Corbyn proposes new reform of party complaints process

Sienna Rodgers

In a fresh effort to tackle antisemitism within Labour, Jeremy Corbyn will put forward a “new way of dealing with the most extreme cases” of “hate and bigotry” at the full meeting of the party’s ruling body tomorrow.

At a special meeting of the shadow cabinet focussing on antisemitism this afternoon, the Labour leader presented two options for reform of Labour’s disciplinary process and expressed a preference for ‘Option 2’.

The first proposal would see the panels of three or five national executive committee (NEC) members that deal with disciplinary cases given the power to expel members in the “most serious” cases of antisemitism.

The second proposal, favoured by Corbyn, would see such cases referred to special panels including the party general secretary and NEC officers, rather than the usual small NEC panels.

LabourList understands that these reforms would apply to all serious cases of racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia – as does the motion submitted by Tom Watson, which calls on the NEC to establish an independent process and automatic exclusion where there is “irrefutable evidence”.

The shadow cabinet has also said it supports introducing “independent oversight of our processes”, but it is not yet clear what this would mean in practice.

Option 1

Give the NEC antisemitism panels the power in the most serious of cases to sanction members either with expulsion. In such cases the member could appeal to the NCC.

Currently the NEC panels do not have the power to expel members, which can only be carried out by the NCC. 

Option 2 

Any complaint that met the criteria for the most serious of cases, would be referred to a special panel consisting of the General Secretary plus NEC Officers. 

If that panel was satisfied that the criteria were met, they would have the power to expel the member. This option would allow for more rapid expulsion in the most serious of cases. 

Commenting on the suggested reforms, Jewish Labour Movement chair Mike Katz said: “We can’t have any confidence in these new proposals. This is just rearranging the deckchairs. The NEC is elected on factional slates on the basis of political patronage. It has an in-built majority for the left, which does what the leadership of the party tells it to.”

The shadow cabinet released a statement after its meeting, which read: “The shadow cabinet is committed to defeating antisemitism and all forms of discrimination, including through greater education in our movement. We commend the general secretary and party staff on improving the complaints and disciplinary processes within the party.

“As part of tackling antisemitism, the shadow cabinet has today supported the proposal for summary exclusion outlined by the Labour leader, which he will put to the national executive committee tomorrow. The shadow cabinet also supports the proposal to introduce independent oversight of our processes, and will continue to seek to engage with Jewish community organisations to build confidence.”

Labour general secretary Jennie Formby also updated the shadow cabinet on the party complaints process and committed to regularly publishing statistics.

According to Formby, the data shows:

Between 1st January and 30th June 2019, there have been 6 meetings of the NEC Antisemitism Panels, resulting in 190 decisions on antisemitism cases. 

  • 97 members referred to the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) 
  • 41 members issued with a formal NEC warning.
  • 49 members issued with ‘reminder of conduct’
  • 3 members’ cases were closed as the full evidence suggested no further action should be taken

Over the same period in 2018, there were 2 meetings of the NEC Disputes Panel, resulting in 8 decisions on antisemitism cases.

  • 6 members referred to the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) 
  • 2 members issued with a formal NEC warning.

Between 1st January and 30th June 2019, 28 NCC cases were concluded:

  • 8 members were expelled
  • 3 members received an extended suspension.
  • 4 members received a warning.
  • 1 member received no action, as the NCC found the charges to be unproven
  • 12 members left the Labour Party after being referred to the NCC.

Over the same period in 2018, 10 NCC cases were concluded:

  • 7 members were expelled
  • 3 members left the Labour Party

Labour peers decided this afternoon not to hold a vote on a motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. Instead, they gave their unanimous backing to Baroness Hayter, who was sacked as a shadow minister after comparing the Labour leadership to “the last days of Hitler”.

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