The leaked report prepared about the work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019, provides prima facie evidence that senior Labour Party officials actively undermined not only the elected party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, but also decimated Labour’s chances of forming a government in 2017. Furthermore, the report highlights a heinous display of systemic racism.
This report has caused shock, alarm and distress to our party members and supporters. The salaried Labour Party Governance and Legal Unit officials casually discarded members’ decisions and worked to damage the party for their own political ends. Their behaviour is incompatible with the democracy and egalitarianism that the Labour Movement seeks to build not only within the party, but also society in general.
Our response to the report is set out below:
Failure of party support in Kensington after Grenfell
In 2017, our members campaigned tirelessly to achieve a Labour victory in Kensington. It was a watershed moment for the constituency. The reference to our former MP in the report provides good evidence that national officials were ‘abusive’ to the new MP and more so they found it incredible, even unfavourable, that Labour had gained the seat.
The Kensington Labour Party Executive expresses unconditional support for Emma Dent Coad, MP for Kensington from 2017 to 2019, who has stated that we deserve to know the facts.
Party resources were used for factional purposes. It is a scandal that these Labour figures live off membership fees – which many people struggle to pay – yet treat their elected politicians in such a disgraceful way. Furthermore, Emma recounts querying a procedure at the NEC only to be told; “It is a rule, but it is not written down”.
This kind of behaviour was evident from the outset. Just days following our election success, at least 72 people lost their lives in the horrific fire in Grenfell Tower. The impact this event had on the community needs no repetition here. Yet, frequent requests for additional resources to assist with the colossal casework were denied or ignored. This is a deplorable indictment on these officials and their humanity.
The report was originally commissioned to look at possible anti-Semitism in the party; however the evidence shows that officials harboured an established culture of racism in all its forms: abusive language, a sense of entitlement and privilege and a contempt for the work of the grassroots membership – a thoroughly rotten culture. It is also evidence of deeply embedded Institutional Racism – described in the Macpherson definition as: “It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.“
Emma has noted that the powerlessness and daily humiliation felt by some black and minority ethnic MPs had a severely detrimental effect on them – which clearly was the intention. Emma has also remarked that there was more racism and sexism within parliament than in any working environment she had experienced in a 40 year career, and that this prevailed also within certain sections of the Party machinery.
An arrogant and factional bureaucracy
Factional loyalty seems to have determined recruitment decisions, with people appointed to senior roles with few apparent and relevant qualifications, with those more qualified passed over or not even informed of the outcome. Recruitment procedures must be urgently reviewed and refreshed with immediate effect to stop nepotism and further breaches of the Equality Act. It is in this wider context that we see the arrogance of the Labour Party bureaucracy.
Management accountability and lack of transparency must also be addressed. Longer term, a much wider pool for staff recruitment is needed, drawing a broader pool including people with a background in grassroots community activism (which would have also prevented the lack of diversity in the team) and other relevant skills, with proper oversight by the elected bodies of the Party over the work of functionaries, including recruitment processes.
Adverse impact on BAME party members
Until Spring 2018, when a new General Secretary was appointed, the Party’s Governance and Legal Unit failed to develop any consistent system of logging, tracking progress of, and decision-making on complaints, including those on racism and antisemitism. This has had an adverse impact on our BAME members; many are the victims of this outrage and require an apology and a re-investigation of their cases. Many BAME members now see the party as a hostile environment and are withdrawing their support. We suggest that you implement an immediate strategy to re-engage with BAME members, starting by seeking their views as soon as possible. The officials involved obviously felt secure enough in their posts to divert their attention away from complaints about antisemitism, without accountability to management policies or procedures, safe in the knowledge that their backs were being protected by those in positions of power. The party needs a root and branch reassessment of important processes – the disciplinary, recruitment and selection, grievance, conduct and performance management procedures are not fit for purpose.
Your investigation into the report is welcome, however we demand that you establish a transparent process to investigate the conduct alleged in the leaked document; the terms of reference for such an investigation and the appointment of the investigation leader and team also needs to be transparent. Only this route will restore faith among Labour members in the culture and practices of our party. Accountability doesn’t just happen and it doesn’t depend on personal good will. We need to see commitment to immediate structural change in party organisation. Please act now.
23 April 2020
Published by the Executive Committee of Kensington CLP