Party was set to lose legal action by wronged officers – but reinstated them at the 11th hour, with a ruse to cover climbdown
The Labour party has today reinstated some fifty elected local party officers, under legal pressure from the wronged officials and the Unite union.
The officers were suspended for allowing debate and votes on motions of solidarity with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, in a clear breach of human rights laws governing freedom of speech and the party was expected to lose the case brought by those wrongfully suspended.
Instead, just before the judgment was handed down, the party emailed letters to those affected to tell them that they had been reinstated. However, a sense of the party’s haste could be discerned in the letters’ admission that an NEC meeting had been convened that morning, only hours before the reinstatement notifications were sent:
Members of the Disputes Panel of the National Executive Committee (NEC) met on 05 February 2021 and considered your case.
However, in a transparent attempt to disguise the party’s climbdown the letters then concluded with a weasel-worded ‘reminder of conduct’ – and a warning that daring to defy acting general secretary David Evans again would lead to more punishment:
The NEC has considered your representations, including the points you have made about the importance of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Labour Party agrees that Article 10 of the ECHR has a fundamental importance in the UK. It is one of the cornerstones of democratic society. The NEC does not seek to police the free speech of members where such speech does not infringe the Labour Party’s own rights to Freedom of Association under Article 11 ECHR.
The Labour Party is an association, the aim and purpose of which is to maintain in Parliament and in the country, a political Labour Party. The NEC is the administrative body that governs the pursuit of that aim. It has the power to issue guidance and instructions to subordinate Labour Party units, including CLPs and local branches, in various circumstances, including via the General Secretary, to whom its powers of day-to-day management are delegated. It is important that such instruction and guidance is followed by local Labour Party units; the Labour Party relies on its elected officials to do so. If locally elected officials were not obliged to follow the guidance and direction of the NEC, the Labour Party would become ungovernable. That is why we expect such high standards of elected officials: they have a responsibility to implement the decisions of the NEC and to follow the guidance of the General Secretary.
The NEC considers that your conduct has failed to meet those standards on this occasion. You have not merely failed to follow the guidance of the General Secretary; you have deliberately contravened it. That is a flagrant breach of your responsibilities as an elected official.
The NEC considers that your conduct has breached Chapter 2, I.8 of the Labour Party Rule Book. It is grossly detrimental to the Labour Party for elected officials deliberately to act in opposition to the direction and guidance of the General Secretary and to do so in their capacity as elected officials of the Labour Party. If elected officials wish to contravene such direction and guidance and campaign against it, they should not do so while they remain in the position of an elected Labour Party official.
The NEC notes that you have not previously contravened the rules of the Labour Party. It has taken that fact into account as a mitigating factor. On this occasion, therefore, the NEC has decided to issue you with a Reminder of Conduct only…
This Reminder of Conduct will remain on your Labour Party membership record for 12 Months. It will be deleted at the end of that period. If you commit any further breach of Labour Party rules during that period, this Reminder of Conduct and the behaviour that led to it will be taken into account in dealing with that breach. The NEC Disputes Panel may refer disciplinary charges to the National Constitutional Committee, which has the power to impose a lengthy period of suspension of your Labour Party membership or to expel you from the Labour Party.Emphases added
The party was expected – and according to Labour insiders, expected itself – to lose the case if it had proceeded far enough for a judge to rule. So instead of apologising and acknowledging its fault, it backed down but then used cowardly letters to give the impression that it was in the right.
And in doing so, it made clear that to the Labour right, Labour values and the party’s ‘repute’ are equivalent to kowtowing to the dictates of the (acting) general secretary – and not in the movement’s fundamental values of solidarity, integrity and democracy.
Congratulations to those reinstated – and shame and a pox on the spineless, self-serving party hierarchy.
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