Esther Giles is standing for the position of Labour Party treasurer on a platform of democracy, good governance and transparency. She has written about the role of elected officers in local Labour parties (CLPs), the conflict into which the party’s conduct has forced them and the reasons she feels officers’ duty is to members, not to the party hierarchy.
What’s it’s like to be an elected CLP officer – the Conflicted Role
If the Chair insists on bringing this motion forward despite this clear instruction, we will not hesitate to investigate any consequent rule breach under the Rule Book. We trust this won’t be necessary and would encourage the Chair to reflect accordingly on the clear instructions issued by the General Secretary in this regard.Extract of email sent to the Chair one hour before the CLP’s scheduled meeting to discuss a motion calling for the reinstatement of Jeremy Corby in the interest of party unity (the meeting was subsequently postponed due to a technical glitch)
Introduction: The EHRC Report
The EHRC Report states that Article 10 protections of the Human Rights Act (HRA) apply even if comments are offensive and provocative, and that this protection is “enhanced” in the case of elected politicians – and particularly when the issue forms part of an ongoing debate of public interest. The EHRC Report also allows people to “express their opinions on internal Party matters- such as the scale of antisemitism in the Party”
So it appears that Jeremy Corbyn’s statement was entirely consistent with the EHRC’s own narrative and that his suspension was contrary to the HRA and the EHRC report.
The Conflicted Role of the Elected Officers
As Officers of the CLP, we are required to manage and encourage member engagement and debate in a supportive and respectful setting. We are required to comply with the Party Rulebook – and the law. We facilitate debate and engagement with members via General Meetings within the rules; we do not dictate. We do not believe that the Rule book is or should be in conflict with the Law. Therefore, it is our view that people should be allowed to express their opinions on what is happening in the Party.
A ‘deluge’ of instructions against free speech
And yet now we are being instructed that freedom of speech is forbidden in the instance of the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn. In our CLP, we have had a deluge of instructions from the General Secretary, followed up by reinforcing emails from the Regional Office. Some Officers in other CLPs have had warning telephone calls from Regional offices. At least one CLP has had direct intervention from a Regional Office to stop voting taking place on a motion. Others have had their access to “Organise” (the Party email system) stopped.
We note the irony that the General Secretary suggests the need to “change the Party’s culture” and “start work on this straight away”. We particularly note the irony of this in the context of what appears to be systematic bullying, sexism and racism within the Labour Party bureaucracy as set out in the buried “Leaked Report” and the silent Forde Enquiry. We have received no reply to our question as to who signed off the c. £0.6m payout relating to the BBC Panorama programme, or on whose authority– the sort of information that should be transparent to members.
Some of us believe that the General Secretary may have:
a.) acted beyond his powers (in suspending Jeremy Corbyn); and/or
b.) even if he did have delegated powers to suspend, that the suspension was unlawful in the light of Article 10.
“Keir Starmer could not have discussed it more publicly than he did.”
And so we feel conflicted at handing down a message from National and Regional HQ that we cannot discuss the suspension- even if discussing the principle rather than the content of the matter. Furthermore, the public announcements about Corbyn’s suspension were contrary to the guidance that details of individuals’ suspensions should not be discussed. Keir Starmer could not have discussed it more publicly than he did. And, indeed, prejudiced the investigation by being judge and jury in his media kangaroo court.
As socialists, we believe in equality. We don’t believe there is one rule for the bosses and another for the people.
“Unpaid and pressed from every side.”
We know that Chairs and Secretaries across the land are forbidding – or trying to forbid – discussion about Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension in the light of the orders from the General Secretary and the Regions. However, if members want to move a motion for debate, and the Chair rules it out of order, that ruling may be overturned by a vote in favour of hearing it by two thirds of the members present. We wonder how, in this instance, the Chair can be held responsible for debate where they have been overruled. We are unpaid elected officers, and we are pressed from every side.
It seems to some that the General Secretary is promoting a culture of silencing and absolute power in order to avoid any criticism of his own actions (and those of the Party Leader) – even if or when he acts outside of his delegated powers and the law. Is this, then, the culture change he refers to in his letter? We read the deluge of letters as threatening and patronising. It is not for the General Secretary to tell us what we can and cannot discuss; we operate always for our members and according to the democratically agreed rulebook and the law.
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