This is the Letter and Statement (incl. links provided) that we sent to a number of NEC members asking that they ensure all members of the NEC are given a copy:
on Monday 21st November 2016 addressing them ahead of the NEC
awayday the next day Tuesday 22nd.
We await a response hoping that the offer of dialogue and assistance in reforming the Disciplinary Procedures is taken up.
Letter and Statement to the NEC
We are all Labour Party members who are deeply concerned about how the Party and specifically the National Executive Committee (NEC) and the General Secretariat have conducted and continue to conduct disciplinary process and use Disciplinary Procedures.
In fact we hesitate to use the term `procedures` because, to all intents and purposes, there are no set procedures. Alternatively, if they do exist, they are not known to members and do not relate to Chapter 6 or Appendix 6, which appear to have been `interpreted` to suit whatever motivated such an onslaught on members.
The undersigned are members, some of whom have been
suspended / expelled /excluded and some not. Our joint concern is the lack of due process and the absence of natural justice. It is our opinion that this disregard for both has brought, and continues to bring, the Labour Party into disrepute. It is causing damage to the reputation of the Party, both in the wider electorate and among members.
We are further concerned that a facility entrusted to the NEC by Conference, which allows instant suspension of a member pending an investigation, has been used in a manner that was never intended. This is felt as a betrayal of trust. The option to instantly suspend is something we consider appropriate only in exceptional circumstances.
We are dismayed that you, as the person with ultimate responsibility for process, should permit it to be used to suspend thousands of members.
We have been made aware of many examples of the allegations made and used to instantly suspend members by the NEC and consider that to have made use of such a mechanism is an abuse of the trust given to you.
We are aware that you are holding an NEC ‘awayday’ on Tuesday 22 November 2016. We wish to notify you formally of our concerns and request they are put before that meeting.
We know that nothing short of an entire rethink of the procedures and how they are applied, along with an inbuilt mechanism to have each step of the process checked by someone not previously involved in the case, will serve to regain the trust lost.
This requires an acknowledgement by the NEC that not only were mistakes made but they were widespread, and that had we had a mechanism that spoke for the accused then this would not have happened.
Throughout this period, in every case, we have seen how there is no respect shown for natural justice and due process. This is not only wrong in terms of the impact on individuals, but has sent shock waves throughout the membership that these two values are not paramount to all dealing with and by the Party.
It is our opinion that to protect members we have a duty to appoint an advocate to every case to ensure that the accused is fully aware of their rights, and that due process and natural justice is respected.
Please also find attached a statement setting out the character and philosophy of those of us who are instrumental in writing this letter and running a support group for those affected.
Members Compliance Support Team
Members Compliance Support Group
This is an invitation to dialogue.
We invite the NEC to engage with us as a source of `on the ground` insight and experience.
We are a group of people with a wealth of experience and expertise.
Some of us have been suspended, expelled or rejected, some not. Our numbers include: employment advisors, tribunal representatives, solicitors, trade union officials (from local representatives – members of union NECs – full time officers and regional secretaries), elected councillors, candidates, CLP officers. We also have members who are social workers, teachers, counsellors and health professionals.
We came together as comrades to give and get support in negotiating and surviving the mental and emotional trauma caused by the current way the disciplinary process is being administered.
We are clear that lessons must be learnt and changes made. To that end we wish to share with the NEC our experience and concerns in supporting and advising so many members. It is our belief that our overview of so many cases will be of immense help to the NEC in achieving its stated aim of reviewing the processes and procedures in current use (or importantly lack thereof).
To that end we have conducted our own review of the Labour Party rules and processes contained in Chapter 6 of the Rule Book, together with Appendix 6 (Procedures).
Our experiences, both as a subjects and or as those representing and advising members, is that what is set out in the rule book has not been properly applied. We have also compared those rules and processes to employment standards and guidelines (all of which are supported by Labour policy) and the processes of other political parties.
Our predominant concern throughout this time has been to provide not just practical support but emotional support for those who have been affected by the action taken against them. We have heard from these members the anguish, pain, humiliation they have suffered and the stigma that has been attached to them and to all Labour members who have been labelled in national media and by some in the Party to whom they had looked to as leaders, role models and colleagues in carrying forward together the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the Labour movement.
A key objective of the Labour movement is the protection of both human and workers’ rights. At a time, when the foundation of those workers’ rights, as enshrined in EU law, is at risk from the Conservative Government, we are aghast that the rules and processes of the Party do not accord with the standards and protections we have all fought so hard to gain for decades.
It is indeed a bitter pill, in conducting our review, to find that the Conservative Party Rules on conduct include a clear commitment to natural justice, in that, it states on page 28 Section 28:
‘Natural Justice: Any removal of rights of membership of, or removal of office or other position from, any Association or other body within the Party will only be made after due consideration of natural justice.’
We request that this statement with the accompanying letter is circulated as a matter of urgency to all NEC members and:
- Considered by the NEC at its meeting on 22 November
- That our Review of chapter 6 is considered by the NEC
3. That the NEC establishes an Independent Inquiry
We wish to give evidence to any independent inquiry or working party set up to review the events, policies and procedures of the party and can provide panel members.
Dated 21 November 2016
Iain McNicol; Ann Black; Darren Williams; Christine Shawcroft; Claudia Webbe; Rhea Wolfson; Peter Willsman etal
We supply below, links to:
1. Our blog which gives examples of how such abuse has affected individual members and the reputation of the Party
2. A statement/petition signed by a broader representation of Labour Party members