Now Batley and Spen is over, contempt for Muslim members and voters is back front and centre as party breaches own policies to lift suspension
The Labour party has breached its own NEC-mandated policies to reinstate centrists Trevor Phillips, who had been suspended over Islamophobia complaints, after comments such as ‘Muslims see the world differently from the rest of us’ and claims that Muslims tend to support terrorists.
Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee) met today, but had not been consulted on the reinstatement – against party rules – and NEC members raised deep concerns both at the meeting and directly with Keir Starmer’s office. The party officer investigating Phillips’s case – the only Muslim staffer in the Governance and Legal unit – had been excluded from the process.
Labour’s rules – agreed by the NEC in 2019 – stipulate that:
Except in cases of mistaken identity, only the NEC can choose to lift a suspension and issue a warning.
The investigation of the Phillips case has not yet even been concluded.
Labour had incurred widespread and justified criticism for Islamophobic briefings to the press during the Batley and Spen by-election campaign, as the party sought to excuse its expected defeat by blaming Muslim voters for the loss. This latest decision has provoked further outrage among Muslims.
Last year, Muslim Council of Britain spokesman Miqdaad Versi published a long Twitter thread listing the multiple ways in which he considered Phillips to be guilty of Islamophobia. Versi went so far as to say that Phillips wanted to ‘echo Enoch Powell’ and to compare his ‘core message’ to that of ‘far-right Islamophobes’:
We should not forget his desire to echo Enoch Powell when discussing immigration as he claimed Muslim groups in particular are actively “resistant to the traditional process of integration” threatening to shake the foundations of “liberal democracy” itself.
His core message echoes that of far-right Islamophobes (e.g. Tommy Robinson) on Muslims being:
1. Apart from rest of society
2. Dangerous e.g. can’t foster Christian girl
3. Uniquely unwilling to integrate
4. Unwilling to report terrorism / sympathy with terrorists
NEC member Nadia Jama confirmed in a tweet that Labour’s supposedly governing body had been bypassed:
Former Corbyn speechwriter Alex Nunns published a lengthy thread in which he looked at Phillips’s record and Labour’s action – and suggested that the EHRC should find Labour in breach of its obligations under its report last year, which banned ‘political interference’ in disciplinary processes.
But Labour has also dumped its commitment to the Labour Muslim Network (LMN) last autumn. When LMN’s report found that the party is riddled with Islamophobia among the Labour right, acting general secretary David Evans promised that Labour would implement the recommendations of the report immediately and in full.
Skwawkbox challenged this ‘pledge’ at the time Evans made it, on the grounds that it would require the immediate suspension of a huge number of Labour MPs and other prominent right-wingers. The contempt for its own rules and for any semblance of even-handedness that seems to drip from the decision to reinstate Phillips, without involving either the NEC or the one Muslim staffer in the investigations unit, who was investigating the case, suggests that call was correct as well as obvious.
An LMN spokesperson said:
We are once again in a position where we must express the deep disappointment and frustration of Muslim members and supporters across the UK.
Trevor Phillips’ case is one of the most high-profile recent examples of Islamophobia within the Labour Party and quietly readmitting him behind closed doors, without apology or acknowledgment, will only cause further anxiety and hurt among Muslims.
An NEC member accused the party of ‘giving the green light to Islamophobes in our party’.
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