Labour’s ruling body appoints panel to investigate leaked report

Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) has appointed a four-person panel to investigate the leaked report on the party’s handling of internal antisemitism complaints.

Martin Forde QC, an experienced barrister currently acting as the independent advisor on the Windrush Compensation Scheme, has been chosen by the NEC to chair the independent inquiry.

He will be supported by three Labour peers: Baroness Debbie Wilcox, a councillor and former leader of Newport City Council; Lord Larry Whitty, a former Labour general secretary; Baroness Ruth Lister, a social policy professor and chair of Compass.

Wilcox was the first woman to lead the Welsh Local Government Association in 2017. She was appointed to the Lords last year, and stepped down as a council leader to focus on her new role.

Whitty became general secretary of the Labour Party in 1985, and held the post until 1994. He oversaw many of the party reforms implemented by Labour leader Neil Kinnock.

A former director of the Child Poverty Action Group, Lister has previously served on a number of independent commissions, such as the Opsahl Commission into the Future of Northern Ireland.

Following the NEC meeting today, a Labour spokesperson confirmed: “The NEC has appointed Martin Forde to chair the independent investigation into the circumstances, contents and release of an internal report.

“Forde will be supported by a panel of three experts who have expertise in the law and the Labour Party’s structures. The NEC has agreed that the investigation should endeavour to deliver its report by the middle of July.”

Several sources have told LabourList that Momentum chair and NEC member Jon Lansman proposed Alf Dubs as a panel member because there was no Jewish representation.

However, this suggestion was voted down in the meeting today, including by Keir Starmer. The stated reason was that Dubs had vocally supported Keir Starmer’s leadership bid.

It was pointed out by NEC sources that Baroness Wilcox backed Starmer’s leadership campaign this year. But it has also been argued that Dubs is a higher-profile backer of the leader.

Sources say the other factor taken into account was gender balance, particularly as the chair chosen is male. However, there are still concerns about the lack of Jewish representation on the panel.

The vote on the proposal to include Dubs was lost 16-18, according to one NEC source, and there was a request in the meeting for it to voted on again after it was argued that Wilcox had vocally supported Keir Starmer and Rosena Allin-Khan.

One NEC member, who wanted to remain anonymous, told LabourList: “Baroness Debbie Wilcox was a high-profile supporter of Keir and Rosena, who has liked tweets attacking Corbyn and Unite the Union and promoting right-wing faction Labour First’s NEC slate.”

They added: “There is no excuse for appointing Debbie Wilcox to the panel but not Alf Dubs. This reeks of a stitch-up. Keir and Angela refused to share names of panel members in advance of the meeting so they could railroad the decision.”

Lansman later tweeted that he had “assumed due diligence had been done on all to ensure their impartiality”, adding that in his view Wilcox was “clearly unsuitable” to be a panel member.

The party-affiliated Jewish Labour Movement welcomed the appointment of the panel, adding that it still believes “the leadership and governance of the party is not fit for purpose in dealing with antisemitism”.

JLM said: “We continue to hold the view that only an external body with legally binding enforcement powers has the necessary independence to address the party’s ongoing and repeated failures, and we await the outcome of the EHRC investigation this summer.”

Commenting on the launch of the inquiry, a Momentum spokesperson described those who compiled the leaked report as “brave whistleblowers” who “must not be persecuted”.

Momentum has called on the inquiry to guarantee protections for those people, and also to publish a redacted version of the report in full so that Labour members are able to read its contents.

The spokesperson added: “In any other organisation, members accused of racism, sexism and misuse of funds would be suspended pending investigation… we call on Labour to suspend those named in the report while the investigation is ongoing.”

Labour’s ruling body met last week to agree the terms of reference of the independent investigation. Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner told the NEC that the inquiry does not preclude any disciplinary action that may arise from the contents of the report.

The NEC decided that the scope of the inquiry would cover the allegations in the report, its commissioning and how it was put into the public domain despite containing personal data. LabourList published the agreed terms of reference in full.

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