Recommendations still leave party right in ultimate control of disciplinary processes – and history shows what they will do with it
The Forde Report – a curious mix of withering condemnation of the behaviour of the Labour right and a snow-job of their intent and contempt for democracy – gives the party’s anti-democratic right-wingers carte blanche to continue their rigging of disciplinary processes to protect their own and stitch up left-wingers.
Forde’s recommendations for changes to the disciplinary process read well at first glance, recommending the creation of a ‘standalone’ regulatory and disciplinary unit run by staff with regulatory experience and warning the party to think hard before suspending anyone who is involved in a selection process as a potential candidate – but in reality they leave Keir Starmer, David Evans and their cronies in control of who gets pursued and who gets a free pass. History already shows such control will be abused:
Reform of the Party’s disciplinary processes
1. The Party should operate with a standalone Regulatory and Disciplinary Directorate (Directorate) which should be professional and impartial and separate from other aspects of the Party’s organisation.
– The Head of the Directorate should have substantive experience of regulation and be capable of designing, overseeing and implementing a fair and transparent system.
– Complaints should be appropriately logged, and electronic records updated at each stage of the complaint.
– The initial assessment of any complaint received should include a determination whether interim action is needed. The Party should exercise particular caution before imposing an administrative suspension that would adversely affect the prospects of the person so suspended in any impending selection process. Any decision about interim action should be made with full written reasons given and communicated both to the complainant and the respondent.
– Allegations should be screened initially by a panel of two case examiners, one of whom should be a lay member25 . The Party may wish to draw for these purposes from the pool of qualified and experienced lawyers that it is currently recruiting for its IRB and ICB. However it is important that the pool from which such lay members are chosen should be broad and diverse – in both the demographic and ideological sense – so as not to be subject to accusations of factional discrimination. The lay member need not be a lawyer, but should have knowledge and experience of regulation and regulatory systems.
– Cases should be referred to a full hearing before an NEC Complaints and Disciplinary Panel only where both case examiners conclude that (i) there is a realistic prospect of a full hearing finding the allegation(s) proved and (ii) the appropriate sanction falls outside of their sanctioning powers.
Forde gives the party freedom to draw case examiners from its so-called ‘Independent Review Board’ (IRB) and ‘Independent Complaints Board’ (ICB). But it has long been clear that the word ‘independent’ in those boards is for show, as Evans – and through him Starmer – have control of who makes it onto those boards and the pair have already been criticised for excluding, for example, left-wing Jewish people from the boards in favour of ideologically-aligned figures who all share a common view of antisemitism and Israel and right-wing pro-Israel groups have been given a veto.
So Evans and co will decide the people who will be deciding which cases are referred for action – and those cases that are referred will be subject to adjudication by ‘an NEC Complaints and Disciplinary Panel’ whose members will be decided by a right-dominated national executive that has already shown willingness not only to re-admit right-wingers with an appalling record whose disciplinary cases were mysteriously ‘disappeared’, but to publicly trumpet their return and welcome them back.
Similarly, the right-dominated regional structures have shown that they will protect right-wingers even in cases of racism and misogyny, while left-wing figures have been actively smeared and hung out to dry, particularly women of colour.
It is a given that left-wingers will be stitched up while even the worst of the right will be given a free pass as long as the party thinks it can get away with it.
The problems continue in Forde’s ‘detailed recommendations on reform of the party’s disciplinary process’. While barring HQ, parliamentary and LOTO (Starmer’s office) staff outside the new directorate from the disciplinary process, the report allows regional staff to be drafted in – and regional offices are just as much a right-wing cesspit and are staffed by people who ultimately report to David Evans and other Southside HQ figures.
And in that same section, appeals will again be assessed and decided by personnel either directly appointed or vetted by Evans and Starmer, or else by an NEC panel chosen by the right-run NEC.
The only real fly in Starmer’s and Evans’s ointment is that Forde warns the party that it needs to ensure that its processes comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. Labour recently changed its rules to remove the expectation of natural justice under the Convention from some of its disciplinary processes.
But it would be naive to think, whatever lip service Starmer and co pay to such recommendations in the report or its strictures on transparency in recruiting or its disciplinary processes, that they will not continue to bend, break and ignore any rules that don’t suit them while exploiting the parts that align with their interests to justify their actions or claims.
After all, almost two years ago the pair promised to implement immediately and in full the recommendations of the Labour Muslim Network’s report on the horrific levels of Islamophobia and racism among the Labour right. As of now, the LMN remains horrified at the unchecked and unpunished racism against Muslims that has left seven out of ten Muslims saying they cannot trust the party. The LMN has published this thread of tweets in response to the Forde Report:
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