Your guidance puts us in firing line, 175 local chairs and secretaries tell Evans

Sienna Rodgers

175 chairs and secretaries from 124 Constituency Labour Parties have told the party’s general secretary David Evans today that his guidance limiting the discussion of certain controversial motions puts them “in the firing line”.

In a letter to Evans, locally elected officials from across the country have complained that the restrictions on items of party business and accompanying threats of suspension are “undermining our efforts to build up our local parties”.

They write: “We feel that your recent guidance only puts us further into the firing line, and is affecting the mental and physical health of chairs and secretaries, many of whom are standing down from their posts because of the stress.”

The chairs and secretaries have said they are being asked to “break our own standing orders” and “the rules of the party” when told to override votes by their local parties in favour of allowing discussions that go against guidance.

They have called on the general secretary to withdraw the guidance sent to local parties and to halt any disciplinary action currently being taken against local party officers for facilitating discussion of prohibited party business.

Labour’s general secretary 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”.

In an email to local officials yesterday, Evans thanked officers who have been implementing his guidance by not allowing the motions to be heard. He reiterated that limits must be in place to ensure meetings are safe for Jewish members.

Banned motions include any criticising the Equality and Human Rights Commission report that found Labour responsible for unlawful acts, expressions of solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn, and motions of no confidence in Evans or Keir Starmer.

A motion urging its local party’s conference delegation to vote against the confirmation of Evans as general secretary was also ruled out of order, LabourList understands. It had been on the Hull North Labour agenda sent via the Organise tool.

Bath Labour has had its annual general meeting postponed until further notice. An investigation is underway, but members were told by the local executive: “We have been told it is not a disciplinary process but do not know what it is about.”

The Jewish Labour Movement, a party-affiliated organisation, has expressed concern over certain motions being heard and in November offered its members “practical guidance in line with our duty of care” in response to such discussions.

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.”

A number of suspensions have taken place, including in Bristol West, Tottenham, Chipping Barnet, Hampstead and Kilburn, Chingford and Woodford Green, Birkenhead. Corbyn himself has called for such action to be dropped.

Below is the full text of the letter sent to David Evans.

Dear David Evans,

We are writing to you, as Constituency Labour Party secretaries and chairs, to raise our concerns about recent emails you have sent us, that instruct secretaries and chairs to prohibit discussion on certain topics.

Our party membership and its collective discussion in local branch and CLP meetings are vital to building an effective local political party. Unfortunately, the recent emails from you, placing restrictions on items of party business that can be discussed in meetings, accompanied by threats and suspensions, are undermining our efforts to build up our local parties. Democratically discussing the issues of party business that concern our members helps us develop and motivate our local party.

Treating our members’ rights with respect is also important for morale and increases the capacity of local parties to turn outwards and campaign in elections. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that was long fought for and has been traditionally upheld by the Labour Party, including in our party meetings. The right to freedom of expression is not only about the right to speak but it is also about the right to listen to others and for different views to be heard. Party members should have the right to express their views, including on whether the whip should or should not be restored to Jeremy Corbyn.

The policing of discussion, on a decision which has received a lot of media attention, is also demanding a great deal from volunteers who take up the role of administrators to facilitate and encourage dynamic campaigning local parties. Our local members and party officers are all volunteers, many of whom work very hard for the party. We feel that your recent guidance only puts us further into the firing line, and is affecting the mental and physical health of chairs and secretaries, many of whom are standing down from their posts because of the stress. This is expertise the Party can ill afford to lose with important elections coming up in May 2021.

Suspensions of officers who allow discussion on the removal of the whip from Jeremy Corbyn to take place also raises serious issues – chairs have in some instances had their membership of the party suspended for allowing discussion to take place when the General Committee or All Member Meeting has voted for them to do so. As CLP Officers, we are elected by General Committees or All Member Meetings, not appointed by the General Secretary and therefore we are being called upon, under threat of membership suspension, to break our own standing orders, and the rules of the party.

It is vital for us that the national party acts in a responsible way to help us maintain members’ enthusiasm to campaign for Labour. The attempts to stifle legitimate discussion are harming our local parties and their campaigning capacity, notwithstanding the suppression of members’ rights to speak and be heard.

We urge you to withdraw the ‘guidance’ you have sent to our CLPs and halt any disciplinary action currently being taken against Party Officers for facilitating democratic discussion of party business.

We look forward to your response.

CLP Chair, Aberconwy
CLP Secretary, Aberconwy
CLP Chair, Battersea
CLP Co-Secretary, Battersea
CLP Co-Secretary, Battersea
CLP Chair, Berwick-upon-Tweed
CLP Secretary, Berwick-upon-Tweed
CLP Secretary, Beverley and Holderness
CLP Secretary, Birkenhead
CLP Chair, Birmingham Ladywood
CLP Chair, Bishop Auckland
CLP Secretary, Bishop Auckland
CLP Chair, Blyth Valley
CLP Chair, Bolton West
CLP Chair, Brecon & Radnorshire
CLP Secretary, Brecon & Radnorshire
CLP Chair, Brent Central
CLP Secretary, Brent Central
CLP Chair, Brentwood and Ongar
CLP Chair, Brighton Pavilion
CLP Secretary, Brighton Pavilion
CLP Chair, Bristol North West
CLP Secretary, Bristol North West
CLP Chair, Bristol West
CLP Co-Secretary, Bristol West
CLP Co-Secretary, Bristol West
CLP Secretary, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross
CLP Secretary, Camberwell and Peckham
CLP Secretary, Camborne, Redruth and Hayle
CLP Secretary, Carlisle
CLP Chair, Carmarthenshire East and Dinefwr
CLP Secretary, Carmarthenshire East and Dinefwr
CLP Chair, Carshalton and Wallington
CLP Secretary, Carshalton and Wallington
CLP Chair, Ceredigion
CLP Secretary, Ceredigion
CLP Secretary, Chelmsford
CLP Chair, Chipping Barnet
CLP Secretary, Chipping Barnet
CLP Secretary, City of Durham CLP
CLP Secretary, Cleethorpes
CLP Chair, Clwyd South
CLP Secretary, Clwyd South
CLP Secretary, Cynon Valley
CLP Secretary, Dover
CLP Chair, Dulwich and West Norwood
CLP Secretary, Dulwich and West Norwood
CLP Secretary, Dwyfor Meirionnydd
CLP Secretary, Ealing North
CLP Secretary, Ealing Southall
CLP Chair, Elmet and Rothwell
CLP Chair, Filton & Bradley Stoke
CLP Secretary, Filton & Bradley Stoke
CLP Chair, Forest of Dean
CLP Secretary, Forest of Dean
CLP Secretary, Glasgow Kelvin
CLP Chair, Hackney North and Stoke Newington
CLP Secretary, Hackney North and Stoke Newington
CLP Chair, Hackney South & Shoreditch
CLP Secretary, Hackney South & Shoreditch
CLP Secretary, Halifax
CLP Secretary, Hampstead & Kilburn
CLP Chair, Harborough
CLP Chair, Harrow East
CLP Secretary, Harrow East
CLP Chair, Hastings and Rye
CLP Secretary, Hemsworth
CLP Chair, Hendon
CLP Secretary, Hendon
CLP Chair, Heywood & Middleton
CLP Secretary, Heywood & Middleton
CLP Chair, Hornsey & Wood Green
CLP Secretary, Hornsey & Wood Green
CLP Secretary, Horsham
CLP Chair, Islington North
CLP Secretary, Islington North
CLP Chair, Kenilworth and Southam
CLP Chair, Kingston upon Hull North
CLP Secretary, Kingston upon Hull North
CLP Chair, Labour International
CLP Secretary, Labour International
CLP Chair, Leeds North East
CLP Secretary, Leeds North East
CLP Chair, Leicester West
CLP Chair, Leyton & Wanstead
CLP Secretary, Leyton & Wanstead
CLP Chair, Liverpool Riverside
CLP Secretary, Liverpool Walton
CLP Secretary, Loughborough
CLP Chair, Luton North
CLP Secretary, Luton North
CLP Secretary, Luton South
CLP Secretary, Maidenhead
CLP Chair, Maidstone & The Weald
CLP Secretary, Maidstone & The Weald
CLP Secretary, Mansfield
CLP Chair, Mid Bedfordshire
CLP Secretary, Mid Bedfordshire
CLP Chair, Mid Sussex
CLP Secretary, Mid Sussex
CLP Secretary, Mid Worcestershire
CLP Chair, Montgomeryshire
CLP Secretary, Montgomeryshire
CLP Chair, Morley & Outwood
CLP Secretary, Morley & Outwood
CLP Secretary, Newbury
CLP Secretary, Newcastle North
CLP Chair, North Devon
CLP Secretary, North East Bedfordshire
CLP Secretary, North East Fife
CLP Chair, North West Cambridgeshire
CLP Secretary, North West Cambridgeshire
CLP Secretary, Northampton South
CLP Chair, Nottingham East
CLP Chair, Orkney Islands
CLP Secretary, Orkney Islands
CLP Chair, Oxford East
CLP Chair, Pendle
CLP Secretary, Pendle
CLP Secretary, Penrith and the Border
CLP Chair, Pudsey
CLP Chair, Reading District
CLP Secretary, Reading District
CLP Chair, Rotherham
CLP Secretary, Rotherham
CLP Chair, Rushcliffe
CLP Chair, Scarborough & Whitby
CLP Secretary, Scarborough & Whitby
CLP Chair, Sedgefield
CLP Chair, Sefton Central
CLP Secretary, Sheffield Central
CLP Secretary, Sheffield Hallam
CLP Chair, Shipley
CLP Secretary, Shipley
CLP Chair, Somerton and Frome
CLP Secretary, South East Cambridgeshire
CLP Secretary, South East Cornwall
CLP Chair, South Staffordshire
CLP Secretary, South Suffolk
CLP Chair, South Thanet
CLP Secretary, South West Bedforshire
CLP Chair, South West Wiltshire
CLP Secretary, South West Wiltshire
CLP Secretary, Southampton Itchen
CLP Chair, St Austell & Newquay
CLP Secretary, St Austell & Newquay
CLP Secretary, Stevenage
CLP Secretary, Stockton South
CLP Secretary, Suffolk Coastal
CLP Secretary, Sutton and Cheam
CLP Chair, Swansea West
CLP Secretary, Thornbury & Yate
CLP Secretary, Tonbridge & Malling
CLP Secretary, Tooting
CLP Secretary, Tottenham
CLP Chair, Truro and Falmouth
CLP Secretary, Truro and Falmouth
CLP Secretary, Wallasey
CLP Secretary, Wansbeck
CLP Chair, Warley
CLP Secretary, Warley
CLP Secretary, Washington and Sunderland West
CLP Secretary, West Suffolk
CLP Secretary, Weston-super-Mare
CLP Chair, Wimbledon
CLP Secretary, Wimbledon
CLP Chair, Windsor
CLP Secretary, Windsor
CLP Secretary, Wirral West
CLP Secretary, Woking
CLP Chair, Wolverhampton South West
CLP Secretary, Wolverhampton South West
CLP Chair, Worcester
CLP Secretary, Worcester

More from LabourList