The Forde Inquiry
By email Friday 7 August 2020
SUBMISSION TO THE INQUIRY INTO THE LEAKED INTERNAL LABOUR REPORT
We write to you as individual Executive Officers and members of Camberwell & Peckham Constituency Labour Party in response to your call for the submission of evidence and views from those affected in some way by the contents of the leaked internal report into the workings of Labour’s Governance & Legal Unit. You also requested submissions from individuals on the proposed Terms of Reference of the Inquiry. We wish to make submissions in both areas.
There are some very serious allegations contained in the report, some which will be easy to identify as facts and others that will be harder to determine. What should be easy to determine is the following;
a. Evidence that those running the Governance & Legal Unit and/or those they reported to were hampering the progression of complaints submitted against members where these contained serious allegations of anti-Semitism. There must surely be an audit trail for cases and if not, your Inquiry has a duty to establish why this might be.
b. Evidence of the syphoning of £175,000 of party funds into a secret campaign pot, used to fund the creation of an alternative Campaign HQ along the road from Labour’s HQ. If it is established that this allegation is true, those responsible for misusing members money in this way must have action taken against them, as individual Labour members’ and employees, if they remain in employment.
c. Evidence of the fabrication of a social media campaign that had been authorised by the Party leadership being directed exclusively to those perceived to be in the leadership’s orbit, whilst simultaneously mounting an alternative campaign with conflicting key messages and divergent target audiences.
d. Evidence of the abandonment of key marginal seat campaigns in favour of diverting resources to the campaigns of favoured ideological sons and daughters of those making these decisions.
e. Evidence of senior & junior staff routinely making disparaging comment on the clothes, hairstyles and personal hygiene of Labour women MPs and Labour women employees they perceived as “the opposition”.
Commenting on the general content of the leaked report, we wish the following to be considered as supplementary evidence to the many behaviours and actions that the report highlights:
- Factional Behaviours The factional behaviours and actions that the report details is not new information to us. In fact, it appears endemic in the party machine and has, presumably, been going on unchecked, for decades – nurtured by longstanding friendship links between paid employees and many of those who held officer positions in our CLP until 2018. In the attached Appendix A, you will see detailed the cases of 12 individual party members with a present or past link to Camberwell & Peckham CLP between 2015 & the present day. Each has been the victim of some form of disciplinary action (administrative suspension from membership or auto-exclusion from membership) and you will see that in some cases, even when their “time” had been served, they experienced a game of cat and mouse to be readmitted. Often, applications for membership were ignored, sometimes despite the activation of the associated direct debit mandate supplied at the time.
- Inconsistent Interpretations of Labour’s Rules a. Clause 1.4 of Labour’s Rule Book (2020 edition, Page 12) details the actions that may be taken in respect of a Labour member who endorses, nominates or publicly supports a candidate standing against Labour in an election or indeed,, stands themselves. This rule is regularly enforced against those who are “guilty” of such actions long before they were Labour members, for factional ends. We have several instances of members and former members in Camberwell & Peckham who have been auto-excluded for actions they took some time before they were members.
When this has been challenged with the Governance & Legal Unit or Regional Officials, they have ruled that it is appropriate to treat these cases “as if the person in question were a member at the time of their action(s)”. It simply cannot be right to expect those outside the Party to have a working knowledge of Labour’s Rules before they apply to join, surely?
- The Rule Book outlines an exclusion from membership for five years for those standing against an endorsed Labour candidate and two years for those who publicly support, endorse or nominate another candidate. But this exclusion period is regularly deemed to commence only at the time of auto-exclusion – not from the time of the action that places the individual in question at odds with Labour’s Rule Book. Surely a person nominating an alternative candidate in May 2015’s General Election should be entitled to change their mind? After all, Robert Jackson MP & Quentin Davies MP both crossed the floor from Conservative to Labour only a few months after the 2001 & 2005 General Elections, respectively. Even if they are not to be permitted to change their mind, surely they should be eligible for membership no later than May 2017 (two years after their actions)? You will see from the evidence in Appendix A that at least one member was auto-excluded in November 2016 for just such an action and was obliged to remain outside the party until November 2018 – a full three and a half years after breaking a rule they did not know existed, because they were not in membership. This is completely wrong.
- Arbitrary Decision-Making. There is a six-week probationary membership period for new members, during which time, local parties have the opportunity to lodge an objection to the admission of any individual. There is a provision for a local party to request that the probationary period be extended to twelve-weeks, in order to complete investigations. However, during both the 2015 & 2016 Labour Leadership Elections, Labour’s NEC extended the probationary period to 6 months, during which times, thousands of new members were auto-excluded or suspended, on spurious grounds, for purely factional reasons. All with the full endorsement of those at the very top of both the National & Regional Party machines. Many of the suspensions were summarily lifted, once the objective of excluding those individuals from voting in the Leadership Election had been achieved. This really is no way for a democratic party to operate.
THE TERMS OF REFERENCE
Under the scope of the investigation, you say the following: 1. The truth or otherwise of the main allegations in ‘the Report’ (the Panel shall determine which are the most significant allegations which require investigation but they shall include the extent of racist, sexist and other discriminatory culture within Labour Party workplaces, the attitudes and conduct of the senior staff of the Labour Party, and their relationships with the elected leadership of the Labour Party); We believe you should provide more detail on the tests you intend applying to determine the truth of allegations contained in the report. Do you intend employing a “ reasonableness test” and are the victims of abusive behaviours that the report alleges to be given the opportunity to provide their views on the impact that these behaviours had on their ability to do their jobs? The above statement also includes the statement “……extent of racist, sexist and other discriminatory culture….” We question you on where this extent might be acceptable and where it crosses over into unacceptable? Where is the dividing line? 2. We question the inclusion of the second term of reference in entirety. Although the leaking of the report presents a significant challenge to Labour, we also believe that the substance of these alleged behaviours and actions, whilst challenging, should remain the central focus of the Inquiry. The person(s) responsible for the leak brought many challenging and unacceptable behaviours and actions to the attention of our membership – it is these allegations that should remain to the fore in the Inquiry. The third of the Terms of Reference raises some interesting points:
- The structure, culture and practices of the Labour Party organisation including the relationship between senior party staff and the elected leadership of the Labour Party, as the Panel think appropriate having regard to their investigation as a whole. And the Panel shall make such recommendations as it considers appropriate concerning the organisation and structures of the Labour Party, arising out of its investigation, recognising that Labour Party structures are covered in rule. Can you explain more precisely what this means? We believe there should be an review of the organisational structure of Labour Party, conducted by an external, non-factional and independent agency, providing recommendations on where the existing structure is deficient and addressing the longstanding problem of recruitment, based on who you know, not what you know.
If we are to improve the “culture” of our Party, the Inquiry first needs to determine a baseline on what that “culture” is now, if we are to measure improvement and move on. We need to be truthful and honest on where we now are if we are to be in a position to move beyond that. To do this, we would expect the Inquiry to recommend that the Party seek input from Constituency Labour Parties and individual members. We would also expect the Party to set targets for improvement and for these targets to be then reported on at regular intervals. To do otherwise would be an opportunity for improvement lost.
Attached to this letter are two Appendices. The content of these Appendices has not been shared with our wider CLP Executive Committee, because it contains personal information on individual members and it would not be appropriate to share this detail with people who the individuals in question do not know personally. However, it has been compiled and signed by the CLP Secretary & Chair and we ask that this be considered alongside our Inquiry submission.
Signed by those listed overleaf
Roz Austin (CLP Women’s Officer)
Kim Boome (CLP Fundraising & Events Officer)
Simon Brears (CLP Vice Chair, Campaigns)
Esme Dobson (CLP Disability Officer – Job Share)
Andy Higson (CLP Digital Media Officer)
Deborah Hobson (CLP BAME Officer)
Rob Holley (CLP LGBT Officer)
Soraya Lawrence (CLP Policy Officer)
Dave Lewis (CLP Secretary)
Ali Miles (CLP Treasurer)
Nicola Moxham (CLP Disability Officer – Job Share)
Izzie Niven (CLP Chair)
Gary Ostrolenk (CLP Executive Committee)
Simon Perera (CLP Executive Committee)
Reggie Popoola (CLP Youth Officer)
Marion Roberts (CLP Vice Chair, Membership)
Jenny Turner (CLP Executive Committee)
Nick Wrack (CLP Political Education Officer)
Will Yong (CLP Campaign Databases Officer)