A fresh row between Young Labour chair Jess Barnard and the Labour Party has exploded as the activist was informed overnight that she is under investigation over two anti-transphobia tweets posted last year.
Update, 8pm: A Labour spokesperson said: “We apologise unreservedly to Jess for the hurt and upset this has caused.” LabourList understands that Jess Barnard is not under investigation, the notice of investigation was issued in error and has been rescinded, and Labour has apologised to her. The notice was apparently sent outside of the usual processes and the party is looking into how the ‘error’ happened.
The notice of investigation from the party, seen by LabourList because Barnard sent it to all members of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), states that it is investigating allegations she may have broken party rules.
The document refers to “your conduct over email” and asks whether Barnard regrets “posting such comments on Facebok [sic]”, although the posts in question are tweets. The two tweets were both posted in October 2020.
The first tweet includes the question “Guess how many T%RF accounts I had to block today?”. The second is a reply to a Labour councillor, which states: “Expect better from a Labour representative.” It adds: “There’s no fishing for anything I just won’t be intimidated in to giving transphobes energy”.
LabourList has spoken to Labour NEC members who are angry and/or confused by Barnard being investigated over the tweets. One described the action as “outrageous” and another said they “can’t see the issue”.
In an email to NEC members, Barnard noted that the notice of investigation was sent to her at 1am. She said there is “no discrimination” in the evidence presented by Labour and “I haven’t identified any individuals” in the tweets being highlighted.
The Young Labour chair was told that she has not been administratively suspended by the party, there is no assumption of guilt and no restrictions have been placed on her membership rights.
But the document from Labour goes on to specify that the party could suspend her in the future and that “upon the conclusion of this investigation, the NEC may impose such disciplinary measures as it sees fit”.
The move comes less than two weeks after Barnard publicly raised concerns over organising Young Labour day at party conference. YL had been told Labour could not complete checks on speakers until September 20th, just days before the start of conference.
Barnard tweeted today: “I hope you can understand I am not at present free to discuss the investigation.” She adds: “It has been a relentless time and I would be lying if I said this wasn’t impacting my mental health.”
Momentum co-chair Gaya Sriskanthan said: “This is a new low. Transphobia is a serious problem in both Labour and wider society – we should be investigating those with a track record of discrimination, not the people standing up to them.
“This is part of an emerging pattern of political harassment and intimidation of members that is making a mockery out of the party’s disciplinary process.”
Jess Barnard is not giving further comment at this time. The Labour Party has been contacted for comment.