Latest message to CLP officers tells them ‘precedence’ must be given to feelings of those who might be upset by anything
Labour’s acting general secretary (unless and until he is confirmed by a Labour conference in accordance with Labour rules) David Evans has sent a bizarre email to elected officers and representatives of the party, which members have described as ‘gaslighting’ and ‘chilling’.
The message begins by thanking local officers who toed Evans’s line banning free speech on even simple motions of solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn – a ban that breaches the EHRC report’s affirmation of free speech as a human right – and pays lip service to the ‘hard work of volunteer officers’, many of whom have been suspended by the party for respecting members’ right to speak and vote on issues of concern to them.
It then goes on to say that the party cannot be ‘trusted to run our own affairs until we satisfy the EHRC’ – even though the free-speech ban is one of several Labour actions contrary to the report – and then says the party must ‘double down’ on ‘anything‘ that may cause members to feel unwelcome or unsafe.
Evans continues his ‘chilling’ message by telling members that their rights are subordinate to the feelings of anyone who might take exception to them:
FAO: CLP & Branch Secretaries and Chairs, MPs, MSs and MSPs
I wanted to put on record my thanks to the Branch and CLP officers who have been implementing the guidance around motions that I circulated recently. The Labour Party is dependent on the hard work of its volunteer officers, and only with your support will we succeed in changing the culture of the Party and making sure our meetings are a welcome space for all.
I can understand the desire of people to discuss contentious and controversial issues that they feel deeply about. But to be clear, the Labour Party was found guilty of breaking the law on anti-Semitism. We are now not trusted to run our own affairs until we satisfy the EHRC that we have fully addressed the issues that meant our Party is not a safe space for Jewish members. Just as we should have zero tolerance for all forms of racism, homophobia, sexual harassment and other prejudicial behaviour, our responsibility to double down on anything that may cause members to continue to feel unwelcome and unsafe must take precedence over our rights at this time.
I also wanted to confirm that the effect of my guidance was to rule motions on the topics mentioned out of order. This means they should not appear on the agenda or any other meeting papers, and that there is no requirement for Chairs of meetings to make rulings (nor should there be any resulting challenges to such rulings). I hope this clarification will help avoid any further unnecessary confrontation.
David EvansEmphases added
Rights are now officially subordinate to feelings in the Starmer-Evans party – more than that, they are subordinate to a ‘responsibility’ to avoid anything that even might make anyone subjectively feel unwelcome.
By contrast, the EHRC report was clear in its affirmation of the human right to free speech, even if it offends – and especially if it is part of a debate on a matter of public interest:
• Speech does not lose the protection of Article 10 just because it is offensive, provocative or would be regarded by some as insulting.
• Statements made by elected politicians have enhanced protection under Article 10.
• Relevant factors will include whether speech is intended to inform rather than offend, whether it forms part of an ongoing debate of public interest and whether it consists of alleged statements of fact, or of value judgment.
The report says that free speech cannot be used to harass – but makes clear that debate on matters of interest is unlikely to qualify as harassment, especially if offending is not its purpose.
The report also makes very clear that Labour members have a legally–protected right to discuss such matters as the extent of antisemitism within the party – an issue that bears directly on the suspension and later withdrawl of the ‘whip’ from Jeremy Corbyn:
Article 10 will protect Labour Party members who, for example…express their opinions on internal Party matters, such as the scale of antisemitism within the Party, based on their own experience and within the law. It does not protect criticism of Israel that is antisemitic.
Yet Labour has chosen to disregard these protections – and is now telling members they must subordinate their rights to Evans’s diktats and the possible feelings of some who might be offended or feel unwelcome if members discussed something they have a legally-protected right to discuss, or if they disagreed with ‘political interference‘ that threw a former party leader out of the party for exercising that same right.
The SKWAWKBOX needs your help. The site is provided free of charge but depends on the support of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal or here to set up a monthly donation via GoCardless (SKWAWKBOX will contact you to confirm the GoCardless amount). Thanks for your solidarity so SKWAWKBOX can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.
If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.