At Conference Tuesday morning there is a debate scheduled which is causing much concern across the party membership. It relates to the rules and discipline within the party and is a further tweaking of Chapter 2  Clause 1, Section 8 Conditions of membership Page 11 8.

The concern expressed by members who are discussing this on social media and amongst themselves is not so much the intention of the rule or the intention of the NEC in tweaking it.  The problem is just how open to interpretation the rule in question is. There are so many generalisation, so much wooliness, and each and every aspect is by definition subjective. We all know and support the principle of not accepting abuse, and we all support a robust approach to ensuring that our party is a place of safety where members can explore and discuss their thoughts on policy, on society, with all the members in the broad church that makes up the membership.

Most of us can easily define abuse in the general sense, but when you chunk down to detail it is clear that what one person subjectively feels is an insult is by someone else “water off a ducks back” and part of normal day to day exchanges, especially when deep  feelings, sometimes personal experiences, are triggered and emotions brim over. Most of us know where the line is drawn.

The problem comes about when you try to put that knowing into words.   Here is the rule book section that will be discussed on Tuesday which includes the change that the NEC wants passed – and you can see just how subjective interpreting the rule(s) is, and how difficult it is to make judgements without being there.  Occasionally the person suspected of breaking the rules of behaviour has done or said something that is blatantly obvious in its abuse and intention. That isn`t the problem.  It is when the intention, the context, the history surrounding any accusation and accusor that it becomes very very difficult.   Scroll past once you have scanned it and got an idea and you can read this blogs suggestion and hope, along with some further insight into the issues.

NEC:  Chapter 2 Clause 1, Section 8 Conditions of membership Page 11 8. No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party. Any dispute as to whether a member is in breach of the provisions of this sub-clause shall be determined by the NCC in accordance with Chapter 1 Clause IX above and the disciplinary rules and guidelines in Chapter 6 below. Where appropriate the NCC shall have regard to involvement in financial support for the organisation and/ or the activities of any organisation declared ineligible for affiliation to the Party under Chapter 1.II.5 or 3.C above; or to the candidature of the members in opposition to an officially endorsed Labour Party candidate or the support for such candidature. The NCC shall not have regard to the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions. Delete all and replace with: 8. No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party. The NEC shall take account of any codes of conduct currently in force and shall regard any incident which in their view might reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on age; disability; gender reassignment or identity; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; or sexual orientation as conduct prejudicial to the Party: these shall include but not be limited to incidents involving racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia or otherwise racist language, sentiments, stereotypes or actions, sexual harassment, bullying or any form of intimidation towards another person on the basis of a protected characteristic as determined by the NEC, wherever it occurs, as conduct prejudicial to the Party. Any dispute as to whether a member is in breach of the provisions of this sub-clause shall be determined by the NCC in accordance with Chapter 1 Clause IX above and the disciplinary rules and guidelines in Chapter 6 below. Where appropriate the NCC shall have regard to involvement in financial support for the organisation and/or the activities of any organisation declared ineligible for affiliation to the Party under Chapter 1.II.5 or 3.C above; or to the candidature of the members in opposition to an officially endorsed Labour Party candidate or the support for such candidature. The NCC shall not have regard to the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions except in any instance inconsistent with the Party’s aims and values, agreed codes of conduct, or involving prejudice towards any protected characteristic.

Solution – constructive way forward

This is actually a wonderful opportunity in the making. Clearly there are issues and concerns that need to be ironed out, but it is crazy to attempt to do this with more and more layers made up of a combination of more detail couched in more generalisations which is what is happening with this motion.

We must be seen as a party to defer always to due process and natural justice. Look around the rest of this blog and you will read heartbreaking examples of just how badly the compliance unit operates. I personally have been in tears when chatting with individuals who have been at the blunt end of the current process, and not just acutely but running into many months, some currently running at 18 months without a hearing or a right of reply/response.

What we really need is a complete review and overhaul and for that to come about following a robust and detailed examination and discussion. And this is exactly the opportunity that this gifts to delegates on Tuesday – they can simply refer it to the NEC Review headed by Katie Murphy and Barry Gardiner.

This is an important aspect of the Party, we must not cut corners.  Let`s give space and air to do a comprehensive review, that fully considers how to ensure party discipline without bringing into question our commitment to natural justice and fair play – two things that are at the very core of what labour is about as an organisation, as a party and  every member. It is the essence that reflects back and forth from individual members to the collective and generates the very trust and energy that achieves the full potential of the party.

I have contact with individuals who have a deep knowledge of the rule book and disciplinary processes and natural justice – members who are legally qualified and or very experienced in disciplinary processes in other organisations (and are representatives of Unions for employees). If any delegate wishes to be put in contact with them for more detailed discussion just message me.

  Delegates please please please I implore you – refer this motion to the NEC Review.

DS: It is poor and badly drafted in my view. Don’t like reasonable in it as it is extraneous and the harassment of protected class point is useless as this already covered by Equality Act 2010. Also too long. Would be better as clause then sub-clauses making one point each. As stands open to interpretation problems due to lack of clarity.

It moves the NEC discretion from a Q of particular conduct being prejudicial/grossly detrimental to the party to in the instances specified being a Q of “can the incident be reasonably seen as demonstrating prejudice?” if yes then it is automatically prejudicial to the party. That is a very different assessment. The “incident” doesn’t have to be actually prejudicial just that it can be reasonably seen as demonstrating prejudice.

The reasonable is attached to the seen so just acts I think to dilute that verb. It means there is no requirement for an incident to actually demonstrate prejudice just that it could reasonably be seen to do so. Seen by who? The recipient? bystanders? the person on the Clapham omnibus? Is this objective or subjective?

I also think the structure reduces the NCC discretion as well. Essentially you could be found guilty of prejudice against the party on the basis that an incident could be reasonably seen to demonstrate prejudice but you were not actually provably prejudiced. I am uncertain it passes muster on the basis of natural justice as you don’t get to actually refute the issue of causing the party prejudice only to try to show it is unreasonable to see the incident as demonstrating prejudice against a protected class. That is a more difficult accusation to refute.

Essentially you could be found guilty of prejudice against the party on the basis that an incident could be reasonably seen to demonstrate prejudice but you were not actually provably prejudiced. I am uncertain it passes muster on the basis of natural justice as you don’t get to actually refute the issue of causing the party prejudice only to try to show it is unreasonable to see the incident as demonstrating prejudice against a protected class. That is a more difficult accusation to refute.

MC: There is growing move to refer the AS motion to the Corbyn Review as is going to happen with other motions There are huge problems with labour`s disciplinary processes and rules as has been seen through various purges. The entire discipline process is not fit for purpose and is subject to serious abuse as we have seen.

It is pointless to agree a change without addressing all the issues.  For example, the process gives no recognition to the impact of disability (particularly MH issues) on conduct. No assessment as to whether there is a health issue that needs to be addressed.

The NCC is bypassed. Members have no right of representation unless a case goes to a full hearing at NCC and then it is legal representation that is allowed. Who can afford that. Of over 3,000 complaints to labour over the leadership election and resulting suspensions only 140 remain suspended and of those only s dozen or so have been referred to NCC. If the party was an

If the party was an employer they would be constantly at employment tribunal. This is the best opportunity yet to get those issues addressed by referring the matter of this rule change and the whole issue of discipline to the review If this or any motion on discipline is voted on then the chances of getting the disciplinary processes reviewed are reduced because it will be said Conference has only just voted on this – whichever way it goes Please think seriously about referring this to the review I and others who have considerable experience with labours discipline process are strongly in favour of referring the whole issue to the review As it stands the NEC motion is not good enough not clear enough for labour members.

Solution – constructive way forward
This is actually a wonderful opportunity in the making. Clearly there are issues and concerns that need to be ironed out, but it is crazy to attempt to do this with more and more layers made up of a combination of more detail couched in more generalisations which is what is happening with this motion.
We must be seen as a party to defer always to due process and natural justice. Look around the rest of this blog and you will read heartbreaking examples of just how badly the compliance unit operates. I personally have been in tears when chatting with individuals who have been at the blunt end of the current process, and not just acutely but running into many months, some currently running at 18 months without a hearing or a right of reply/response.
What we really need is a complete review and overhaul and for that to come about following a robust and detailed examination and discussion. And this is exactly the opportunity that this gifts to delegates on Tuesday – they can simply refer it to the NEC Review headed by Katie Murphy and Barry Gardiner.
This is an important aspect of the Party, we must not cut corners.  Let`s give space and air to do a comprehensive review, that fully considers how to ensure party discipline without bringing into question our commitment to natural justice and fair play – two things that are at the very core of what labour is about as an organisation, as a party and  every member. It is the essence that reflects back and forth from individual members to the collective and generates the very trust and energy that achieves the full potential of the party.

I have contact with individuals who have a deep knowledge of the rule book and disciplinary processes and natural justice – members who are legally qualified and or very experienced in disciplinary processes in other organisations (and are representatives in Unions for employees). If any delegate wishes to be put in contact with them for more detailed discussion just message me.

 

Delegates please please please I implore you, refer this motion to the:

PARTY DEMOCRACY REVIEW

At the NEC meeting on Friday 22nd September the NEC agreed to a review of Party Democracy as proposed by the Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

The review will be led by Katy Clark, a former Labour MP and presently Political Secretary to the Leader. She will be assisted by Andy Kerr and Claudia Webbe from the National Executive Committee and will report to the Leader and to Party Chair Ian Lavery MP. Jeremy Corbyn set out the terms of reference for the review which will include the following areas:

 Developing democratic policy-making procedures, including strengthening the role of Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) and of Party Conference, the role of contemporary motions and the development of local and regional plans.

  Addendum-NEC-Report-2017 (1)    

Typical timeline for disciplinary enquiry: Typical timeline for disciplinary investigation

We need to be disciplined about our approach to the rules and the processes used to uphold them. The process and the rules are inaccessible and cumbersome. In the labour party we champion natural justice throughout society. We have to be seen to do that within the party itself. The disciplinary rules and process require a complete overhaul to ensure natural justice informs every step. Despite the

Despite the detail in the rule book there is no reference to respecting due process and natural justice. Our disciplinary process must be rooted in and embrace natural justice. This requires clear rules and clear process – currently we have neither. This is our opportunity to MAKE IT SO by referring the system for review.

 

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