gesture, stay and fight
    There is a case for mass resignation and Unions withdrawing funding but that needs to be coordinated
    Who is our coordinator and challenger

  • Supporting this with a heavy heart.
    Last thing I want is more factionalism, but first thing is democratic justice.
    What are mechanisms to develop
    1. a genuinely left policy that provides key infrastucture for all and foreign policy not supporting dictators?
    2. a just and disciplinary policy

  • Carole Vincent says:

    Well done everyone who has worked hard on, & brought this action. Solidarity & support given so that the matter can be given its due legal process. Please donate to this it is about Labour Party Democracy.

  • Duncan Malcolm says:

    Well done on Taking a stand on this issue – I will be making a donation. I am not a Labour Party member, neither am I Jewish, but I support fairness and justice.

  • goldbach says:

    Just donated £100. Wish I’d had £1000 available. We need to win this, and the actions by Jeremy Corbyn and others. There is a time to fight back and it is now. We can’t afford to have a supine Labour Party any longer.

  • John Webster says:

    The way the LP is set up is part of ‘the establishments’ way of maintaining some control over national politics – particularly economic and foreign policy. There is a bipartisan approach here that Jeremy Corbyn threatened. That’s why they had to get rid of him. Journalists are like good lawyers when it comes to this: they will make a weak case appear plausible. This is what they have done – but it will not last. The statement by B’Tselem on Israeli apartheid the other day is another nail in the coffin. Had a leading LP MP said that at the peak of the witchunt they would have simply been suspended or expelled. The day will come when these people will be exposed and will either have to apologise or be clearly exposed for what they are. The current LP is a product of the first past the post system – as the Republicans and Democrats are in the USA. People vote not for that Party which they really support – but for the least worst, or for that which has become the recepticle of mass discontent and campaigns (such as racial equality – a battle still not won). Leaving the LP leaves the deck clear for right wing pro-Israel elements to do as they please. Do not leave. If you really can’t stomach it – and I certainly know how you feel being in a party which is heavily influenced by people who support Israeli racism and violence – then get involved in campaigns that will force change. Those of us who have spent a lifetime fighting for Justice know we can win this. The case is overwhelmingly strong.

  • Brian Joseph McAuley says:

    Thanks for working on this. keep up the good work.

  • Paul Fletcher-tomenius says:

    It is appalling for members to be forced into court to make Party Leaders obey Party rules, but this legal action and similar ones represent our best short term chance of ending these outrages. My full support for this courageous and decisive action.

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