Gross breach by party of EHRC requirements for confidentiality and fairness – while demanding suspended members keep silent
The Labour party has again breached the Equality and Human Rights report, this time by leaking the suspension of an elected Labour officer to the hostile media – and it did so before the constituency party (CLP) chair himself knew of the party’s action.
Tottenham chair Nick Rogers was suspended by the party today after Tottenham members defied a ban on free speech to vote no confidence in Keir Starmer and acting general secretary David Evans – and solidarity with former party leader Jeremy Corbyn over his treatment by the leadership.
But while Rogers did not know about his suspension until after 6.30pm this evening, the news was leaked to the right-wing Jewish Chronicle’s Lee Harpin, who tweeted it at 6.20pm:
Harpin, whose ‘litany of lies’ resulted in an apology and compensation to Labour member Audrey White and others without even an attempt to defend its case in court, is frequently the ‘go-to’ of right-wing Labour staff and MPs eager to stoke accusations against the party or target left-wing members, claimed that the ‘chair’s conduct’ had resulted in Jewish members leaving ‘in disgust’.
However, he failed to mention that only two or three Jewish members left – and more Jewish members stayed (including secular and Orthodox Jews and those on the right of the party). He also omitted that Rogers had received messages from members thanking him for the careful and balanced way in which he chaired the meeting – which included making extremely clear at the beginning of the meeting that it was to be conducted civilly and without rancour.
No Jewish members raised any issue during the meeting with the way it was conducted and the debates were held in a friendly and civil manner. The motion to consider the no-confidence motion to be considered passed by 45 votes to 12, with 14 abstentions. The no-confidence motion itself passed by 49-4, with only 5 abstentions. An anti-Islamophobia motion passed by 64-0 and a motion of solidarity with Corbyn by 61-0 – the Chronicle’s article did not even get basic numbers correct.
When Rogers did eventually receive notification from the party of his suspension, he was warned that he must keep silent on the proceedings – but an agent of the Labour party had already breached all confidentiality by leaking it to Harpin.
The recent EHRC report criticises the treatment of members accused or suspended and states that the Labour party has a responsibility to ensure that processes are fair to those accused as much as to accusers – and specifically referred to media pressures as a contributing factor to unfairness in the treatment of members, whom it noted would suffer adverse consequences of suspension:
…those responding to complaints were often treated unfairly.
Administrative suspension can have a significant impact on members. If the GLU applies suspension, the member cannot stand as a candidate in any election or represent the Party in any position…
A complaint was made about a member in May 2016. The member’s suspension happened around four months later, following a press briefing by the Leader of the Opposition’s Office to the media that an administrative suspension was likely.
Two members were administratively suspended many months after the Labour Party received the complaints about them, one in March 2018 and the other in February 2019. This was in apparent response to social media / media interest, without any new evidence becoming available.
The report mentions the need for fairness no fewer than thirty times – a principle clearly breached by leaking information to the media while requiring those suspended to keep everything confidential.
The EHRC report also makes clear that suspended members must be clearly informed as to the reasons for their suspension, yet Rogers has received no detail at all about the reasons for the party’s action against him – but Chronicle hack Harpin received specific quotes from the meeting relating to allegations against the CLP chair.
In spite of the party’s attempt to gag him while leaking information to the hostile press, Nick Rogers has bravely decided to speak out. He told the SKWAWKBOX:
The Jewish Chronicle has completely misrepresented the meeting. It describes ‘ranting’ but there was none, the whole meeting passed in a calm and respectful way, with each contributor putting forward measured and carefully-considered views, including many who don’t often speak at meetings.
There was no ranting or arguing against the EHRC, despite what the paper has claimed. In fact, the only mention of the EHRC in the whole meeting was in the motion of solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn, which referred to it positively, saying it explicitly upheld his right under human rights laws to say what he did about the scale of antisemitism in the Labour party. Everyone was extremely careful about what points they made and how they made them, No one at the meeting, or afterwards, has complained about it at all.
Rogers went on to describe the outrage of local members at the behaviour of the party – and his own outrage at the contempt the party has shown for him and for due process in his case:
Members have contacted me to say how absolutely essential it has been for them to discuss this issue. Most Tottenham members are outraged at the direction the party has taken, especially since Jeremy Corbyn was suspended. Since that suspension was lifted, the party has capitulated to pressure from right-wing MPs to withdraw and withhold the whip.
We have a lot of members saying they’re not sure it’s a party they can continue to support or fight for, even though I and other have been telling them that we have to stay and fight. Allowing them to debate these motions was the only way to hold members together – when we have a leadership behaving in such an irresponsible and draconian way, we have a responsibility to resist that. Constituencies need to stand up and make their voices count.
As for me, I’m going to take this head on and raise a stink about the leak of information about my case, as well as about the leadership using spurious grounds to try to prevent free speech. It’s not going to help me get un-suspended, but we have to make a stand.
Labour’s cherry-picking approach to the EHRC report bears little resemblance to Keir Starmer’s commitment to implement the whole thing. The party’s attack on free speech is a direct contravention of the report’s clear affirmation of the right to comment on the issues it raises – and now Labour staff are also pissing all over the report’s demand for fair and transparent treatment of everyone involved in complaints and suspensions, both complainants and ‘respondents’.
It seems that ‘in full’ means ‘all the parts we can use against the left while we ignore the bits that we don’t like or that might inconvenience us’.
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