A little-marked change today will have a significant impact on the confidence of Labour members in the handling of serious disciplinary matters.
Labour’s National Constitutional Committee (NCC) is the party’s ultimate disciplinary body, with the power to expel members referred to it by the National Executive Committee (NEC) without right of appeal except for recourse to legal action.
In a 6-4 vote earlier today, the NCC voted to make Anna Dyer its new interim chair, replacing incumbent Maggie Cosin. Cosin, considered an ally of Labour First MP John Spellar, has been described by Momentum founder Jon Lansman as a ‘witchfinder general’ and has appointed herself to the vast majority of three-member panels deciding high-profile disciplinary cases such as that of Marc Wadsworth, who was expelled from the party earlier this year and has launched legal action.
Ms Dyer told the SKWAWKBOX that the newly-reconstituted NCC is looking forward to getting to grips with new rules passed by Labour’s conference, which ended today. She said that in this regard and others, the talents of newly-elected CLP (constituency Labour party) representative Daniel Blaney, who is a qualified lawyer, and of a new Unite representative on the committee – replacing a member of steel union Community – will be very helpful to its work.
She also told the SKWAWKBOX that she wants to improve the transparency of the committee’s work to improve the confidence of members in its fairness and decisions, but that issues of confidentiality must always take precedence for obvious reasons.
Ms Dyer, although elected by members to the NCC, is also a long-standing union activist with Unite and has a reputation for thoroughness and independent-mindedness – she launched legal action against the Labour Party in 2013 for ageism and sexism in selection processes, but settled the case in return for apologies from those concerned.
She told the SKWAWKBOX:
I took that action because there were some terrible practices and behaviour going on in those days that did a lot of damage to vulnerable individuals and to the party’s reputation. It was never about money and no financial settlement was involved, but things needed to improve and they did.
She also welcomed new rules about the rights of members to improved representation at NCC hearings:
Previously, members could either bring a ‘silent friend’ to hearings for support or they could bring legal representation to speak on their behalf, but only lawyers could fulfil that role. Under the new rules, any person they trust will be able to accompany them and, if required, speak up for them. This will make a huge difference for people who may not be able to express themselves clearly and who might not have the resources to afford a legal representative.
Cases processed by the NEC’s disputes committee in early September and judged serious enough for the NCC will start to come before the committee shortly.
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