The Labour Party is changing. Today’s meeting of our national executive committee was an important milestone towards ensuring that our party, always and everywhere, upholds our commitment to equality.
By approving a new independent complaints process, the NEC has acted decisively to put our own house in order and show that Labour is – and always will be – the party of equality. Taken alongside the adoption of a new code of conduct on Islamophobia, today we made a clear commitment to tackling abuse and harassment and making the Labour Party a safe space for everyone.
The new complaints process will be the fairest and most robust of any political party in Europe that we know of. It has involved extensive engagement with the Jewish Labour Movement and other Jewish communal stakeholders – an important step towards winning back trust in the Jewish community, and following the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report into antisemitism within our party.
Complaints will be decided impartially and fairly. They will also be decided independently, unlike the old process, which gave the NEC and the national constitutional committee (NCC) the power to decide whether complaints should be upheld. Now, complaints relating to protected characteristics will be subject to independent veto or independent verification. A new independent review panel of independent lawyers will make decisions on complaints, and a new independent appeal board will hear appeals against decisions. At the appeals stage, independent representatives on the panel will always be in a majority.
All NEC decisions regarding complaints about protected characteristics will be reviewed by a member of the independent review panel, to decide whether they comply with our rules, the law, and the following new principles of independence: being free from conflicts of interest; equality; impartiality; transparency; freedom from corruption; good faith; rationality; evidence; fairness; tolerance; and democracy.
Independence, then, is baked into the new process. However, the new process is not fully ‘external’. This is important, because without any link into the party’s decision-making structure, decisions could be challenged in court. That is an outcome that no-one needs, least of all those who have been subjected to harassment and abuse.
Passing the new process at the NEC is just a first step. Before it can be implemented, changes to our rules will need approval at conference in September. And many other changes must be worked on in the months to come – including ensuring there will be regular reviews of the new system, and putting in place time limits so that decisions on complaints cannot be vexatiously delayed.
Another significant measure was approved at today’s NEC to help tackle Islamophobia in our party. Labour Muslim Network have called for change in a number of areas, including the introduction of a code of conduct against Islamophobia. Today the NEC approved that new code.
The code includes guidance and illustrative examples of what constitutes Islamophobia, and details how the party should respond to it. The code needs to go alongside a range of other measures to root out Islamophobia. That’s why I recently joined Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Steve Reed and LGA Labour Leader Nick Forbes in writing to every Labour-controlled authority in the country, asking them to adopt the APPG on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia.
I’ve been encouraged by how many councils have replied to say they are already doing this, and we will be working with others to encourage them to adopt the definition as soon as possible. A code of conduct against anti-Black racism has also been in development, for presentation to the NEC.
As party chair, I am determined to work with the party leadership, the Parliamentary Labour Party, our members and everyone in our movement to make our party a safe and welcoming place for all who share our values. We’re stronger together – and together we will end abuse and harassment in our party.