When I first put myself forward to represent Wales on Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), I promised that I would be accountable, fight for fairness in internal procedures and promote progressive policies. After reading the Forde report and then listening to Keir Starmer’s lamentable response to it on BBC Radio Merseyside, I added a fourth pledge on my website: the full implementation of Martin Forde’s recommendations. This is something I will pursue vigorously if elected. Here’s why.
One of Forde’s recommendations is the requirement for NEC members, including Starmer, to adhere to the Nolan principles. The Tories may consider them optional, but it dismays me to find the principles so lacking in Starmer’s attempt to turn Forde’s shocking findings into a weapon for yet another attack on Jeremy Corbyn, who he implied was to blame for the party being “dysfunctional” while he was leader.
I did not expect the Labour leader to go into detail on the report but he could, at least, have demonstrated those Nolan principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and – above all – leadership that was needed. That means being “fully engaged”, as Forde puts it, in tackling “toxic aspects of the party’s culture”.
Forde made clear that we are nowhere being “the modern, highly skilled and diverse organisation capable of fulfilling its democratic duties to the voters of this country”. As well as antisemitism, his report highlighted other forms of racism, Islamophobia and sexism in party processes that mean the party’s workforce still fails to be representative and members suffer discrimination. Forde put responsibility for dealing with this on the leader and the general secretary.
At best Starmer’s comments indicated that, a week after its release, he had still not properly read the report he’d commissioned. At worst, the comments demonstrated a lack of honesty about Forde’s shocking revelations and an unwillingness to take responsibility for the action needed.
Of particular note is his reply to a listener’s question in which he said rooting out antisemitism is what’s behind Corbyn’s ‘suspension‘, without mentioning that this applied only to the parliamentary party whip. In fact, Corbyn’s membership was restored by the party, which accepted that his comments on the scale of the problem – including that “one antisemite is one too many” – was a matter for legitimate debate, as did the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report.
Forde went further: he detailed how “some anti-Corbyn elements of the party seized on antisemitism as a way to attack Jeremy Corbyn”, including the issuing of “wholly misleading media reports”, and wrote that unjustified “Trot hunting” diverted resources from dealing with antisemitism.
Despite these revelations, which confirm the legitimacy of Corbyn’s comments, Starmer is still refusing to restore the whip to the former leader. Meanwhile, no disciplinary action has been taken against those who both openly and covertly engaged in what Forde describes as “the systematic undermining of the elected leader of the party” (including the “wholly wrong” use of funds).
Starmer’s failure to take action against the officials involved in the secret Ergon House project is in stark contrast to the treatment of members who have been suspended on the flimsiest of pretexts and the introduction of a list of proscribed organisations with retrospective application, meaning members have been suspended indefinitely or expelled for associating with a group at a time when it wasn’t even banned – a fundamental breach of natural justice.
Given the shoddy treatment of members, and disillusion as a result of Starmer’s backtracking on his policy commitments that gave him the leadership, it’s no wonder that party membership has plummeted to less than 400,000 – from 550,000 in the 2020 leadership election.
For the sake of the people who are suffering under the self-serving Tories, we must get a Labour government. That would be my priority on the NEC. But we need to recognise that this drop in membership, combined with trade unions becoming more detached or even disaffiliating, has had a devastating effect on Labour’s finances and our ability to campaign. It has led to wholesale staff redundancies and is returning us to reliance for party funding on the rich and powerful, which compromised the last Labour government.
With an election possible at any time and the prospect that the Conservative Party might be able to transform its fortunes under a new leader, Starmer needs to move fast to prepare the party for the fight. All the evidence – from opinion polls to the success of Welsh Labour in the Senedd elections last year – suggests that the policy agenda he promised in 2020 is popular. And it is also what is needed for people and planet. As an NEC member, I will argue for those polices and for the party to implement Forde’s recommendations in full.