Friday, September 22, 2017

Defend the rights of Labour Party members

Regular readers (Sid and Doris Blogger) may have been disappointed by my recent silence.

Or they may have been quite happy.

However, I’m not abandoning blogging just because I have stepped aside from a quarter century of defending workers’ rights at the front line.

This evening I enjoyed a drink with two old (well, not that old) Labour Party comrades whom I have known for decades.

We discussed the unanticipated and welcome circumstances in which the Party is now led from the left.

I was proud to say that I am Chair of Brighton Pavilion CLP (one of the most interesting constituencies in the country) – and that I aim to be a unifying Chair who can lead all our members together in the cause of changing the Government.

However, I was also proud to say that our CLP Executive took the potentially controversial step of proposing the following Emergency Motion to the forthcoming Conference;

Conference notes that on 20 September 2017 the Party’s national officers failed to respond to a deadline set by Brighton Pavilion CLP for information concerning the suspension of its member, Greg Hadfield.
This member has been suspended since October 2016 but has not been informed of any allegations against him or decisions taken in his case, despite the NEC Disputes Panel having agreed early in 2017 to refer this case to the National Constitutional Committee.
Conference believes that the lengthy suspension of a Party member amounts to the administrative imposition of a sanction without a hearing.
Conference further believes that lengthy suspensions of Party members are unacceptable. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Conference endorses the Chakrabarti Inquiry proposal that “subjects of complaint should normally be informed both of its substance and author at the earliest opportunity” and concurs with the Inquiry’s report that it is important for procedures to lay down clear timelines within which a complaint will be dealt with.
Conference deplores the failure of the Party to deal swiftly with cases where members are suspended, and instructs the NEC to ensure that:
  1. Brighton Pavilion CLP is given a timetable to conclude the suspension of its member within two months of the close of Conference.
  2. The Party’s disciplinary procedures are revised to provide for a strict time limit of no more than three months for the suspension of any member, subject to provision for exceptional cases to be determined by the NEC and reported to Conference annually.

This motion has been acknowledged by the Conference Arrangements Committee I understand but may not be accepted on to the Conference Agenda.

As a professional safety practitioner I must advise readers not to hold their breath waiting for the admission of this motion to the Conference agenda – to do so could pose a hazard to your health. We shall see.

I am very keen to unite the Party, locally and nationally, behind our elected leadership (and I am equally keen that members of the Party should express our views whether or not those are shared by our leadership).

Our CLP Executive (which is unanimously and unashamedly left-wing) practices restraint and encourages unity on a regular basis.

However, we won’t hold back from criticising political witch-hunting just because such criticism may be controversial. There are some points of principle which cannot be compromised.

It is invariably wrong to use administrative means to settle political differences (or personal scores) – and I have spent decades defending members of our movement who have faced such unjust action (regardless of whether or not I agreed with their views or actions).

I have spent a quarter century as a UNISON activist fighting for democracy in our trade union – and as part of that fight I have represented individuals facing unjustified disciplinary action and have fought to amend the disciplinary rules of the Union.

It is a disgrace that the rules of the Labour Party set no time limit upon the suspension of members – in this respect UNISON rules are fairer and more reasonable. Justice delayed is justice denied.

My personal opinion is that the treatment of Greg Hadfield is a disgrace and that he is the person being denied justice by delay – but if you disagree with me and believe that action should be taken against Greg then you simply believe that you (or others) are those being denied justice by delay.

The Party needs to set a time limit upon suspensions in order to avoid abuse of process (as is currently happening).

In a lifetime in the Labour Party I have often seen the disciplinary procedures of our Party used to silence, muffle or exclude critical left-wing voices. This has always been a disgrace.

I hope that we are now moving into a period in which socialist politics are in the ascendant, and I hope always to support a socialist leadership of our Party – but my support is informed by my belief that a left-wing Labour Party will never abuse its disciplinary procedures against right-wing critics in the way in which those procedures have been abused against us in the past.

Brighton Pavilion’s Emergency Motion to Labour Party Conference is neither partisan nor factional – it expresses a belief in justice which should be at the centre of our beliefs as Labour Party members.

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