As PoliticsHome has just reported, 41 MPs and a handful of peers have written a letter (apparently leaked, unsurprisingly, rather than ‘open’) to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanding that he sack or suspend NEC member Christine Shawcroft, who resigned this week as chair of the NEC (National Executive Committee) ‘disputes panel’ over an email recommending the unsuspension of a council candidate alleged to have shared an antisemitic post on Facebook.
The signatories to the letter bear significant resemblance to those who signed an open letter to the Huffington Post bleating that the SKWAWKBOX had bullied, threatened and intimidated five MPs – by sending them a couple of questions by email.
The letter tells the party leader:
We are deeply concerned that Christine Shawcroft remains a member of the National Executive Committee.
It is utterly wrong that somebody who defends a Labour candidate who has been suspended for Holocaust denial should be a member of Labour’s governing body.
This is highly offensive to the Jewish community and all those of us who wish to see the scourge of antisemitism eradicated.
We urge you to suspend Christine Shawcroft from the Labour Party immediately, thus ensuring she is removed from the NEC.
You pledged this week to be an ally in the fight against antisemitism. This action would represent an initial step in honouring that commitment.
There a not-very-small problem with the letter.
Under Labour Party rules, the party leader has absolutely no authority to sack or suspend an elected member of the NEC – as Ms Shawcroft is.
Corbyn could remove a member he has appointed – one of the MP members – but giving or removing seats from NEC representatives elected by the members is not in his gift.
Nor should it ever be.
The NEC itself could in theory ask the National Constitutional Committee (NCC), the Labour body with authority to do so, to suspend or expel Ms Shawcroft from the party. Expulsion would probably result in her ineligibility to remain on the NEC, but it’s not clear whether this has ever been tested, as the expulsion of NEC members is not exactly what the party rules envisage.
But this isn’t – and should never be – Corbyn’s responsibility. It’s the responsibility of the body that represents the Labour Party’s members, affiliated unions and MPs.
Ms Shawcroft’s letter of resignation from the Disputes Panel chair started by stating she had never seen the Facebook posts for which the council candidate had been suspended. Perhaps the MPs should be calling for the expulsion of whichever HQ functionary withheld that information from the then-chair of the Disputes Panel instead.
Whatever your opinion on this state of affairs, though, the rules are not Corbyn’s fault either – they predate his leadership and Labour’s party leader can’t change them. Changes take a long time to make and have to be approved by Labour members and union representatives at the party’s annual Conference.
If Corbyn could just sack elected representatives, a lot of Labour members would have been writing their own letter demanding the removal of Tom Watson long before now.
So the 41 MPs and a handful of peers have written to their leader demanding that he do something, as a sign of ‘honouring [a] commitment’ to Jewish communities, that he has absolutely no prospect of doing.
Is this disingenuous, so they can attack him for not doing something he can’t do?
Or are they far more colossally ignorant of Labour’s rules than Labour MPs – and a handful of peers – have any business being?
It’s likely only time will tell.
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