Labour investigates allegations of racism against three NEC candidates

Sienna Rodgers

The Labour Party is understood to be investigating complaints of alleged racism submitted by Socialists of Colour activists against three national executive committee candidates, LabourList can reveal.

The anti-racism group, which organises within Labour and outside of it, sent a series of questions to each party member who has put themselves forward for the internal NEC elections currently taking place.

After the responses were provided to the activists and published in full on their website, Socialists of Colour complained to Labour about the statements of Brian Precious, Carol Taylor-Spedding and James Chespy.

A Socialists of Colour steering committee member told LabourList: “A number of responses to our questions we disagreed with but could be put down to political difference. However, there were some that entered into clear-cut racism and antisemitism, which Socialists of Colour do not in any way endorse.

“Responses that warranted content warnings for their antisemitic and racist content included the defence of Jackie Walker, who was expelled from the party for antisemitism, the denial of institutional antisemitism, perpetuating conspiracy theories and comments around certain communities being more predisposed to commit crime.

“We are also deeply worried about the erasure of antisemitism especially in the face of the EHRC investigation into the party. Some of these issues have been picked up by the party, with Brian Precious’ original candidate statement being taken down due to antisemitism and then replaced.

“It is evident that party vetting processes when it comes to candidates are not thorough enough and do not have conclusions that effectively hold candidates, or people who should not be candidates due to their racism, to account.”

The responses labelled by SoC with a “content warning” included a defence of Jackie Walker. Local party rep candidate Taylor-Spedding said Walker was expelled from the party “unjustly” once her high-profile case concluded.

Exercising her right of reply, Taylor-Spedding told LabourList that the accusation of antisemitism “does not make any sense” because Walked was expelled for bringing the party into disrepute rather than for antisemitism itself.

Walker was expelled from Labour in March 2019 for “prejudicial and grossly detrimental” behaviour. She had suggested at a 2016 event that Holocaust Memorial Day should be “open to all people who experienced holocaust”.

The Labour Left Alliance, a group on the party’s left, has launched an open letter that says Socialists of Colour are “entirely mistaken” in their conclusion that Taylor-Spedding’s statement was racist.

The letter, signed by six other NEC candidates who are still in the race to become representatives on Labour’s ruling body, asks the organisation to “take off the content warning” and “issue an apology”.

Brian Precious, another member seeking nominations while standing to be a local party representative, described the view that Labour is institutionally antisemitic as a “smear”, amongst other comments found to be antisemitic by SoC.

The Labour member from Burnley also received criticism for his original candidate statement, which was published by Labour on its own website before reportedly being replaced with a different statement.

Precious’ statement on the Labour website now reads: “Antisemitism was massively exaggerated so as to be [weaponised]. This created the fear and intimidation typical of a witch hunt, as in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible”.

James Chespy was criticised by SoC because, in response to a question on prison abolition, he wrote: “As far as [prisons] are concerned perhaps the question should be why some people are more predicated to commit crime”.

He told LabourList: “The allegations made against me by this organisation are completely without foundation or merit. The answers I have given to some very leading questions could not be construed as being racist by anyone with an ounce of common sense and using any measure.

“I look forward to defending myself should that be necessary and I hope that an apology will be forthcoming from the said organisation when their complaint is found to be without merit.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”

LabourList understands that the complaints submitted by Socialists of Colour are being investigated by the party.

Brian Precious has not responded to LabourList so far.

This article was amended at 9.45pm. Walker did not complain that Holocaust Memorial Day failed to commemorate genocides other than that in World War Two, but suggested that it should be “open to all people who experienced holocaust”.

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