Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Suspend in haste. Repent at leisure?




As I have mentioned before, the vicissitudes of life (and the perennial reorganisations which are one of the forms those vicissitudes take for those of us with the mixed fortune to be local government workers) find me working these days in Human Resources.

I don’t blog about my job, but in that job I have to be aware of developments in employment law, and therefore of the gathering body of case law that warns employers against over-hasty suspension of employees.


This case law refers (of course) to the employment relationship. Employment law cannot simply be “read across” into (for example) the law as it impacts upon disciplinary procedures of trade unions, or political parties.

On the one hand, someone’s job is central to their life and ability to earn a living, and so the law relating to their employment ought (you would hope) to be careful to protect their rights. Perhaps therefore you would expect a more cautious approach to suspension from employment than in some other walks of life.

On the other hand, if you are suspended from employment, you continue to be paid. Whilst it is possible that an unjustified suspension could amount to a breach of contract, it is also true that the contract of employment can continue through a suspension and – if all goes well from the employee’s point of view – out the other side.

Whilst a suspended employee is denied the opportunity to work, they nevertheless continue to be paid. The basic reciprocity of the employment relationship (I am available for work. You pay me) is not terminated simply by the act of suspension.

However, when an elected representative in a trade union or a political party is suspended, there is an immediate impact in that they cease – in effect – to hold the position to which they have been elected (or selected). The union (or party) still takes their subscriptions but it has removed them completely from the role from which they have been suspended.

Because our membership of a trade union or political party is not circumscribed with the same range of legal protections which our movement has fought for over centuries for our rights as workers, there is -potentially – inordinate scope for suspension of union or Party office holders to be used inappropriately – to seek to resolve political differences by administrative means.

And sometimes this happens.

I am more familiar than I might wish with UNISON’s disciplinary processes. These limit the power of the National Executive to suspend someone from office to a maximum of 60 days (excepting cases of alleged financial irregularities).

This is a reasonable time limit. It enables the organisation to take a little time to consider a case in which discipinary action may be required, without permanently removing an elected official from a position to which they have been elected by the membership.

Unfortunately, Labour Party rules permit suspensions to drag on (and on) – which amounts to the imposition of a disciplinary sanction in advance of any hearing or of the opportunity for the individual to advance a defence.

I do not mean to make direct comment on a suspension announced today by the Labour Party – but, having recently seen a comrade return to Party membership following a suspension which lasted for more than two years – I think that the need for some time limit on the power of the Labour Party NEC to suspend members (as proposed by Brighton Pavilion CLP at 2017 Conference) is urgently required.

Of course, if I were going to say something about today’s suspension, it wouldn’t be something I would want to say on this blog. I try to avoid swearing here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tony Blair does not support Labour candidates. Labour members don't care.


Tony Blair (a war criminal who formerly held political office) has expressed his support for the Parliamentarians who have run away from our Labour Party rather than be held to account. With friends like those who needs enemies?

Nevertheless, this is not something which should come as a shock to any observer of political events in our (currently) sad little country.

The stability of a capitalist nation state depends – among other things – upon the debate within its workers’ movement between those who are determined upon genuine change and those who are prepared to settle for modest amendments to the status quo.

Capitalism can accommodate “social democracy” (when that means – in a Tom Watson sort of way – the modest changes which capitalists can afford to make to ameliorate the worst impacts of their economic system upon working people). What capitalism cannot accommodate is real socialism (as advocated by the current Labour Party leadership).

It follows that, in line with interests of the ruling class, in the UK, there is the appearance (from the media) of a strong movement to undermine the socialist leadership of the Labour Party. There is no real basis for this. There is no strong opposition – within the workers’ movement – to the socialist leadership of the Labour Party.

The state (and the ruling class) may be able to rely upon the General Secretary of our third largest union (who was elected with the support of a little over 2.5% of his membership) but they can no longer hope to divide our Party and our movement to the point at which we have no purchase on events.

We now have a Party of the working class which can hope to form a Government and which stands in opposition to the policies of Tony Blair, David Cameron and Theresa May (and Margaret Thatcher).

The attempt of the ruling class to ensure that the leadership of the Party of the working class is not in socialist hands has failed. Tony Blair’s project of finishing Margaret Thatcher’s attempt to prevent our Party supporting socialism is no more.

Hope remains available to our class.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Labour Leadership implement Labour Policy on Brexit. Pope still Catholic. Bears still head for woods...


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This seems to have caused some confusion.

The loudest centrist voices in the media, having spent months trying to create a story about how the Labour Leader was not going to implement the Policy are trying to spin that this is a change of position by the Party leadership.

Those who stand out against the “MSM” (mainstream media) are keen to emphasise that this is not so (even to the point of not quite reporting accurately what the Party has in fact said).

Polly Toynbee (who has relevant previous form – having stood for the SDP in Lewisham East in 1983, splitting the progressive vote and gifting the seat to the Tories) is bound to say that; “The defection of eight Labour MPs to the Independent Group seems to have had a big effect, breaking the obstinacy of the leadership team.”

But actually, all that has happened is that the current leadership of the Party have done what they have always said they would do – which is to follow the democratically agreed policy of the Party, as decided at Conference.

This is anathema to those whose lives revolve around the Westminster bubble and whose only wisdom is to observer that bubble and know what is going on within it. People like the Member for Streatham, who knows that he must prevent the possibility of a socialist Prime Minister, are utterly fearful of a world in which ordinary people could exercise real power.

In that world – our world, which we want to make – we have no need for career politicians (though those who have given their lives to political work with no expectation of a “career” have helped us reach the point at which we can hope to reach our goal).

When policy is made democratically by the elected delegates of Constituency Labour Parties and trade unions, and then implemented by the elected leadership of our Party there is no need for a commentariat. Their clever ability to decipher the hidden meanings of the hints dropped by politicians and their bag carriers is worthless.

So today the Labour Party leadership announced that they would continue to follow the decisions of our Conference.

This is simply as it should be. It is not – and ought not to be – news. This is the world we are going to create, in which politicians implement the decisions taken by ordinary people, and in which we break down the barrier between “politicians” and “people” by ensuring the accountability of the former to the latter.

Update on Monday evening


Interestingly, when I posted a link to this blog post on Facebook, I got an insight into the very limited nature of the current debate.

I posted this to a “Labour Against Brexit” group (because I am a Labour Party member opposed to Brexit) and got a fairly vitriolic response from a rabid centrist who obviously wants to use arguments around Brexit to attack the Party leadership.

I also got into hot water with members of a “secret” group of LRC members (who consider themselves – somewhat implausibly as it now appears – to be on the “left” of the LRC) who had learned – in the 70s or 80s – that the EU was a “bosses club” and have never unlearned that.

The funny thing is that – although I myself do oppose Brexit as a racist, nationalist project – the point of this post was never about that – but about the fact that we now have a Labour Party where the leadership follow the line laid down by the membership.