Local Labour parties have been told by general secretary David Evans that motions relating to the suspension of the whip from Jeremy Corbyn – including expressions of solidarity – “will be ruled out of order”, LabourList can reveal.
In an email to local party secretaries, chairs, MPs, MSPs and MSPs, Labour’s most senior official provided “updated guidance” following an email earlier in the month that warned local parties against considering motions on disciplinary cases.
Evans told the officers and representatives today that “the situation has clearly moved on since then” and referred to local parties debating motions including “expressions of solidarity, and matters relating to the internal processes of the PLP”.
The general secretary wrote that the motions are “providing a flashpoint for the expression of views that undermine the Labour Party’s ability to provide a safe and welcoming space for all members, in particular our Jewish members”.
Concluding that “all motions which touch on these issues will be ruled out of order”, Evans added that Labour must “adopt a genuinely zero-tolerance approach” to antisemitism by ensuring Jewish members “feel safe and welcome”.
He said: “Please rest assured that when I took up post as general secretary, I had no desire at all to hamper discussion by our local parties, but until we can improve our culture such restrictions may be required to stay in place.”
The email from the general secretary today follows the decision by Keir Starmer not to restore the Labour whip to Corbyn after the former leader was readmitted to the party by a panel of five national executive committee members.
Corbyn had been suspended after commenting that “the scale of the problem was… dramatically overstated for political reasons” in his response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into Labour antisemitism.
Chief whip Nick Brown has informed the former party leader that the suspension of the Labour whip is set to last for three months and be kept “under review”, pending a parliamentary investigation under Parliamentary Labour Party rules.
Since the last email sent by Evans, members have reported receiving threats of disciplinary action from the party as a result of their debating and voting on motions relating to the suspension of Corbyn at local party meetings.
The chair, co-secretaries and a number of others in Bristol West were suspended shortly after considering such a motion, with LabourList sources saying this was due to both the motion and tweets demanding the resignation of the regional director.
The party-affiliated Jewish Labour Movement sent an email to members last week offering “practical guidance in line with our duty of care” in response to motions relating to Corbyn, which were described as “inappropriate”.
Below is the email from Evans to local party secretaries, chairs, MPs, MSPs and MSPs.
Following the publication of the EHRC report into antisemitism in the Labour Party on 29 October, I provided some guidance to CLPs on what were and were not appropriate topics of discussion for branches and CLPs. The situation has clearly moved on since then, so I wanted to provide you with some updated guidance.
It remains the case that motions which seek to repudiate the findings of the EHRC or question its competency to conduct the investigation remain not competent business for branches or CLPs. Motions relating to ongoing disciplinary cases are also not in order, in line with the instructions of my predecessor.
I am aware that other motions (including expressions of solidarity, and matters relating to the internal processes of the Parliamentary Labour Party) are providing a flashpoint for the expression of views that undermine the Labour Party’s ability to provide a safe and welcoming space for all members, in particular our Jewish members. Therefore, all motions which touch on these issues will also be ruled out of order.
A number of CLPs have asked for further information on the basis on which myself and the national executive committees are able to rule on what can and cannot be discussed by local parties, and I am very happy to provide that explanation.
The Labour Party’s ‘Code of Conduct: Antisemitism and other forms of racism’ rightly states that “the Labour Party will ensure the party is a welcoming home to members of all communities, with no place for any prejudice or discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion”. The NEC has the power to uphold the rules and standing orders of the Labour Party and to take any action it deems necessary for such purposes. The Rule Book is also clear that such powers can be delegated to, amongst others, the general secretary. For the avoidance of doubt my previous rulings on these matters have all been properly reported to the NEC, which is supportive of my approach.
The Labour Party is committed to implementing the EHRC report in full, and part of that is to accept our previous failure to deal with antisemitism and adopt a genuinely zero-tolerance approach which will ensure all members, and in particular our Jewish members, feel safe and welcome within the Labour Party. Please rest assured that when I took up post as general secretary, I had no desire at all to hamper discussion by our local parties, but until we can improve our culture such restrictions may be required to stay in place.