Members Compliance Support Team Statement:
The pivotal issue is the NEC giving of responsibility to the procedures committee under the blanket term of `Leadership Election 2016 – Procedural Guidelines and Timetable` and them then using that to suspend thousands of members.
One of our concerns is that this whole process was dealt with by the Procedures Committee and yet we can find no specific rule or procedure that specifies this as the forum responsible for the process.
If, as may be the case, the NEC agreed this role for the Procedures Committee under its decisions relating to the leadership, we have seen no evidence of this nor can we find a rule, procedure or otherwise which specifies this route.
Nor have we had any real reassurance that the ongoing and new suspensions and exclusions are now being dealt with by the body specified in the Party documentation, albeit that those policies, procedure, rules and appendices are unclear and in many areas unspecific.
We are pleased to hear that the Disputes Panel is drawing up a list of things which “should be done differently, not done, or only done with the explicit consent of the NEC’. This cuts to the heart of the matter. However, no information regarding those discussions, and the possibility of a way forward has been released to the membership.
Morale for many has been hit by the processes used to punish members.
For example, the list of ‘proscribed’ words was not made known to members yet used retrospectively. Whilst some may argue that the strategy used by the procedures committee can be justified in terms of reducing abuse, unless people are informed of the rules and offered education and training how are they to know?
Even so the use of instant suspensions is not something we consider appropriate, and further we consider that even use of `inappropriate language` should be dealt with proportionately and that instant suspension (under `mere` `administrative suspension` – as opposed to instant suspension for exceptional circumstances) is highly questionable within the procedures, and most definitely is unacceptable as a method to deal with such an issue.
This and the other matters we raise, most notably procedural misuse, are not only retrospective concerns but on-going, as members are continuing to be suspended or excluded from membership.
It is clear from the views of many of the membership that this continuing damage to morale will affect the ability of members and the desire of members to campaign effectively for Labour.
Members who have been campaigning in recent months have informed us that the issue of suspensions has been raised on the doorstep in at least two ways, voter concern to vote for a party which has been labelled as infested with extremists and voters who know personally of colleagues who have been suspended.
At the `Awayday` the NEC gave no time to discuss the `purge`- just a cursory report from Iain McNicol which was dismissive of all concerns – which we consider a further insult to all those affected (see the Home page stories here on this blog for a cross section of experiences).
It seems that they decided it was all now in-hand, as this report from Cllr Alice Perry NEC member shows: Labour NEC Report – November 2016 Suspensions and Disciplinary Issues `Around 1,000* people were suspended from the Party during the Leadership election. Around 800 of these people have had their suspensions lifted with a warning. The remaining suspensions are being investigated and their cases will be brought to a future meeting of the NEC Disputes Committee. Disputes will also look at the suspensions process and suggest recommendations on how this process could be improved.`
* This is a figure given to the NEC we presume. We however, dispute this figure and note the use of the word `around`. No figures have been official published and this in itself is not acceptable. to counter the claim of `around` a 1,000 let me quote another NEC who would have said around 4,000 – big big difference there.
This also illustrates the lack of transparency and how they seem intent on muddying the waters. We demand that we are given a total breakdown of the figures. Transparency is paramount in this – not just to ensure a proper debate but to stop this being behind closed doors and, it seems, the figures manipulated to give the impression that it isn`t as big a problem as people think, and looking to minimise it. WRONG, IT IS A VERY BIG PROBLEM.
This is a quote from another NEC member a few weeks back:
`Of all the complaints, 3,963 led to suspension and expulsion. Some of these are mistakes, some are due to the Party's disciplinary processes which are a very blunt instrument (going straight to suspension without investigating or warning people first)`.
At this point in time members suspended are being sent letters `lifting their suspension` but with a Warning. These members have been given no right of reply to answer the alleged allegations and yet by the issuing of a Warning the Party is assuming guilt. This goes against all sense of Natural Justice and will be challenged. And yet the NEC see sending out of such Warnings as perfectly acceptable.