Sunday, June 12, 2016

Are some members of the Labour party more equal than others? By M’Learned Friend

It takes a dogged and skilled lawyer to plough through the national party rule book and the inchoate add-ons that are the unfocussed supplementary rules that operate in Wales.

However, a party member doesn’t have to be a lawyer to wonder if there isn’t one law for the self important Blairite and another for any member daring to hold (and express) “radical views”.

Consider a few examples of the way the party has publicly treated its members in recent weeks.

Two different members “on the left” - one an old, gnarled, successful (by most standards) MP and former Mayor of London and another a young MP – have been publicly attacked and faced demands for their immediate expulsion (without due process) from the party for views expressed about historical events. In one case, suspension from the party followed quickly and the NEC is now conducting an enquiry. In the other, an apology was deemed sufficient.

At the same time, the party has not batted an eyelid as senior figures – from a more “centrist background” publicly, intentionally and repeatedly criticise the party leadership. Some have even been filmed by TV crews in aggressive name-calling of colleagues with whom they disagree. (Some party members take the view that party meetings are where such robust debate should occur – so long as it is done within party rules). In Wales, one MP has been publicly accused by four different national newspapers of mistreating her staff and exhibiting homophobic behaviour. The response from the party in the weeks that followed? Zilch! Surely in the interests of all concerned – including the MP – such allegations should be properly investigated and either disproved – or acted upon?

The party rulebook - though long and opaque – lists the following offences that members can commit:
  • Chapter 2, Clause 1 - serious criminal offences; conduct grossly detrimental to the party; standing against a Labour candidate
  • Chapter 6 (page 25) - allows disciplinary action for breach of the rules and constitution.
  • Chapter 15 (clause 1, O) notes that harassment and intimidation of members is unacceptable, as is any form of discrimination on the basis of gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or race.
Of course, good judgment has to be exercised in all such cases in the interests of fairness to all. But at the moment, where you stand in the party (in terms of seniority or political belief) seems to have more influence on what happens than the facts themselves.

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