Labour’s general secretary David Evans has thanked local party officers who have implemented his guidance on motions criticising the suspension of the whip from former leader Jeremy Corbyn, LabourList can reveal.
Evans told local party secretaries, chairs, MPs, MSPs and MSPs in November that motions on the suspension of the whip from Jeremy Corbyn – including expressions of solidarity – would be “ruled out of order”.
He said such items for debate were “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”.
“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,” Evans wrote.
In a new email sent today to party and branch secretaries and chairs, MPs, MSs and MSPs, the general secretary has thanked those officers who have been implementing this guidance by not allowing the motions to be heard.
“I can understand the desire of people to discuss contentious and controversial issues that they feel deeply about,” Evans has said. But he has stressed that the Labour Party was found to have broken the law in its handling of antisemitism.
Amid criticism by some members of the limits imposed, he has concluded that “our responsibility” towards those who “continue to feel unwelcome and unsafe” in party meetings “must take precedence over our rights at this time”.
The general secretary has also clarified that his guidance means the motions ruled out of order “should not appear on the agenda or any other meeting papers” and should not require chairs to make rulings themselves on the motions.
A number of local party officers and other members have been suspended from Labour since the EHRC report was published and Evans set restrictions on motions relating to the antisemitism investigation and Corbyn’s whip.
Recent suspensions include locally elected officers Nick Rogers, chair of Tottenham Labour; Will McMahon, chair of Chipping Barnet Labour; Hampstead and Kilburn Labour’s chair Pete Firmin and vice-chair Bridget Dunne.
Pending investigation, a further three Chipping Barnet members have also been suspended from the party, as well as Chingford and Woodford Green’s chair Gary Lafley and vice-chair Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi.
Former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell declared that he would be willing to be a witness at a party disciplinary hearing for Wimborne-Idrissi, a Jewish Voice for Labour activist, after she was suspended last week.
Former Labour parliamentary candidate Faiza Shaheen, who fought for the party Chingford and Woodford Green in the 2019 general election, also spoke out against the suspension, adding that she knew Wimborne-Idrissi personally.
Many of the suspensions have occurred after local parties have defied the guidance on motions relating to Corbyn, and some parties have been told the ban includes motions expressing no confidence in Evans or Keir Starmer.
Other suspensions have taken place not due to motions being heard but after complaints have been submitted over comments made at local meetings about antisemitism in the party, such as in Wimborne-Idrissi’s case.
Momentum and Labour left figures have criticised the ruling on motions. Richard Burgon has described it as a “clampdown on legitimate discussion”, saying: “It’s a basic democratic right that members can decide what they discuss.”
But the Jewish Labour Movement, a party-affiliated organisation, has expressed concern over such motions and in November offered its members “practical guidance in line with our duty of care” in response to such discussions.
Below is the full text of the latest message from David Evans.
FAO: CLP & Branch Secretaries and Chairs, MPs, MSs and MSPs
I wanted to put on record my thanks to the branch and CLP officers who have been implementing the guidance around motions that I circulated recently. The Labour Party is dependent on the hard work of its volunteer officers, and only with your support will we succeed in changing the culture of the party and making sure our meetings are a welcome space for all.
I can understand the desire of people to discuss contentious and controversial issues that they feel deeply about. But to be clear, the Labour Party was found guilty of breaking the law on antisemitism. We are now not trusted to run our own affairs until we satisfy the EHRC that we have fully addressed the issues that meant our party is not a safe space for Jewish members. Just as we should have zero tolerance for all forms of racism, homophobia, sexual harassment and other prejudicial behaviour, our responsibility to double down on anything that may cause members to continue to feel unwelcome and unsafe must take precedence over our rights at this time.
I also wanted to confirm that the effect of my guidance was to rule motions on the topics mentioned out of order. This means they should not appear on the agenda or any other meeting papers, and that there is no requirement for chairs of meetings to make rulings (nor should there be any resulting challenges to such rulings). I hope this clarification will help avoid any further unnecessary confrontation.