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Labour’s conference debate on antisemitism


Shami Chakrabarti, Labour’s Shadow Attorney General and author of the June 2016 Shami Chakrabarti inquiry into antisemitism in the party.

Labour NEC’s proposed rule change on antisemitism etc

The definitive JLM rule motion that will go to Labour Conference

By Skwawkbox, Jewish Voice for Labour
September 20, 2017

 

 

Yesterday, [Tuesday 19th] Jeremy Newmark of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) issued a statement via the organisation’s website that he was ‘heartened’ that JLM’s proposed rule change regarding hate-incidents had been accepted by Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee) for the party’s imminent annual Conference.

At the same time, NEC member Darren Williams put out a brief report on the NEC meeting via his Facebook page, which said this about the rule-change:

[W]e approved an NEC rule change on dealing with prejudiced views and behaviour that avoided the more draconian approach favoured by the Jewish Labour Movement.

This has understandably created some confusion among Labour members about the facts of the matter and what would be put before Conference. The SKWAWKBOX is pleased to be able to clarify the matter for its readers.

Below, obtained exclusively by the SKWAWKBOX, is a briefing note issued by Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti to the NEC for its discussion of the rule change. It shows the originally-proposed wording in the left column and the final version that was approved by the NEC in the right-hand column. Areas that were amended in the final version agreed by the NEC are highlighted in red: [The NCC is the National Constitutional Committee.]

The ‘Hastings’ version of the rule that was favoured by some activists was not passed forward by the NEC, as it was felt that the JLM rule in its amended form is more in keeping with the recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report.

The briefing adds the following explanatory notes:

The two outstanding concerns regarding the wording of 18/07/2017 are with the following phrases (highlighted in red above):

1. “was motivated by”:

i.) The inclusion of motivation in the rule book wording would inhibit not enhance the ability of the Party to bring disciplinary proceedings, removing discretion from the NCC in these matters and would therefore fall significantly short of the recommendations made (and accepted) in the Chakrabarti Report.

The requirement to prove motivation raises the threshold to a criminal legal level and risks making disciplinary cases more difficult to progress. Under the Party rules it should be sufficient that a member is found to bring the Party into disrepute, regardless of their motivation. By including motivation in the offence, a defence is offered to any member who has publically expressed prejudicial views. The Chakrabarti Report argued for the Party to have a lower tolerance threshold than that required by law as Labour should be seen to set a gold standard. It should not be easier to expel a member from a golf club for the expression of prejudicial views, than a member from the ‘party of equality’.

ii.) By including motivation, not only would this limit the ability of the Party to bring disciplinary proceedings, but would lay it open to potential defamation cases where the Party finds a member in breach of this rule. This would act as a disincentive to act and is a step away from a ‘zero-tolerance’ environment.

2. “The NEC shall not have regard to the mere holding or expressions of beliefs and opinions”

Without some kind of caveat this text implies that genuine and sincere beliefs are acceptable excuses for racism, discrimination and other forms of prejudice. In essence, this stand-alone text negates the rule that goes before it and is therefore defective. The addition of a qualifying caveat has been suggested by the Party’s lawyers, subsequent to the NEC meeting in July and been incorporated into the proposed wording, agreed by the JLM and Shami, as above.

The proposed wording, as agreed with the Jewish Labour Movement is designed to address these concerns and represents a broad consensual position. The hope is that this wording provides the best opportunity to pass this rule change with unanimous consent at the NEC meeting tomorrow.

As with any compromise, it’s unlikely that anyone will be 100% happy with the final form, but this is the version that has been sent forward by the NEC for debate and vote at the Conference, which begins on Sunday.

Comments

Heinz Grunewald
20 September 2017
Netanyahu takes criticism of Israel personally – quite rightly. Must press the point that if you can’t criticise Israel you give a free pass to the criminals who run it.

David Epstein
22 September 2017 
If the Chakrabarti recommendations, now 18 months old, are permanently ignored (apparently current NEC policy), with the consequence that disciplinary procedures in the LP continue to be painfully slow and not to follow accepted rules of Natural Justice, then there will continue to be problems, and the carefully sculpted wording of resolutions, such as those above, will make little difference. No doubt out-of-context and carefully edited snippets of “statements” by prominent LP members are right now being collected, and will be publicized just before the next election. There will then be calls for suspensions and expulsions but the Labour Party will not be in a position to respond adequately. Chakrabarti would help to protect not only individuals but also the LP’s reputation.

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