Labour prepares to reform its disciplinary procedures

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Radio 4’s Today programme may have included a lengthy feature on chihuahuas being snatched by seagulls this morning, but this is a big week in British politics. Voting closes in the Tory leadership contest at 5pm today. The winner is announced tomorrow morning. On Wednesday, Theresa May will gift us with her last PMQs performance, then go to the Palace and resign shortly after several Remain-leaning cabinet ministers have also quit. Finally, the Commons rises for summer recess on Thursday, generously allowing our new Prime Minister to settle into No10 during a quiet period with no parliamentary scrutiny. The press could take up that role, and there will undoubtedly be much analysis of Boris Johnson’s frontbench appointments and many more warnings of how no deal would damage the country, but the danger – of which Labour MPs are keenly aware – is that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and handling of antisemitism dominate headlines instead.

Labour peers are set to debate the issue of antisemitism within the party and what to do about it this afternoon, at a meeting that will consider a motion of no confidence in Corbyn. While criticism of the disciplinary procedures and allegations of factional bias including interference have grown over recent weeks, it’s not uncommon to view this move by the Labour Lords as pointless. Lucy Powell MP, who was helpful to the leadership on Brexit but can hardly be labelled a Corbynite, described the possible vote as a “deeply unhelpful and divisive move” at a time when “all our attention should be facing outwards at a new Tory PM”. If the peers pass a vote of no confidence in the Labour leader, it would be a wholly symbolic gesture with no tangible consequence, though nonetheless appreciated as an act of solidarity by some activists such as those in the Jewish Labour Movement.

The leadership is making efforts to stymie the prospect of Labour antisemitism commanding the news cycle over the summer. Yesterday, the party launched new antisemitism education material and sent it to all members. It was a start, but deemed insufficient by JLM, which refused to endorse the Antisemitism 101 five-page document and characterised it as “overdue homework”. Next step: the shadow cabinet will hold a special meeting on antisemitism today. Corbyn will present his top team with a number of options for reform of Labour’s complaints process, including giving national executive committee (NEC) panels the power to expel antisemites. This would actually reduce the quasi-judicial element of the process, but enable cases to be dealt with more quickly. These ideas involving tricky trade-offs are expected to be discussed by the full NEC tomorrow, along with Tom Watson’s motion for an independent procedure and auto exclusion. Selecting a reform to recommend won’t be easy, but could kicking off that much-needed discussion at least reassure some members and defuse the situation until conference? Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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