Every year at Labour’s annual Conference, a number of rule-changes or ‘constitutional amendments’ are debated by delegates and, if approved, become part of the party’s rule-book.
Last year’s Conference in Liverpool, ironically, saw Labour’s bureaucracy break, bend and ignore its own rules to force through an anti-democratic amendment that put two additional, unelected and anti-Corbyn members onto the party’s ruling NEC (National Executive Committee) to try to thwart the will of the hugely pro-Corbyn membership.
But this year in Brighton looks set to see something far worse and even more dangerous, in an apparent attempt by the party’s relic right to position for future advantage.
The list of constitutional changes up for adoption in 2017 are detailed in a party PDF document that contains several innocuous or even welcome rule-changes. But in one section a number of proposed rule-changes on ‘hate incidents’ are grouped together – and contain one whose dangers are unmissable:
This rule-change, if adopted, would mean that a ‘hate incident’ is anything that anyone thinks it is. Any idea of an objective or reasonable definition of a hate incident is gone. Objectivity and reason become irrelevant – literally anything you say or do could, according to the proposed rule, be considered hate-speech or action.
Regardless of your intent or motives – someone else would have the only and final say. And the punishment can even be expulsion from the party.
The huge dangers of this – and the benefits to a bureaucracy still dominated by the right and to the right-wing factions it supports – are obvious.
If the right wants to rule out left-wing members from a future leadership vote – no problem. Even being careful online won’t help – the right can identify anything it chooses as a hate-incident and get ‘inconvenient’ members suspended or even expelled.
If a faction wants to shut down debate on a topic – easy. Just define a certain viewpoint as ‘hate’ – and then expel any members not cowed into silence by the fear of expulsion.
We’ve already seen that the Establishment and right wing will not hesitate to use antisemitism smears to try to get their way – and this would be carte blanche for the same factions to use that smear or any other to intimidate or remove opponents.
The rule-change document also contains a different version of the proposal – one only fractionally less dangerous in that it put the power of deciding what constitutes a hate-incident into the hands of the NEC instead of just anyone ready to voice an opinion:
Tellingly, however, an NEC member says that this – the less dangerous version of a very bad rule change – has been ‘ruled out’ from the discussion.
But the ‘anyone’ version has not, so it is still in line for discussion and adoption if right-wing delegates can engineer its passage or the party bureaucracy simply rigs the process as it did in 2016.
This proposed change is so bad and so clearly open to abuse by the unscrupulous that no one could miss the dangers it poses. Which means that the unscrupulous are trying to stack the deck in their favour – yet again.
It’s essential that this is defeated in September, no matter what tricks are pulled to try to get it voted through.
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