Two-thirds of Starmer’s investigation are redundant. Party had obligation to investigate staff conduct – and he has said himself that whistleblowers must be protected
Labour leader Keir Starmer last week announced an ‘independent’ investigation into the leaked internal report that accused right-wing headquarters staff of insulting colleagues, obstructing disciplinary processes – and sabotaging Labour’s 2017 by-election and general election campaigns.
But Starmer’s strangely-structured parameters for his investigation have raised concern among members and party insiders that he is going after the staff who created the report and the whistleblowers who leaked it, rather than the staff who were paid to work for Labour and are accused of doing their best to undermine it:
We have seen a copy of an apparently internal report about the work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism. The content and the release of the report into the public domain raise a number of matters of serious concern.
We will therefore commission an urgent independent investigation into this matter. This investigation will be instructed to look at three areas. First, the background and circumstances in which the report was commissioned and the process involved. Second, the contents and wider culture and practices referred to in the report. Third, the circumstances in which the report was put into the public domain.
We have also asked for immediate sight of any legal advice the Labour Party has already received about the report.
In the meantime, we ask everyone concerned to refrain from drawing conclusions before the investigation is complete and we will be asking the General Secretary to put measures in place to protect the welfare of party members and party staff who are concerned or affected by this report.
Two out of the three areas of scope for the investigation concern the staff who investigated the behaviour of former HQ staffers and the whistleblowers who brought the investigations findings into the public domain.
But the first – Starmer’s investigation of ‘the background and circumstances in which the report was commissioned’ – is a naked red herring that needs no investigation at all.
Because Labour and its general secretary Jennie Formby had a legal duty to do so.
The party is being sued by a number of former staff who appeared in last year’s BBC Panorama programme accusing Labour of failing to deal with antisemitism complaints and protect Jewish members – and a key plank of their attempt to sue is that Labour responded to the programme by saying that those interviewed were politically motivated.
To defend the party against the suit, Labour was obliged to look into their conduct and messages during their time as employees and any political motivation it revealed – and had a duty to its members to do its utmost to protect their interests and investment.
And as the journalist who originally published information on the leak noted, they found far more than they bargained for.
A similar obligation exists because of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) investigation into Labour’s handling of antisemitism complaints. The party has a duty to investigate and provide its findings to the EHRC – and it found that right-wing party staff were failing to deal with, and in some cases obstructing, investigations into various complaints, not only concerning antisemitism.
And the party had every right to access the messages contained in the report. The SKWAWKBOX understands that some were provided to Labour by one of the participants-turned-whistleblower – and some were accessible either because those involved used a party messaging system, or because participants had used their Labour email to send archives of the chats to themselves.
In all those cases, Labour has a right to access the information – and being able to access it, the party had a duty to do so on at least two counts.
In addition, Keir Starmer said in February that whistleblowers must be protected – and he must protect those who blew the whistle on the alleged conduct of former (and a few current) Labour staff when the party decided not to release the report into that conduct.
On legal grounds and on his own words, two-thirds of Keir Starmer’s ‘urgent’ investigation are redundant.
He must focus all effort and resource on investigating those who, in all likelihood, prevented Labour becoming the party of government the knife-edge 2017 general election.
Anything else is a diversion and a smoke-screen.
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