Starmer’s withdrawal of the whip this week broke every PLP procedural rule – but Corbyn’s original suspension also appears to have thrown out the party rule-book
The SKWAWKBOX revealed last night that Keir Starmer’s decision to withdraw the Labour whip (not the cowardly ‘not restore‘) from Jeremy Corbyn, after an NEC panel unanimously reinstated the former party leader, breached multiple requirements of the parliamentary party’s procedural rules.
Corbyn was suspended for commenting on the real level of antisemitism in the Labour Party – a comment that was entirely factual, as the party leadership acknowledged – even though the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report stated explicitly that he was allowed to say what he said.
But the EHRC report also lays out the powers that the leader and general secretary of the Labour Party have and do not have – and those details make clear that the decision to suspend Corbyn in the first place was also against the party’s rules.
Page 50 of the report makes explicitly clear that Keir Starmer does not have any business interfering in the outcome of individual complaints – which the withdrawal of the whip after Corbyn’s reinstatement unquestionably represents. But it also states that neither ‘LOTO’ nor the general secretary has any power to suspend or expel any member of the party – only the National Executive Committee (NEC) and National Constitutional Committee (NCC) have that power:
The same section also says it is the leader’s responsibility to make sure formal procedures are properly followed, making Starmer’s disregard for the rules even more inexcusable.
Those defending Evans and Starmer over Corbyn’s suspension have claimed that the party’s rules mean that the NEC’s power had been delegated to Evans as general secretary, based on a rule that says the NEC may delegate some of its powers to the general secretary:
C. General Secretary
i. There shall be a General Secretary of the Party who shall be appointed in accordance with the provisions set out in procedural rule Chapter 4.II.4.A below. The General Secretary shall act as secretary to the NEC.
ii. For the avoidance of doubt, wherever in this rule book or upon instruction or delegation by the NEC, or a committee or sub-committee thereof, the General Secretary has a function to discharge, she or he may delegate the discharge of such function to such appropriate officer or designated representative of the Party as she or he shall see fit. Further, the General Secretary shall be deemed always to have had the power so to delegate.
In other words, if the NEC decides to delegate any authority to the general secretary, the general secretary can in turn delegate it to someone else.
But the EHRC report also kills that claim, pointing out that since September last year, even starting an investigation has to be signed off by members of Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit (GLU) – and that suspensions must be authorised by the unit’s director:
Page 37 of the report
The NEC’s power to suspend has been delegated – but not to David Evans.
The EHRC document that Starmer and Evans have committed to implement in full:
- bans interfering in disciplinary outcomes
- explicitly says that neither Starmer nor Evans have any power to suspend or expel
- equally explicitly says that if any authority has been delegated by the NEC to take disciplinary action, it has not been delegated either to Starmer nor to Evans
The Labour leadership’s promise to implement the EHRC report is in tatters – and it was shredded within a few hours of the report’s publication, by their actions against the party’s former leader. If, as many predict, Corbyn pursues legal action against them he will have ample grounds – and the EHRC will effectively be a key witness.
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